The incident in Birmingham last weekend was truly shocking. My thoughts go out to all the victims of this appalling crime. But knife crime isn't just a problem in our cities; in 2017 Ryan Passey was tragically killed at the hands of a knife after an altercation right here in our town. There must be tougher action against those carrying knives and more understanding as to why people feel compelled to carry knives in the first instance. I asked this question to the Minister of State for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service in Westminster last Monday.
Coincidentally I met with Ryan Passey's family only last Friday in my continued efforts on behalf of “Justice for Ryan”. My thoughts remain with the family as the events at the weekend must have been a terrible reminder of the consequences of knife crime.
I hope for the day when I can write a column without a reference to Covid-19. But the simple fact is that Covid-19 has infected our lives and our economy and will do so for some time. I was therefore delighted to hear that 42,000 meals were discounted in Stourbridge for the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, which translated to 5,264,000 across the West Midlands. It was a huge success supporting the hospitality sector which has been hard hit.
There is of course more to be done for other sectors and many have contacted me about this. For all of us, just hearing the words recession and unemployment inspire dread - particularly seeing the harm done by welfare dependency in the past. I am sure there are many of you like me who may have felt that bead of sweat on your forehead when you are told your job may be at risk. I have had that experience twice when I worked in logistics - the fear that all you have worked hard for may be undermined. Work after all is the foundation of everyone’s economic security.
These are without doubt uniquely challenging times and I will continue to work with the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, the Job Centre Plus and the new Kickstart scheme for 16-24 year olds to support getting people back into work, retrain, reskill and work hard to keep our businesses open.
What is also clear is that Covid-19 has had an impact on people’s mental health. I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Bushey Fields Hospital recently and meeting four of their senior managers and executives. It was a visit scheduled to discuss the Covid-19 measures that they had put in place. We also had a round table conversation about the impact that Covid-19 has had on mental health, discussing the sense of isolation and anxiety that many have felt during Lockdown. I urge anyone who feels their mental health has suffered, to reach out. It’s good to talk.
The Covid-19 infection rate is on the increase, please do ensure you are following the guidelines to keep you and your loved ones safe and free of this virus.