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Toby and Ruth George MP recently met with Derbyshire PCC, Hardyal Dhindsa, to discuss the campaign to tackle synthetic cannabinoids

BLOG: Why we need to reclassify synthetic cannabinoids as Class A drugs

Just over four years ago, I led a Westminster Hall debate on government policy on legal highs following a number of problems in our town centre. I worked with a number of organisations and with MPs across the House and legal highs were eventually banned completely in Early 2016.  I led a campaign with local shopkeepers against the Reefer shop on Knifesmithgate, which was accused of selling legal highs and was seen as a focal point for much of the trouble in town which contributed towards that closing. There was an immediate improvement and this part of the town became a less intimidating space for visitors.

Toby and Ruth George MP recently met with Derbyshire PCC, Hardyal Dhindsa, to discuss the campaign to tackle synthetic cannabinoids

Toby and Ruth George MP recently met with Derbyshire PCC, Hardyal Dhindsa, to discuss the campaign to tackle synthetic cannabinoids

Unfortunately, over the couple of years, we have seen a growing problem with the drugs ‘Spice’ and ‘Mamba’. Spice and Mamba are known as ‘synthetic cannabinoid’ substances that are supposed to mimic the effects of cannabis. Spice has been dubbed the “zombie drug” due to the debilitating effect it has on people. If you have been unfortunate enough to witness someone on Spice, it can be very alarming as they do look like they have just stepped out of an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’. Users will often be seen in a slumped, semi-conscious state often with their bodies posed in alarming and contorted shapes and their behaviour can be very unpredictable.

The short term effects of Spice are known and can include paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, kidney problems and breathing difficulties. The long term effects simply aren’t known yet but could lead to significant mental and physical health problems. This is not just an issue of crime and antisocial behaviour, but a public health issue that has serious implications for the individual users, and a knock-on effect for families, communities and emergency services. We have seen a six-fold increase in the past year in the number of ambulance call-outs to people who are on synthetic cannabinoids. The East Midlands Ambulance Service is already under a great deal of pressure and I have been contacted by several people who have had to wait several hours for an ambulance following serious accidents. This added pressure due to Spice users is the last thing needed by our ambulance service and over-stretched A&E department.

Toby speaking at the Westminster Hall debate the on Reclassification of Synthetic Cannabinoids

Toby speaking at the Westminster Hall debate on Reclassification of Synthetic Cannabinoids

And this is the crux of why people feel so passionately about this issue – Spice, and similar substances, are having a massive impact on users and people right across Chesterfield. Users quickly become psychologically (not chemically) dependent on Spice and seeking out the drug becomes the sole purpose in their life. These people are victims and vulnerable people, with many of them being rough sleepers or having mental health issues, but their actions impact on a huge number of other people. Many people are frightened to go into the centre of our towns because of the impact of Spice users and the alarming state that people get themselves into on these drugs.

Over the last few years we have seen a growing homeless community in Chesterfield, with Spice becoming the main drug of choice amongst this group. Spice is very cheap compared to other drugs and, partly due to the low cost and its Class B status, very easy to get hold of. I recently met with Sian Jones, manager of homelessness prevention charity Pathways, who told me that many users do not realise just how dangerous and potent the drug is when they first start using, and they become dependent on the drug before they realise the damage it is doing.

Spice users are having a big impact on our town centre businesses and retailers. Retailers trying to run their businesses in tough times have contacted me, saying they have people under the influence of these drugs in contorted positions in their shop doorways, forcing customers away and impacting on sales.

Hardyal Dhindsa, the Police & Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire, together with our hard working local police, have put a huge amount of effort into trying to clamp down on these drugs.

Toby on a visit to New Beetwell Street Bus Station with the Derbyshire PCC and local councillors to discuss the homeless situation in Chesterfield

Toby on a visit to New Beetwell Street Bus Station with the Derbyshire PCC and local councillors to discuss the homeless situation in Chesterfield

Hardyal introduced Operation Chesnee, which led to 70 arrests and a spate of convictions. At least 40 people have now been charged, and convictions are ongoing. Derbyshire police have put significant resource into cracking down on Spice and Mamba, but while they are class B drugs, there is a limit to the resources they can put in and the returns they can get. Hardyal also chairs regular town centre summits, which are attended by police, probation, Chesterfield Borough Council, Derbyshire County Council, substance misuse services and local businesses, to discuss how we can work together to address the issues affecting our town centre. Public Space Protection Orders are already in place and being used to combat Spice users in town and the police and drug support services are working closely together to ensure people are being offered the help they need.

Now I have responded to the call from Hardyal and other Police chiefs to get these substances re-classified as class A drugs and spoke in a recent Parliamentary debate to that effect.

I am not seeking to criminalise the users of these drugs, many of whom need help and support for a variety of issues, but the reclassification will help the police to target the dealers higher up the supply chain who are making a lot of money and who are  responsible for the devastating impact these drugs are having on users and communities. Reclassification will mean tougher sentences for dealing, which will hopefully disincentivise people from selling the drug.

Reclassification will not be a silver bullet in resolving this new threat to our communities and we will need the Government to provide more resources for policing, increase the provision of drug treatment services and tackle the growing homelessness crisis which is leaving so many people in a vulnerable state where the use of drugs is the only way of coping with life on the street, but it can play a part.

You can watch my speech on this issue from last week’s Westminster Hall debate the on Reclassification of Synthetic Cannabinoids at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgL1XD5-FIs

Regular 'Town Centre Summits' are held to discuss the issues affecting Chesterfield Town Centre

Regular ‘Town Centre Summits’ are held to discuss the issues affecting Chesterfield’s town centre 

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BLOG: Breaking the taboo around suicide is vital to people getting help

September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) . Not the cheeriest subject to be writing about, but nonetheless it references one of the most crucial issues facing the country and one which we must talk about to break the taboo.

The statistics are becoming as familiar as they are shocking.

  • Men between the ages of 20 and 49 are more likely to die of suicide than any other means.
  • Across Britain Men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives and in Derbyshire, it’s even worse, with 85% of suicides being men.
  • One in every 15 of us has attempted suicide at one time or another.

And yet, despite it being an increasingly common event, we talk about suicide too little.

WSPD aims to break that taboo, and here in Derbyshire I am supporting an innovative partnership between organisations including the NHS, Derbyshire County Council, local charities and support groups to ‘Work Together to Prevent Suicides’.

The suicide prevention work includes stalls that our local professional and semi-professional Football clubs to ensure that supporters are made aware of the support available for people who are considering suicide or self-harm, or even others who are feeling low and wouldn’t normally talk about their feelings.

I am pleased to see that different organisations are working together to raise awareness about suicide prevention. I also met with East Midlands Trains to hear about their work reducing suicides on the railways.  They have prevented 18 people from taking their own lives on the Railways at Chesterfield station alone in the last 20 months, which shows how commonplace this is.

Often a friendly word or enquiry can be the support someone who is feeling very low can need, but we should all take responsibility for looking out for our friends and colleagues.

Alongside what we can do and the work of charities, people will rightly question what our health services are doing. 75% of people who die by suicide are not known to mental health services. But amongst those who are waiting times are dangerously long and the constant persecution of many people suffering with disabilities or mental health by our welfare system  can push people into crisis too often.

In my office we have had to refer people for crisis support on many occasions, but schools, GPs, Job Centres, churches and housing de3partments all need training to look out for the signs that someone may be feeling suicidal and intervene before its too late.

The message that WSPD sends is that anyone who is feeling suicidal should consider:

  • speak to a friend, family member or someone you trust
  • call the Samaritans 24-hour support service on 116 123
  • go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department and tell the staff how you are feeling
  • contact NHS 111
  • make an urgent appointment to see your GP

Whilst this is not the most uplifting subject, it is a crucial one, and the message from WSPD is that if we all look out for each other we can provide that crucial support so that people at their lowest ebb can live to smile again.

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Staveley Matters- Tell us your views on Banking and GPs

Toby with local business owners Keith Bannister and Tony Kay

Chesterfield Labour candidate Toby Perkins needs to hear your views on two issues that are crucial to Staveley and its people.

Banking

NatWest have suggested that they will be closing their branch in Staveley. Hundreds of local residents have already signed a petition in an attempt to keep the branch open. Local business owners have said that the closure of the NatWest branch in Staveley will be hugely damaging, both for the running of the businesses and the local economy.

Toby Perkins has spoken to senior management at NatWest who have said that they will provide a weekly mobile branch for businesses and training for internet and telephone banking. However, it is clear that many people in the area remain unhappy. Toby would like to hear your views below.

Doctors Surgeries

Doctors Surgeries in Staveley have been problematic in the last few years. Toby arranged for 600 people to attend a public meeting regarding the problems at Holywell Medical Group in 2014. This resulted in a change of ownership to Royal Primary Care which resulted in immediate improvements. However, whilst the administration has improved, there are again reports of problems with obtaining appointments. Are you a patient at the Inkersall or Rectory Road surgeries, What are you views?

Promoted by Chris Williams on behalf of Toby Perkins. Both at 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, S40 1NF

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Toby with Tesco staff and Usdaw organisers

MP backs campaign to protect shopworkers from abuse

Toby Perkins, MP for Chesterfield, backed the ‘Freedom from Fear’ campaign, led by shopworkers’ union USDAW, calling for an end to abuse in the workplace.

Toby joined staff, shop stewards and Usdaw organisers at the Tesco superstore on Lockoford Lane in Chesterfield to raise awareness about the unacceptable abuse and violence that is often directed at shopworkers.

Toby said, “I am proud to support Usdaw’s ‘Freedom from Fear’ campaign and will do all I can to help protect our retail workers from threats, violence and abuse in the workplace. Retail staff are an

Toby with Tesco staff and Usdaw organisers

Toby with Tesco staff and Usdaw organisers

important part of our communities and our economy, they should be valued and respected.”

A recent survey of retail staff by Usdaw showed that in the last year alone one in ten shopworkers have been physically assaulted, a quarter have been threatened and 44% verbally abused.

Toby added, “Coming up to the Christmas period, shopworkers will be doing longer hours in hectic environments and probably missing a lot of time with their families. I would urge shoppers to keep cool heads, treat all staff with respect and remember that they are simply there to do their jobs”.

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Toby Perkins MP with sixth formers from St Mary's Catholic High School

First-time voters say ‘we’re stronger in’

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins was invited to St Mary’s High School in Chesterfield as part of a series of talks at the school to discuss the forthcoming EU referendum.

Toby Perkins MP with sixth formers from St Mary's Catholic High School

Toby Perkins MP with sixth formers from St Mary’s Catholic High School

Sixth-formers, many of whom will be first-time voters when the crunch vote takes place on the 23rd June, engaged Mr Perkins in an energetic discussion to test the arguments for reforming the EU from the inside versus Brexit.   

Mr Perkins told the students that whilst he felt the EU ‘isn’t perfect’, Britain’s future is best served by shaping the EU from the inside rather than risking jobs and growth by pulling out.

Almost half of all UK exports go to the EU with global firms, such as Toyota and Rolls Royce, locating their European operations in Derbyshire to give them access to the single market. If Britain left the EU, UK-based firms could be hit by hefty tariffs and restrictions.

At the end of the session, a show of hands from the young people showed a majority want to stay in the EU.

Commenting on the robust discussion, Mr Perkins said: “I was grateful to be invited to St Mary’s to talk about this crucial vote.

“So many of the 21st-century challenges we face, such as climate change, cybercrime and terrorism, are best dealt with by working with our partners in Europe. That’s aside from more than 4 million British jobs that are dependent on being able to sell half of our exports to EU countries.”

St Mary’s pupil Harry Smith, who will turn 18 just in time to cast his vote, said: “This referendum is really important because a lot is at stake. It’s important that young people have their say because so much of our futures depends on the outcome.”

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Toby Perkins MP with St Hugh’s Youth Group members, outside Chesterfield Labour Club

All cisterns go to flush away poverty

Chesterfield’s MP teamed up with youngsters from St Hugh of Lincoln Church to spend a penny for charity.

Toby Perkins MP with St Hugh’s Youth Group members, outside Chesterfield Labour Club

Toby Perkins MP with St Hugh’s Youth Group members, outside Chesterfield Labour Club

The Newbold-based church youth group is raising money for Toilet Twinning- an initiative led by Tearfund to pay for toilet facilities in the developing world.

A coffee morning was held at Chesterfield Labour Club, raising over £300 for the charity. A toilet, donated by Buildbase, was also auctioned for £50.

One in three people across the world don’t have somewhere safe to go to the toilet and bad sanitation is one of the planet’s biggest killers. Providing people with clean water and basic hygiene is one of the most cost-effective ways to release people from poverty.

Toilet Twinning involves people in the developed world making a donation to help finance a lavatory in a community where no facility currently exists. For £60, you can twin the toilet in your home or business; you will receive a certificate and picture showing the toilet you have sponsored.

Joseph Lea, 12, of the St Hugh of Lincoln Youth Group, known as SHY, says it is important to support this cause. He said: “Every minute, three children under the age of five die because of dirty water and poor sanitation.

“For a small donation, you can really make a big difference.”

Toby Perkins says he is glad to help the young people from St Hugh’s support this cause.

He said: “For every pound spent sanitation, £8 is returned through saved time, increased productivity and reduced health costs.

“I’ve made a donation to Toilet Twinning so that the facilities at my office can be twinned. I hope other local organisations will get involved too.”

You can find out more about Toilet Twinning here.

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Toby Perkins MP with the Community First Responders in Chesterfield and one of their defibrillators.

Chesterfield MP calls on supermarkets to install defibrillators in stores

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins has called on major supermarket chains to install defibrillators at their stores to help increase the survival chances of those who suffer Sudden Cardiac Arrest, one of the UK’s biggest killers, and has urged Chesterfield stores to pledge to install them as soon as possible.
Toby said “I’ve recently had this campaign raised with me by my constituents and I think it has immense value. CPR is an invaluable skill and can save lives, but a defibrillator on-hand massively increases the chances of survival for someone who has had a cardiac arrest – I think all supermarket stores, large and small, should have one on site in case someone suffers from cardiac arrest either in store or nearby.”
Sudden Cardiac Arrest is one of the biggest killers in the UK and claims the lives of 100,000 people each year. Around 30,000 people will experience a cardiac arrest outside of hospital every year, in a public place or community setting, and there has been a growing campaign to get more defibrillators into the community to help increase survival rates. Defibrillators (‘AEDs’) don’t deliver a shock unless one is needed, and many don’t require special training to use, so campaigners view defibrillators which are publicly accessible as a viable way to try to increase survival rates.

Toby Perkins MP with the Community First Responders in Chesterfield and one of their defibrillators.

Toby Perkins MP with the Community First Responders in Chesterfield and one of their defibrillators.

The supermarket chain Asda pledged to install defibrillators in 600 of its stores nationwide in 2014 in recognition of their importance to the fight against Sudden Cardiac Arrest, and the campaign has been boosted locally by the East Midlands Ambulance Service’s commitment to install defibrillators in public spaces and the work of the Community First Responders – who aim to get to incidents local to them before ambulances in order to administer first aid and emergency medical support such as defibrillation.
Toby said “Every 1 minute without defibrillation reduces someone’s chance of survival by 10% according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF). I’m committed to supporting education for children and adults about emergency first aid and ensuring we are more aware of how to save lives as a nation, and I think increasing the availability and accessibility of defibrillators is an important element in that campaign.”

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Toby Perkins with a personal message for the #BleedForEngland campaign

Toby Perkins MP encourages people in Chesterfield to become blood donors

Toby Perkins with a personal message for the #BleedForEngland campaign

Toby Perkins with a personal message for the #BleedForEngland campaign

Toby Perkins has called on people in Chesterfield to show their support by registering themselves as blood donors and join the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) #BleedForEngland campaign.

Toby said, “Over the last few weeks we have seen amazing support for the England rugby team and the NHSBT’s #BleedForEngland campaign. We may not have been successful in the World Cup, but I am calling on people in Chesterfield to help make this campaign a success.”

The NHSBT wants people to go on to support in a different way – by registering to #BleedForEngland and help patients in hospitals across the country. They hope to register over 100,000 new donors before the end of the World Cup.

Nationally, less than 3% of people living in England aged 17 – 70 have donated blood in the last 12 months, and in Chesterfield only 1.9% of people are active blood donors. Since the launch of the #BleedForEngland campaign on 15 August, NHSBT has had an amazing response to the rallying cry to sign up new blood donors by the end of October.

Toby stated: “I believe that together, people in Chesterfield can help this campaign reach its goal. Donating blood is vital to the NHS – by donating you are literally saving and improving lives!”

If you are 17 or over and interested in donating, please visit www.blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23 today to find out if you are eligible to donate, register as a blood donor and to book your appointment

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Welcome

I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

Contact Toby

Tel: 01246 386286
Email: toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk
Post: 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, S40 1NF

Surgeries

I hold regular surgeries for my constituents.
Please call 01246 386286 or email toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk to make a booking.

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