Michael Helps to Open Trinity’s New Building

Opening Ceremony (89) - editMichael joined school governors, local supporters and representatives from churches across Sevenoaks as he helped to open Trinity School’s new building last Friday.

After giving a reading in a service led by the Bishop of Rochester, he participated in a balloon release and helped to plant an olive tree in the school’s grounds.

Michael said: “I was very pleased to help to open Trinity School’s new building.  This event was the culmination of many years of effort from local parents and volunteers and this excellent new building is the result of their work.  School choice is expanding in Sevenoaks and I look forward to seeing Trinity going from strength to strength in the years to come.”

Michael Congratulates Small Business on National Award

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Michael with the team from Chevening Financial. (credit: Russell Harper)

Michael visited Chevening Financial in Sundridge on Friday to congratulate them on becoming the first ever recipient of the Small Business Big Heart Award.

He was met by representatives including David Hawes-Gatt, Managing Director of Chevening Financial, and heard about the business’ work and contribution to the community.

Chevening Financial secured the title after stiff competition from small businesses across the UK.  It was selected as the winner in recognition of its eight-year long programme of community support.  This includes taking housebound pensioners out for shopping and socialising, with Mr Hawes-Gatt clocking up 4,000 miles in total to date.  The company is donating its £1,000 prize money to DEBRA, a charity it supports which helps people with the genetic skin condition Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB).

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Michael with David Hawes-Gatt and Lucie Robson from DEBRA. (credit: Russell Harper)

Michael said: “I was delighted to be able to congratulate David and his team at Chevening Financial in person for receiving this award.  Becoming a regional finalist was impressive; winning the national competition is a quite remarkable achievement.  I am proud that a business in my constituency is playing such an active role in the community and I look forward to hearing more about its work in the future.”

On his latest day in his constituency, Michael also discussed healthcare with local  commissioners, visited the Parents’ Consortium in Hextable and met representatives from Swanley Town Council.

Michael Welcomed to Cottage Day Centre

Michael with Trustees and staff outside the Cottage Day Centre
Michael with Trustees and staff outside the Cottage Day Centre

Michael was welcomed on Friday to Rural Age Concern Darent Valley’s Cottage Day Centre in Fawkham.

Greeted by Chief Officer Liam Curran and Trustees including Cllr Madeleine Rogers and Cllr Faye Parkin, Michael met clients and heard about the charity’s exciting expansion plans.

The day came after his visit to Age Concern’s refurbished shop in the centre of Swanley in April.

Michael speaking to Community Warden Jackie West and Amy Clarke
Michael speaking to Community Warden Jackie West and Amy Clarke

Michael said: “I was delighted to meet clients and staff at the day centre.  It offers a vital service for older people living in rural areas in the north of my constituency.  We need facilities like this to be bigger and even better and I look forward to supporting Age Concern’s efforts to expand.”

Column: We Needs to Give Our Young People the Skills to Succeed

In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about helping young people to develop skills:

Last month, unemployment in Sevenoaks fell to its lowest recorded level.  Even more encouragingly, the level of youth unemployment in my constituency is now just one percent, down by over three quarters since 2010.

I am always impressed by the students I meet when I visit schools in Sevenoaks.  But academic achievement is only part of the story.  To maintain this employment record, our young people need to be given the chance to develop the skills and experiences that it takes to succeed.

Opportunities like National Citizen Service (NCS) are the best way to do that.  NCS has already enabled more than 200,000 teenagers, like those I’ve met from Sevenoaks, to take part in adventure challenges, skills development and social action.

Research has shown that nine out of ten participants find their experience worthwhile.  But it doesn’t just benefit them.  Getting involved is proven to make young people more likely to volunteer, more likely to vote, and more likely to be involved in their community.

Even on a smaller scale, opportunities like this can be found everywhere.

In June I visited Supajam, an innovative project in Swanley which is successfully helping teenagers who have struggled in formal education to learn about the music industry and through it to learn basic lessons in numeracy and literacy.  Instead of an uncertain future, the vast majority move into further education, employment or training when they leave.

Earlier this month I joined Westerham Sea Cadets for one of their regular boating sessions on Chipstead Lake.  The Sea Cadets offer practical training in the water and the confidence-building and self-esteem that comes with it, as well as valuable courses and certificates.

These opportunities are creating a new generation of well-rounded individuals with the skills they require to succeed.  But they also have huge social benefits – strengthening our communities now and into the future.

Michael Welcomed To Age Concern’s Refurbished Shop

Michael with Liam Curran and Trustees and staff of Rural Age Concern Darent Valley.
Michael with Liam Curran and Trustees and staff of Rural Age Concern Darent Valley.

Last Friday Michael visited Age Concern’s charity shop in the heart of Swanley.  The recently-refurbished shop supports the work of Rural Age Concern Darent Valley.

Michael is a strong supporter of the charity’s services, which include the Cottage Day Centre in Fawkham.

Michael was met by Chief Officer Liam Curran, who showed him the state-of-the-art till system that has been introduced into the shop.  They were joined by local district councillor Fay Parkin and some of the charity’s Trustees.

On his latest regular day in Sevenoaks and Swanley, Michael also visited local businesses and met Chief Inspector Roscoe Walford of Kent Police to receive an update on falling crime levels in the constituency.

NCS Ambassador Welcomed to Parliament

Michael meeting Amy in Parliament
Michael meeting Amy in Parliament

Michael welcomed Amy Edwards, who has been selected to become one of the National Citizen Service’s (NCS) national ambassadors, to Parliament last week.

Amy, a pupil at Knole Academy, is one of just 100 young people across the country to become a national ambassador from the 80,000 that took part in the NCS programme in 2015.

Established in 2011 to create a more responsible society, NCS is a three week programme that brings together 16 and 17 year olds from a range of backgrounds to face outdoor challenges, learn skills for life and work, extend their social networks and make their mark on their community.  NCS provides programmes across the country that cost no more than £50, with volunteers spending 30 hours delivering a project of their choice.

Michael said: “I was delighted to meet Amy.  I congratulated her on her achievement and I look forward to supporting her efforts to promote and expand NCS in my constituency in any way I can.”

Sevenoaks Community First Responders Vehicle Launch

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On Saturday, Michael was pleased to attend the launch of Sevenoaks Community First Responders’ new 4×4 medical emergency response vehicle.

Communtiy First Responders are volunteers who are trained by the ambulance service to respond to emergency calls through the 999 system.  Their new vehicle, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, has been named Ingrid after a member of the team who recently passed away.

scfr launch 3Michael met the responders and discussed their important work.  He was joined at the event by the mayor, the leader of Sevenoaks District Council and Tom Tugendhat, Member of Parliament for Tonbridge and Malling.

Michael said: “It is a great pleasure to be involved in the launch of Ingrid.  Sevenoaks Community First Responders is an excellent voluntary organisation that plays a vital role in saving lives in our local community: this new vehicle will enable them to offer a better service than ever.”

Making it Happen Awards 2015

Michael gave the opening address at the first ever Sevenoaks District Community and Voluntary Awards.  He praised extraordinary number of nominations and thanked all those who did so much, so selflessly for our community.

He emphasised the importance of community in bringing us all together and in enhancing collective well-being; he also noted the impact of volunteering on the volunteers themselves who were able to develop their own skills and widen their social base.

To close the evening Michael presented the lifetime achievement award to Sandra Stewart who ran the Brownie Pack in West Kingsdown for 27 years.  Due to Sandra’s ill-health her award was collected on her behalf by her daughter Samantha.