In a post-Brexit Britain, it is vital that we continue to be outward facing and in our endeavours to do so, it is important that we continue to build upon and develop international partnerships at all levels. That's why I was delighted to talk to a group of students last week about the importance of the "Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning" Programme, which is funded jointly by the Department for International Development (DfID) and the British Council.
DfID works with some of the poorest countries in the world, trying to build a healthier, safer and more prosperous world and education is a core part of their work. Globally, some 263 million children don't attend school - many of them because they are too poor, or it's too dangerous to go to school, or there simply isn't a school close enough to where they live.
These children are desperate to go to school and to learn to read and write. DfID gives funding to help ensure that every child can go to school and receive a good quality education.
Here in Suffolk, the majority of our schools are rated Good or Outstanding and under the county council's Raising the Bar initiative, skills development for life and work is embedded throughout each and every child and young person's education jurney. This means that our children and young people are ready for work when they leave school and they have the skills needed to succeed in adult life.
But what about sharing these vital skills with those less fortunate than ourselves? "The Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning" programme aims to connect pupils and teachers here in Suffolk with their global counterparts, to share learning and experiences. It will provide an incredible opportunity for pupils here in Suffolk to work with young people from different countries, cultures and faiths helping to broaden children's horizons.
As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, I welcome this new initiative and would encourage schools across Central Suffolk and North Ipswich to sign up to the programme. This ambitious programme will bring together more than 3 million primary and secondary school students and teachers around the world, learning vital new skills and forming new, global friendships. It will also train some 60,000 teachers and school leaders in the UK and developing countries to equip pupils with the knowledge and skills to live and work in a global economy.
Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning is a win for the UK and a win for the developing world. For schools looking to find out more, or to sign up, please click here
On Saturday 15th September, Dr Dan enjoyed a quick visit to one of the regular Monewden coffee mornings, where he met with a number of visitors and volunteers.
Living in rural locations, it can be easy to perhaps feel isolated, but events such as these reach out to the community and provide a regular social gathering for those living nearby, enabling residents to meet up regularly and strengthen friendships.
A regular supporter of Suffolk Family Carers, Dr Dan Poulter was delighted to visit the organisation to learn more about recent changes and developments there.
For decades, Suffolk Family Carers have provided support, advice and information to thousands of family carers across Suffolk. We all know that people are living longer, often with complex health conditions and illnesses. Here in Suffolk alone, there are over 78,000 identified carers looking after family members and loved ones. Suffolk Family Carers work to support these carers in their roles.
In particular, Dr Dan spoke to the team about the work they are doing to support young carers, who are often coping with the demands of school while caring for a parent or family member with ill health. The team have also been recognised for the outstanding work they are doing around mental health and wellbeing.
Dr Dan Poulter was delighted to visit a number of shops and businesses in the thriving market town of Debenham, where he met with a number of business owners and visitors to the town.
During the visit, Dr Dan enjoyed speaking with so many business owners and learning more about their individual successes and growth across many sectors. Debenham High Street seems to be going from strength to strength, with a number of new businesses popping up in the town.
Speaking about the visit, Dr Dan said "Debenham is clearly a flourishing centre for small businesses and you can't help but be absorbed by the strong sense of community and local identity which everyone is so proud of. The businesses offer a warm and friendly welcome to visitors, offering everything from locally smoked products to locally brewed beer, and hand-designed jewellery to bespoke kitchens. Small shops and businesses are the backbone of our rural economy here in Suffolk and I am sure that Debenham will continue to go from strength to strength if today's entrepreneurial spirit is anything to go by."
A regular visitor to Debenham High School, Dr Dan particularly enjoyed his visit on Friday 14th September, where he met with an enthusiastic group of students from across the year groups.
The group of young people were all too keen to put their questions to their local MP, with the questions coming thick and fast. In particular, the group were very keen to learn more about Dr Dan's work as an MP, both here in Suffolk and in Westminster.
The students had clearly done their homework and wanted to put their time with their local MP to good use, asking a range of questions on the complexities of the Brexit negotiations, changes to GCSE grading, NHS funding, employment opportunities and the pathway into politics.
The group were also keen to see the Government reach out to younger people and would like to see better engagement, both locally and nationally, to ensure that the voice of young people is heard in Parliament, perhaps helping to shape and inform policy.
Speaking about the visit, Dr Dan said "It's always encouraging to see younger people so engaged with politics, especially coming up with their own ideas and putting forward their own views on such a wide range of topics. It's especially heartening to hear the students' talk about how they would like to see their views and ideas perhaps bring about positive change."
Visits such as these are important in strengthening the link between what Dr Dan does as an MP locally and how he can make sure that the voice of our communities here in Suffolk are heard in Parliament. He looks forward to welcoming Debenham High School to Parliament later this year.
Dr Dan Poulter has called on authorities to work together to help Ipswich-based Highfield Nursery School and Children's Centre to expand.
Rated Outstanding by Ofsted, this popular nursery school and children's centre, on Chesterfield Drive, Ipswich, is a valuable lifeline to all the families who use it. As well as providing outstanding childcare and early-years provision, the centre is also a teaching school, showcasing the very best that Suffolk has to offer, enabling other providers around the country to come to Suffolk for their continued professional development. It has also been designated a Research School, one of only 22 in the country
However, as a nursery school, Highfield is running at full capacity and bursting at the seams. Every inch of space is being used creatively, to the extent of the staff kitchen being utilised for certain activities. While the quality of care and teaching remains outstanding and the children continue to thrive, the nursery and children's centre simply needs to secure bigger premises.
Immediately next door to the nursery is Chesterfield Drive GP Surgery; the GP practice is soon to relocate into the new "super surgery" being developed on Norwich Road and the nursery is already in talks with both Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council to acquire the Chesterfield Road site when it is vacated. Dr Poulter has now written to Suffolk County Council asking for their commitment to support Highfield Nursery.
Dr Poulter said "Following a recent visit to Highfield Children's Centre and Nursery, I was impressed by the commitment, creativity and enthusiasm of the Senior Leadership Team and the staff in ensuring the very best for the young children who use the facilities. It's clear to see that the building simply isn't big enough and this outstanding nursery school, despite its best efforts to exploit every possible creative use of space, requires bigger premises.
"With the GP surgery due to relocate soon, the perfect solution is close at hand. Acquiring the site would enable Highfield to cope with increased demand for places, and also to create a brand-new integrated family therapeutic centre, and alternative provision for children with emotional and social difficulties. I hope that working together, we can find a workable solution to help Highfield get the new facilities that they need and deserve."
Lil Newton, Headteacher at Highfield Nursery School and Children's Centre, said: "We have squeezed every ounce of value out of the space we currently have, but we really are now in need of new space. I welcome the support of Dr Poulter, and really hope we can now work together with the local councils to help ensure Suffolk leads the way in early years integrated provision."
Dr Dan Poulter has called on developers to pay their fair share to help improve parking provision in Framlingham.
All too often, there are parking problems in the town due to a lack of available parking spaces – something that it vitally important for local businesses, residents and visitors. Dr Dan has now written to Cllr Tony Fryatt, Suffolk Coastal District Council's cabinet member for planning, stating the time has come for this to be addressed.
In 2014, in response to growing concerns which he shared with local residents about increased development and new homes in Framlingham, Dr Dan carried out a survey of people living in and around the town. The aim was to shape the town's future infrastructure needs.
There was an overwhelming response highlighting the need for greater medical provision within the town, including the expansion of the GP surgery, expansion of the local primary school and improvements to local roads and availability of parking within the town.
Since then, Dr Dan has been working with Suffolk Coastal District Council to address a number of these concerns, and he is delighted that work began in July on the expansion of Framlingham's GP Surgery. This work is thanks to a joint funding boost from NHS England's Estates and Technical Transformation Fund and Suffolk Coastal District Council's Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) fund. In fact, Framlingham Medical Practice is the first to receive a CIL payment from the council - this funding injection will enable an additional 3 consulting rooms, and an additional doctor and nurse, enabling the practice to offer a further 164 appointments each week.
Although this is welcome news, the lack of parking is an issue that still needs to be tackled, and quickly.
Speaking with local retailers, Dr Dan said "Like many residents, I had initial concerns about the number of homes being built in Framlingham. As always, it is vitally important that, alongside this, the town continues to receive the additional infrastructure that it needs and deserves. Developers making large profits from building large numbers of homes must pay their fair share."
"I am pleased to be working with Suffolk Coastal District Council to help improve services within the town and am delighted that work is now underway to expand the GP surgery, thanks to a grant of £420,000. However, it is essential that Framlingham, which already has traffic and parking issues, is properly supported to expand the number of parking spaces available to residents and workers, and, of course, the visitors who bring additional revenue into the town."
Local business owner, Bill Bulstrode, added: "I've been retailing in Framlingham since the early 1970s. Parking was a problem then and it's only got worse since. Although small improvements have been made over the decades, much more needs to be done to keep up with the growth and development in and around the town.
"With shoppers facing restricted options over where to park, they often drive around the town two or three times and, if unable to find a spot, they simply leave the town and go elsewhere. This is of great concern to us as business owners, who want to welcome shoppers and visitors to the town.
"Unless the issue of parking in Framingham is addressed urgently, I fear that some retailers will be forced to close due to lack of footfall. We cannot stand by and let this happen."
Continuing his drive to secure better mental health services for patients and their families across Norfolk and Suffolk, Dr Dan Poulter has raised his concerns about the lack of hospital beds for people with acute mental health conditions, as part of an article in the Guardian newspaper on Saturday 20th July
A long-standing supporter of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), Dr Dan recently held a debate in Parliament to highlight the challenges currently faced by the NSFT and the patients that it cares for. Mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk have been under-funded for decades and despite its best efforts, Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust has also been hampered by worsening recruitment problems. Capacity to recruit trained professionals in the East of England is particularly challenging, compared to the rest of the country. The East of England has the lowest number of Consultant Psychiatrists per head of population, compared to anywhere else in England. It is incredibly difficult to transform and improve quality of care without a qualified workforce to deliver it.
In response to recent Parliamentary questions, Dr Dan remains concerned that mental health provision is still a "Cinderella" service and he fears that child and adolescent mental health is falling behind the furthest.
The number of hospital beds for people with acute mental health conditions, where a consultant psychiatrist is on hand to oversee treatment, has fallen by almost 30% since 2009, and new official figures show that the number of beds for those with some of the most serious conditions – including psychosis, serious depression leading to suicidal feelings and eating disorders – has fallen from 26,448 in 2009 to 18,082 in the first quarter of this year.
Over the same period, the data also shows significant falls in the number of mental health nurses working in the NHS, from 46,155 to 39,358 and also in the number of doctors who are in specialist psychiatry training, from 3187 in 2009 to 2588 in the first quarter of this year.
As someone who works in the NHS as a mental health doctor, Dr Dan has first-hand experience of the challenges faced by staff and patients on a daily basis and that's why he's urging for more to be done by Government to ensure true parity of esteem between physical and mental health.
Speaking about these latest figures, Dr Dan said "The reality on the ground is that there are ever fewer beds available for the patients who need them. This means that people who are very unwell, for example with psychosis or depression with suicidal ideation, are unable to access timely inpatient care. Eating disorders is another service where there is often a long wait for patients who need beds for urgent inpatient care. This is not safe for the patients.
"Mental health professionals work incredibly hard but we are under-resourced. Despite the need to expand services to meet the needs of patients, and to provide more support for people with mental illness in the community, there are simply not the resources available to do it."
Only last week, in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister admitted that more needed to be done, and that the service had been "overlooked for too long". Dr Dan welcomes the announcement that there will be an increase of more than 5000 extra nurse-training places from September this year, including mental health training places and he will continue to push for greater funding to improve for mental health services here in Suffolk and Norfolk.
On Sunday 15th July, Dr Dan joined BBC's John Pienaar and fellow guests, for a special edition of Radio 5's Pienaar's Politics live from Latitude.
Dr Dan was pleased to visit the Swilland and Witnesham Village Produce Show on Saturday 14th July, where he very much enjoyed browsing the locally grown and homemade produce and meeting a number of visitors.
Although a fun event, it was clear to see that the competition was hotly contested amongst local entrants, but all in all the event was the perfect showcase for locally grown, seasonal produce and home baking.
Community events such as these play a vital role in our rural communities, bringing together residents and visitors.
Click here to contact Dan
Written Answers — Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Electricity Interconnectors: Europe (17 Sep 2018)
Daniel Poulter: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what plans his Department has to develop electricity grid connections with countries in continental Europe.
Written Answers — Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Renewable Energy (13 Sep 2018)
Daniel Poulter: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what plans his Department has to support the development of renewable energy schemes.