THINGS feel like they are rapidly starting to return to some semblance of normality following my last column, with the much-awaited return of pubs and hairdressers, and more of us able to see our friends and families.

For those who are shielding, who have been subject to the strictest measures over the last few months, the end is now in sight and I know what a huge relief this will be.

But there are still too many people for whom normality is a long way away. I’ve met a number of small businesses in Warrington North who feel they have been left in limbo waiting for guidance on when they can safely resume trading, and to many constituents who have been left out of the package of measures announced so far.

The last few months has caused immense anxiety and financial hardship, and I am hopeful, just as the package for the arts sector was announced just in time, that the forthcoming financial statement will offer them long-awaited help.

In Parliament, I have been working closely with the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee and various all-party groups covering a broad range of sectors on post-pandemic economic growth.

Our recovery must be focused on supporting employment and providing stability, and we cannot return to the politics of austerity that left us unprepared for a crisis like coronavirus. Support so far has been largely one-size fits all, in order for help to be delivered quickly, but longer term many sectors will need more bespoke targeted support whether it’s in aerospace, retail, or the charitable sector.

While keeping our economy going has dominated much of the business of Parliament, there’s a number of other issues that have arisen or been exacerbated by lockdown. One of the most troubling is the increase in domestic violence, and I was proud to be one of the names on the amendments that brought an end to the so-called ‘rough sex defence’ and a shameful period of victim-blaming in our judicial system.

We have also seen a huge increase in demand for mental health support, which I speak regularly to the NHS, Warrington Clinical Commissioning Group, and mental health charities about how we manage and resource.

And I am continuing to push for legislation to be brought forward on Online Harms to protect children from grooming and radicalisation – something which I’m increasingly concerned about.

Finally, while things are starting to return to normal, it is important that we don’t get complacent about things like social distancing and washing our hands. I am monitoring our local and regional figures closely, and hope we will not see a resurgence as we have elsewhere in Warrington, but we must all play our part.