Work Experience Programme

The Caterham and District Independent is passionate about supporting and encouraging both local journalism and young journalism.

Growing up, I didn’t have many opportunities to pursue my love for journalism and hence in recent months we have launched our work experience programme. Whether you’re in primary school, have just started secondary, taking your A levels, off to university or just returned, if your passion is writing please contact us.

Megan Denton did just that and due to her love for politics we set up an interview with her and our local East Surrey MP, Claire Coutinho. Megan also spent some time in the office with us, seeing and participating in the process in the run-up to printing.

By Megan Denton

1. What’s the most rewarding part of being an MP?
For me there are two main parts to being an MP, helping people and taking specific action in the local area. It adds plenty of variety to each day. During the pandemic people sent in questions concerning their food deliveries so we we’re able to help them with that. There was one mother whose child had been diagnosed with a rare disease and was struggling to receive treatment as the NHS was incredibly busy with Covid. I was able to take this to Parliament and help her get the support needed and put things in place so others in the same situation could receive a diagnosis.

2. What did you want to be growing up?
As a child I wasn’t interested in anything political, I studied maths at university before working in investment banking for five years. After that I worked in the Social Justice department which dealt a lot with education and family issues.
politicians and I look forward to working closely with whoever wins.

3. In the future, what would you like to focus on for the local area?
One thing that I’m trying to focus on is fixing potholes in the local area and making sure that the roads are in a good condition. The environment is a big issue for me and recently I took part in some litter picking to help clean up our area. After Coronavirus, I’m hoping to help some independent businesses get back on track. Finally, I’m working closely with the Department for Education to get more support for East Surrey College.

4. As the environment is a particularly important topic for you, what would you suggest people can do to protect our area?
Earlier this year I took part in Green-tember where I did some litter picking and answered people’s questions via zoom meetings. I’d suggest that people focus on heat, eat and travel. The government has green home grants and want as many people as possible to have greener homes. Food waste is one of the biggest contributors to our rubbish so trying to reduce that and disposing of it in the right way is key. Also, walking or cycling when possible and after Coronavirus taking public transport will help lower our carbon footprint.

5. As we enter another national lockdown, do you have any tips to help people stay connected?
In the first lockdown I spent time helping local voluntary groups which have helped a lot of people. It’s also important to check in on those around you as not everyone has access to technology or knows how to use it. As always, I’m available to contact at

6. What advice would you give to the younger generation or anyone struggling to find employment at this time?
At the moment, it’s the government’s number one priority to make sure that people are able to find a place to work. They recently launched the Kickstarter scheme for 16-20 year olds looking for work. On a more local scale, there has been a big interest from businesses trying to expand and start apprentice schemes. There’s also the East of Surrey Local Economic Taskforce that I set up with Crispin Blunt to support the local economy.

7. At a time when mental health services are being stretched, what steps are being put in place to ensure people can access support?
Of course there is a lot of demand for these services at the moment and the government has invested £2.3 billion into mental health services to support them in the future. Green and social prescriptions are being offered more with our own Surrey areas being recommended.

8. In regard to Brexit, what do you think will be the combined effect of Brexit and the Coronavirus on the economy?
I am very hopeful that we will come out of this with a deal and we are much closer to getting one. I think that for Britain to be in control of its own trade deals is the right thing as is evident with the UK-Japan trade deal. For the long-term economy Brexit will help it. In terms of Coronavirus, this will damage the economy greatly but the economic measures put in place by the government such as the furlough scheme are very strong and should keep us on the right path.

9. What is your opinion of the ongoing refugee crisis across Europe, and your thoughts on our border control?
I think that immigrants are very beneficial to society and we are one of the top five countries in the world for the number of refugees we settle. However, what we need to tackle is the organised criminal chains that ship people across the channel as it results in essentially human trafficking.

10. Given the uncertainty of next year’s public exams, would you say it’s possible for them to be pushed back further or even cancelled?
I hope that they aren’t cancelled and the young people get a chance to prove themselves and show off what they’ve learnt. I’m very proud of the Catch-Up Tutoring Fund which has £1.5 billion invested in it with the aim of helping children catch up what they missed during the first lockdown.

11. Do you feel like the UK is a safe and welcoming country for minority groups?
Personally I feel that we have a very welcoming country and have made a huge amount of progress over the years. I was privileged enough to make a speech in Parliament on ethnic minorities during Black History Month. Also, as a country I think we often talk down how much progress we have made although this isn’t to say there is still more to be done.

12. Earlier this year you mentioned being appointed into the armed forces parliamentary scheme, is this a big issue for you?
For me, this is new are so I’m very excited. They have a very in-depth training course and I have huge amounts of respect for anyone in our armed forces. Recently, I spoke to one of the veterans in the area who is 94, he told me all about his experiences during the war.

13. Following on from another national lockdown, do you have any tips to help people stay connected?
In the first lockdown I spent time helping local voluntary groups which have helped a lot of people. It’s also important to check in on those around you as not everyone has access to technology or knows how to use it. As always, I’m available to contact at

14. Bearing in mind your family background of predominately NHS workers, do you think that this has influenced the way you voted during the pandemic?
The vote for a second lockdown was very recent and one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. What really influenced me was talking to the local doctors and nurses at various hospitals and surgeries and realising that no-one signed up for this so we need to protect them as much as we can.

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