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A view from the Senedd

May 6th 2020

Dawn Bowden, Assembly Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, says the first few weeks of lockdown hit her ‘like a tonne of bricks,’ but that a new normal is beginning to emerge.

A view from the Senedd is exactly not what this piece is about! As a Member of the Senedd that is one place I have not attended since the lockdown started. So what has been my experience since we were asked to “stay at home, protect the NHS and help to save lives”?

The moment that I closed my office on 27th March hit me like a tonne of bricks. A sudden realisation that a foundation stone in how I help to serve constituents, the High Street office, was closed. When the Senedd debated the emergency legislation prior to lockdown I said that I had come in to politics because I thought my life experiences could help people. Closing the office ran contrary to that idea.

In truth the first week of lockdown is now best described as manic. So many questions to which there were not always direct answers: schools, business support, emergency and essential workers, childcare, transport, shopping, medicines, setting up communication channels – while naturally also worrying about family and friends.

On reflection it took about two weeks for that phase to settle. This probably reflected the change of pace across our communities. Less panic buying in supermarkets, a slow recognition that this was a time for the more essential issues  helping vulnerable constituents and neighbours to get their medicines and food supplies etc.  Probably a growing acceptance that things were not going to change in the short term, so a chance to fit a bit of painting in the schedule, or to find the time for a walk to help clear the head or to get the shopping.

Key communication

Two weeks was also the point at which a range of online meetings and video conferences became established. Keeping in touch with the two councils, two police forces, two health boards etc that cover the Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituency. By this point these meetings reintroduced some structure back in to the week. Each call is an invaluable opportunity to be briefed, to share concerns and to seek clarification about the local situation as compared to a national media headline.

Virtual Senedd

Thankfully, and possibly a reflection of the relatively small scale of the organisation, the Senedd was the first parliament that moved to virtual meetings. This involves a selection of Assembly Members each week and at least provides some opportunity to question Ministers and to seek answers to some of the key questions our constituents pose to us about the current situation.

So through all of this what are my key impressions?

Key Impressions

Well my first thoughts go to everyone who has lost their lives to this virus and to their loved ones. We see the numbers on our televisions but, in truth, they reflect real people and bereaved families.

I also know that so many people are working desperately hard in direct response to the pandemic. The scale of change in procedures and operations is remarkable in so many aspects of our lives. Yet there is a gut feeling we were behind the curve at the start and have struggled to catch up. But the inquiries are for another day, now we are all focussed on problem solving and solutions.

My focus now is to keep supporting constituents to the best of my ability to help meet the many challenges we face today and in the months ahead.

Remember to get in touch by phone of email if you think I can help.

Dawn Bowden is MS for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

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