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North West Norfolk MP James Wild column: after Covid and economic crises helping the most vulnerable via Norfolk County Council; plus Ukraine & Zelensky

NW Norfolk MP James Wild's column

A hallmark of this government’s approach – through Covid and in the face of global economic challenges – has been to help the most vulnerable.

That continued this week with the announcement that Norfolk has been allocated £13.4 million as part of an extension of the Household Support Fund to help people struggling with everyday costs.

Norfolk County Council
Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council uses this funding to support various schemes run through and in partnership with other organisations including cost-of-living vouchers to families, the Norfolk Assistance Scheme which provides emergency financial help and essential household goods, funding for warm spaces, as well as grants to voluntary groups to enable direct support to the most vulnerable.

The scale of assistance is considerable. Over 100,000 households in Norfolk have been supported over the last 18 months through earlier phases of this scheme. The new money for the year from April takes the total provided so far to £33.5 million.

This funding will ensure vulnerable families are helped with the cost of living. When I am contacted by constituents, I encourage them to check what discretionary support is available through the Household Support Fund.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky address to MPs in House of Commons
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky address to MPs in House of Commons

This support comes in addition to payments of £900 to 11,200 for vulnerable households and £150 disability payments to 10,300 individuals which will be made across the year – with pensioners receiving a further £300. In total, that support is worth over £11 billion across the country.

But as important as this the additional support is the government’s laser like focus on halving inflation along with growing the economy – and seeing sustainable increases in wages through productivity gains.

Last week, I wrote about President Zelensky’s speech to Parliament. The contrast with Putin’s delusional and laboured speech earlier this week was striking. Tonight, a service in the Minster will mark a year since this terrible war was started by Russia and those Ukrainian families in West Norfolk and beyond know the UK and our allies will stand with their country.

Health, protective masks
Health, protective masks

Returning to domestic issues, one of the priorities of the new Department of Health ministers is improving access to dentists. This is an issue I’ve pursued since I was elected and it was welcome news when contracts were awarded last summer that led to the opening of the new Smile dental care practice.

But more provision is needed. And in my latest meeting with the NHS Commissioning team to press for further improvements, increasing the capacity of this practice was one of the issues I raised which includes bringing new therapists and dentists on board.

It is very disappointing there have been 1,200 missed appointments between October to January. Of course, sometimes things crop up last minute so people can’t make their appointment but that failure to attend rate is around 29 per cent – meaning many people who could have had appointments missed out. I also raised access to emergency appointments as this is an issue I regularly help people with.

The NHS is looking at a new system of refers which could help improve access. I will keep pressing for better access.

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