Collaborative approach may bring dividends

PARLIAMENT is in a short recess this week – the last one before electioneering begins in earnest.

I was at Tesco on Saturday morning, joining in a cookery lesson with primary age children. This is a great initiative – and many supermarkets have their own versions of it – teaching skills that will serve youngsters for the rest of their lives.

Once children appreciate that a meal they make themselves can be both cheaper and healthier than a take-away or shop-bought ready meal, they are on their way to having the tools to eat well and improve their own future health and wealth.

This ties in with an announcement the Prime Minister made, suggesting that people with chronic life-limiting health conditions such as extreme obesity may be expected to accept help or face sanctions.

For me, any such measures must be based on urgent clinical need and emphatically not on any kind of dogma that demonises the overweight.

We need to accept that the issues that trap people in benefit dependency seldom come singly. Many people who are disabled through treatable obesity also have other complex needs and difficult life situations, which will not be addressed by mandatory help – however well-intentioned.

I do think it is right that Government adopts a positive view of people’s potential. No one should be written off, and making the means of helping themselves accessible to as many people as possible is the right thing to do.

However, the feeling of being placed under duress could actually prove counter-productive in some cases and gentle and collaborative approach may be what is required.

On Tuesday, I was in Wilton meeting constituents and then held a pop-up surgery with representatives of Wiltshire Council and Salisbury City Council.

During the remainder of the week, I look forward to meeting residents at a local care home, visiting a new development of retirement homes and continuing my work on food poverty with a “round table” event for local stakeholders.