Robert's Weekly Column - 2nd January 2019

The news that Great Western Hospital is to benefit from almost £30 million of new investment to expand services was a great way to end 2018.  I visited the Accident and Emergency Department at the hospital last week, to discuss how the £29.573 million of Government funding will be used to deliver a modern Integrated Front Door and Transitional Care Facility.

Both Justin and I backed the hospital’s bid for this vital funding; directly lobbying Ministers including the Health Secretary Matt Hancock and we are delighted that this important investment in the GWH has been secured.

On Christmas Eve, Justin and I also welcomed the news that young people in the town with special education needs and disabilities are to benefit from a share of £350 million extra Government funding following an announcement from the Education Secretary. In addition to this, the Government is also investing £100 million to help create more SEND places in mainstream schools, colleges and special schools, giving families here in Swindon more choice and giving children and young people with special education needs better access to high-quality education, which meets their individual needs.

During my time as an MP, I have worked hard to improve the support on offer to young people with special education needs.  As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, I established a SEND commission that aimed to improve the experiences and prospects for young people with SEND. This involved taking autistic and SEND concerns straight to the Government by providing MPs and House of Lords Peers with evidence and arguments in favour of better support for special education needs and Autism. I also introduced a Bill to Parliament calling on the Government to improve access to health and social care services for people with autism spectrum disorders.

Here in Swindon, I helped to establish a SEND Network for parents, secured autism-friendly film screenings and campaigned to improve health education and social care services for local children.

I am delighted with the announcement of significant new funding for young people with special education needs and disabilities.  This new funding will help to unlock vital support here in Swindon to ensure that every individual can reach their full potential in a setting that is right for them.  I will continue to push hard for further improvements in 2019, by continuing to work closely with local organisations including the Building Bridges Project, an initiative helping people with learning difficulties and SEND into work, enabling them to enjoy more independent lives.

There was also good news in the October 2018 Budget as the Chancellor announced a £675 million High Streets Fund in response to interim recommendations from Sir John Timpson, Chair of the High Street Expert Panel. The High Streets Fund will help council leaders implement bold new visions to transform their town centres and make them fit for the future. 

High Streets Minister, Jake Berry MP, launched the fund on Boxing Day and I will be supporting Swindon’s bid for a share of the £675 million, which could help to transform our town centre, making it fit for the future with co-funding to consolidate properties on the high street, improve transport and access into town centres and converting retail units into new homes. 

We all know that high streets are changing, including our own, and I am glad that the Conservative Government has invested extra funding to transform our town centres into thriving community hubs of the future.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year.  If you have a local or national issue you would like to discuss with me, please get in touch with my team by ringing 01793 533393 or emailing