Monthly Archives: May 2018



Rory Stewart MP has visited a new supported living facility at Churchrigg, on the outskirts of Wigton. Churchrigg is a converted farmhouse and barns that has been restored and adapted by the Graham family to create a functional home which meets the needs of individuals with a range of disabilities. The Graham’s primary aim was to provide an opportunity for supported living for their daughter who has a learning disability, in her local area, with a 24 hour staff team that can meet her needs and aspirations for a fulfilled and meaningful life, but the development has been designed to accommodate six individuals in total.

Residents Robyn and Hazel gave Rory a tour of the property, which comprises a fully fitted kitchen, dining room, utility room and games area, two large living rooms, a garden, an orchard and six en-suite bedrooms, as well as staff accommodation and an office. Residents have their own tenancy agreement and private space with full access to all communal areas. The property is managed by New Foundations, a non-profit registered provider of social housing for adults with learning disabilities and or physical disabilities, and a dedicated team of staff offering 24 hour support is provided by Chrysalis.

Rory was told how individuals living at Churchrigg are supported to engage in a range of community activities, with a focus on developing skills and maintaining social contacts. Activities include: independent living skills, community safety, creative arts, music, drama, ceramics horticulture, sensory stimulation, sailing, horse riding, fell walking, cycling, working in the Chrysalis social enterprise cafe and pre-employment skills. Chrysalis also provide a range of activities at evenings and weekends as part of their outreach service. They also work closely with residents in the home setting to develop robust, person-centred plans that encompass all areas of life and ensure individuals have the opportunity to make choices about the options available to them.

Chrysalis Chief Executive Claire Doherty who helped to show Rory around said: “​This is a fantastic opportunity for individuals to increase their independence in their first home. Chrysalis is thrilled to be providing a range of tailored support that will enable individuals to flourish”.

Rory Stewart MP said: “Churchrigg is a very special home with a wonderful atmosphere. I was so impressed by the incredibly high standard of the facility and the staff, and the unique, family environment that has been created. This is a brilliant case study for successful supported living schemes and I hope to see more highly attractive, well equipped and well run supported living facilities like Churchrigg appearing across Cumbria in the coming years. I was so pleased to see Robyn and Hazel happy in their beautiful new home and I hope that Cumbria County Council will give their full support to innovative schemes like this, which are in incredibly high demand.”


Rory has welcomed the news that North Cumbria Health and Care System has been named as a pilot Integrated Care System (ICS) by NHS England and NHS Improvement.

This means that North Cumbria will be part of a national pilot programme that will link up health and care services, empowering teams from different organisations to work together for the benefit of their patients. This will see the area’s main health and care providers, alongside the Care Commissioning Group and local GP teams, working together in an integrated way, alongside Cumbria County Council and the Third Sector.

This announcement follows a string of successes for Cumbrian healthcare, including Cumbria Health on Call’s inclusion in the finals of the NHS70 Parliamentary Awards and the allocation of £65 million for the redevelopment of West Cumberland Hospital and the establishment of the new cancer centre in Carlisle.

Commenting on this announcement, Rory said “This is wonderful news and I would like to pay a huge tribute to all those health and care professionals in the North Cumbrian NHS who made this happen. To be named as a pilot ICS is a real achievement and will have a significant impact on the provision of care, which will ultimately be to patients’ benefit”.


Rory has welcomed the news that Cumbria Health on Call (CHoC) has been named regional champion and is through to the finals of the NHS70 Parliamentary Awards.

Rory nominated six healthcare providers and professionals for these awards, which are designed to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the NHS by recognising outstanding examples of care across the country. The competition was fierce, with many hundreds of contenders in each category, all of which were judged by a panel of experts against strict criteria.

The winners will be announced on 4 July, the day before the NHS’s birthday, in a national awards ceremony at the Palace of Westminster. Rory will attend, to wish CHoC representatives luck. He has also begun to present certificates to his other nominees.

Rory said, “I am thrilled that CHoC has been shortlisted for the Excellence in Primary Care Award, which is richly deserved. It is a real tribute to its staff’s outstanding commitment and the quality of their care. I would also like to congratulate and thank all of my nominees, who do such important work and exemplify the qualities of hard work and dedication, incredible resilience and commitment, which make our NHS admired the world over. As we prepare to celebrate our National Health Service’s 70th anniversary, it is important to recognise, celebrate and thank all those in Cumbria and across the country who do such vital work”.


32089485_10156340555003770_5138973591374659584_n (2) Rory has met with the new Chief Executive of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to advocate for the unique needs of the Penrith and the Border constituency. He emphasised that the LEP must find solutions that work, not only for the West Coast of Cumbria but also for the rural economy of East and North Cumbria. They discussed the urgent need for better broadband, for support to rural businesses, and for a bolder tourism strategy that could provide much higher quality offers, and higher incomes.

Jo Lappin, who was previously the Chief Executive of Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, took over from Graham Haywood earlier this month and will be the new head of Cumbria’s strategic economic body.

Speaking about her appointment Jo said: “I am delighted to be joining the Cumbria LEP to support the development of Cumbria’s Industrial Strategy, which provides a really important opportunity to address Cumbria’s economic opportunities and challenges and make sure that all of our businesses and people benefit. I am very much looking forward to working closely with Cumbria’s MPs to drive forward our economic growth and ensure that Cumbria emerges as one of the best performing LEPs in the country.”

Rory Stewart said: “I am thrilled with Jo’s appointment and am very much looking forward to working with her over the coming years to make sure that Penrith and The Border fulfills its economic potential. Cumbria has an incredibly diverse economy and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to our economic needs, but I am confident that with a thoughtful, experienced leader like Jo at the helm, we can ensure that the unique challenges of each constituency are addressed in a way which is proportionate and sustainable and which ultimately benefits each and every Cumbrian community.”


Rory Stewart has convened a meeting at Kirkby Stephen Railway Station to solve the problems around accessing the northbound platform, which involves a dangerous gravel slope down to a busy road, with no parking facilities or safety measures for the disabled, the elderly, or those with children.

Rory brought together representatives from Northern Rail and the Yorkshire Dales National Park to examine all the options with local disability campaigners Debbie and Andy North, members of the Upper Eden Community Plan steering group, Upper Eden CIC and the Settle Carlisle Railway Development Company.

Rory Stewart said: “​I​​ ​am confident we can improve the situation for disabled passengers at Kirkby Stephen – starting with a much better ramp and then moving onto bigger investments in the future. I know from the campaign, which I was so pleased to drive on Penrith Station, how much difference this can make to locals, travellers, and tourists. Improvement at Kirkby Stephen are particularly important now that the area is likely to attract ever increasing numbers of visitors as part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. And I am delighted that Northern Rail and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority are lending their support to make this happen.”


Rory has paid a visit to Wigton Youth Station to talk to young people about mental health issues and find out about their exciting new mental health project, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

The youth group was recently given £10,000 by the Big Lottery Fund to help young people tackle mental health issues. The money will help to provide ‘equine therapy sessions’ as part of a project helping young people come to terms with their emotions. The sessions are aimed at developing young people’s skills such as accountability, responsibility and self-confidence and are delivered under the care of a mental health professional who observes and interacts with the young person to identify thought processes and behaviour patterns.

During the visit Rory sat down with a group of girls who regularly attend the centre and listened to their thoughts and feelings about mental health, and how they cope with life’s challenges with the support of centre staff, volunteers and peers.

After the visit Rory said: “I would like to thank all the girls who spent time talking to me last week, for their openness and honesty about mental health and how it affects them day to day. We all need to be more open about our mental health and encourage young people to talk about how they feel. No one is unsusceptible to developing a mental health problem, and modern day life puts increasing pressures on young people, making this one of the biggest issues for society today. Having these important conversations about how we feel can make a big difference and I am so pleased that Wigton Youth Station has received funding for this innovative project which seems to be achieving real results. This is a wonderful place, and I am very proud of the Youth Station team and the important work they do for young people.”

Anyone interested in volunteering at the Youth Station can email [email protected] for more information. ​


Rory Stewart joined local volunteers on the platform of Wigton Railway Station last week to see the stations recent improvements.

The Friends of Wigton Railway Station group was established in 2009, and over the years, as a result of local support and community engagement the station has been transformed, utilising local stone for features, flower beds and general landscaping. Neglected areas have been restored, seating provided and artwork reflecting local heritage has been installed. Volunteers cut the grass each week, pick up litter and generally keep the station tidy and cared for.

Plans are now underway to reinstate even more of the original station architecture, including the waiting room, which has been at the nearby Netherhall Estate since the late 1880’s. It is unclear when the structure was built, but it is believed that subsidence led to it being removed and taken away. However, efforts are being made to return it to its former home at Wigton Station, something which Rory Stewart fully supports.

Speaking after the visit Rory said: “Wigton Railway Station looks incredible, and that is entirely down to the effort of the dedicated volunteers who give so much of their time to the station and to their community. The station is held very dear by so many residents, and after some past neglect is now well on its way to its former glory. I look forward to many more improvements and to seeing the original waiting room returned to its true home, and I would encourage anyone with an interest and some time to spare to get in touch with the group to see how they could help.”

The friends group meets every Friday morning and additional volunteers are welcome. If anyone can help with time, plants or tools, they are asked to call 016973 44106.


Article first published in the Evening Standard on 21 May 2018.

The outsider perhaps thinks first of a prison in terms of walls and focuses on the prison officer as guard —searching at the gate, patrolling the perimeter, or locking prisoners in cells. But — as I discovered when I became prisons minister at the beginning of this year — daily life on the blocks is more difficult to imagine. Every conversation I have had, in every prison I have visited, has only increased my respect for the job done by the officers who work in them.

Take the wing I saw in Wormwood Scrubs recently, with more than 300 prisoners, arranged on four narrow landings. In a cell on the third landing was a chartered accountant, imprisoned for theft, writing a detailed criticism of the prison that houses him. In a nearby cell, not long before, a man had hanged himself — fuelled, perhaps, by an overdose of smuggled drugs. And in a cell on the fourth landing, a silent young man, who lived for the gym, was sharing bunkbeds with a much older man who was obsessively drawing designs for a hovercraft.

Some of those prisoners were there for long sentences, and prison officers develop connections with them, day in, day out, for years. A hundred others were just passing through, on remand before trial, or on their way to another prison.

One prisoner spent his mornings studying a Level 3 course in barbering. Another, who had been there for three months, thought the education programme a waste of time and spent almost all his day in his cell having — in defiance of the rules — blocked the observation panel and tried to bar the door from the inside.

At any one time, there could be just a handful of prison officers on a landing, managing as many as 80 individuals. There are several questions a new prison officer might ask, and many have been in the service less than a year.

How do I persuade this man to return to his cell, if he refuses? What do I do with someone who is threatening suicide? How do I deal with someone who is not violent but simply mutinous, or treat someone who might be very compliant, but who is in prison for sexually assaulting a toddler? When do I lean in, and when do I back off and call for support?

This is a vocation that requires remarkable decisiveness and resilience. And it takes great moral authority to act as a mentor, a teacher and, in some ways, a friend to help prisoners on the path to reformation.

It also requires physical courage. Violent assaults against prison officers — and against police officers and nurses — are rising. New psychoactive substances, most notably Spice, fuel aggression, and the criminal economy that surrounds those drugs makes violence worse. Our prison officers are, unacceptably, are victims of more than 8,000 attacks a year.

We are responding to these attacks by introducing body-worn cameras, trialling pepper spray, installing more CCTV cameras and enhancing security searches and training on violence.

And I was very pleased, as a minister, to recently put forward the Government case for a new Private Member’s Bill, to double the sentence for assaults on prison officers and other emergency workers. It passed unanimously and should become law this year.

A prison officer — outnumbered 30 to one on a landing — would never attempt to fight their way into control. They know that good protection can come from listening in the right way. One of the greatest recent impacts on violence has come from our new key-worker system, where each prison officer is assigned to six particular prisoners for regular private 45-minute conversations.

The prisoners will behave more rationally if they feel that they are in a fair regime — where people are treated equally and consistently; when they will get their phone call, or their shower, or a chance to mingle with other prisoners; if they have a chance of purposeful activity like education and employment. And if they themselves feel safe.

But equally, there is no point in endless targets exhorting the prison officer to transform offenders, change lives, and protect the public — or in volunteers offering theatre classes, and qualifications in catering, literacy and needlework — if the cells are filthy, the prisoners off their heads on drugs, and the prison officers so exposed that they can’t unlock the cell doors, or safely escort the prisoners to their activities.

The benefits of getting these basics right was demonstrated in the recent HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Feltham, a Young Offenders Institution, which has seen a huge drop in violence as a result. You could see elements of a great police officer, teacher, soldier, social worker or even priest, in the best prison officers. But they can be none of those things unless the system allows them to flourish. We are recruiting many more to boost the levels of frontline staff.

With more than 20,000 prison officers, 84,000 prisoners, and more than 100 prisons, no minister should ever pretend to micro-manage what is happening on the landings. The kind of prisons we want will come from thousands of the right people, with the right morale and leadership; people who are trained not just at the beginning but throughout their careers, acknowledged for their skill, and made to feel part of a single elite service.

And I believe that will include bringing the profession out of prisons and into the public eye, whether in schools or at community events, so that we can see them, proud about the service they are performing for our nation, energetic, fulfilled in their daily work and determined to create the best prison service in the world.