Jun 21

Marking Clean Air Day with a pledge for action

clean air day logoIt is time for new legislation to build on the Clean Air Act introduced 25 years ago under the Labour government.

The World Health Organisation has described air pollution as a ‘public health emergency.’ Poor air quality has serious environmental and health impacts. A report to the United Nations human rights council in September 2017 raised concerns regarding the effects of air pollution on vulnerable groups in the UK, including the risk of ‘mortality, morbidity and disability’ to children.

Luciana clean airThe British Heart Foundation says that air pollution is now the largest environmental risk factor linked to deaths in England. Globally, coronary heart disease and stroke account for around three in every five deaths related to outdoor air pollution.

Existing legislation hasn’t kept pace with scientific advances which show the serious health threats posed by the smallest air pollutants. The government’s draft Clean Air Strategy fails to tackle the immediate problem and needs to go much further.

Here in Liverpool, where an estimated 650 deaths a year are linked to respiratory disease, the Labour-led council has launched the Breathe Liverpool plan to ensure that walking, cycling, electric vehicles and clean fuels dominate city life by 2025.

The council is also pressing the government for greater freedom to fund innovative air quality projects to encourage people to change or re-fit diesel cars, stronger planning powers to boost air quality and for a new Clean Air Act.

We need a new Clean Air Act to create challenging emissions reduction targets and help introduce a network of clean air zones backed by investment in greener, integrated public transport systems.

The UK should be at the forefront of developing, manufacturing and using ultra low emission vehicles as well as retro-fitting thousands of diesel buses in areas with the most severe air quality problems.

Poor air quality is a national public health scandal that is costing lives and putting increased pressure on the NHS.

The government has been hauled before the courts repeatedly over its failure to act and improve air quality. Despite the scale of the problem, the government’s plans amount to more consultations and pushing the problem onto local authorities to solve.

On Clean Air Day we need to recommit to a new Clean Air Act that would help us all breathe easier.

Jun 14

I’m pledging to build a carer-friendly community

Carers Week 2016Carers Week this year celebrates and raises awareness of the 6.5 million people in the UK who care, unpaid, for an ill, older or disabled family member or friend. I’m pleased to be backing the pledge to build carer-friendly communities.Carers-week-HC-logo

Around one in eight people in Liverpool Wavertree is a carer. Caring is something that will increasingly affect all of us in some way, whether we are providing, or receiving care. There are an estimated 700,000 young carers.

Caring is part of being human and at the heart of family life. As our population ages and people live longer, often with complex health conditions, more and more of us will find ourselves caring. Yet many still see caring as a private matter.

Many people don’t identify themselves as carers, they feel they are just doing what anyone else would so they don’t always know what support is available.

Carers Week is our chance to raise awareness and to build communities that support carers to stay healthy and connected.

Communities that support the health and wellbeing of carers are places where local people and services support carers to look after their loved ones well, while recognising that they are individuals with needs of their own.

Carer friendly communities are aware of the part played by unpaid carers within their community, encouraging everyone – whether employers, public services, local amenities or businesses – to do something to make life better for carers.

Caring can be a hugely rewarding experience, but it can also come at a cost to the carer’s own health and wellbeing if proper recognition and support is not available.

I’m pledging to play my part in building a carer-friendly community, you can join me by clicking here.

If you are a carer in Liverpool, you can find out about support services by clicking here or telephone 0151 709 0990.

Jun 12

Liverpool welcomes International Business Festival

Liverpool is open for business and extends a very warm welcome to business leaders from across the world who are here over the next two weeks as part of the UK’s International Business Festival.IBF logo

The first international festival in 2014 saw £280 million worth of investment and trade. Together with the festival in 2016, the festival has generated £500 million worth of deals, £250 million in sales and has secured £87 million worth of exports.

This year’s festival runs from today until June 28 and promises to be a lively event, given how much the world of international business is changing. The most recent G7 meeting of many of the world’s largest economies raised the spectre of trade wars with the US over Donald Trump’s isolationist economic agenda, and talk of the negative impact of Brexit will not be far from anyone’s lips.

That makes Liverpool’s role in bringing together so many leaders from right across the world so vital. This year the event has been specially re-designed to break down barriers to growth.

The world economy is shifting fast. Faster, better connections are opening up new possibilities for growth, but also causing disruption. For instance, China’s reimagination of the ‘Silk Road’ includes investments in ports and transport infrastructure, including Liverpool.

Good business means investing in people and communities. Leaders will also be discussing how people’s livelihoods and incomes can be protected, now and in the future.

A good economy helps to create and support health and happiness across society. The festival will be looking at how business can contribute – from life-saving advances in medicine and healthcare to immersive new worlds of entertainment and sport.

This festival celebrates the best of business and the challenges it faces in supporting economic growth and health and well-being in the years ahead. We can all be proud that Liverpool is playing such a central role in hosting these international discussions.

Jun 11

Smear tests save lives

More eligible woman should have the opportunity to take up cervical screening to prevent cancer.Cervical cancer

This year’s Cervical Screening Awareness Week (June 11-17) is focussed on removing the barriers and obstacles that still deter too many women of taking up the screening option.

I’m backing the charity Jo’s Trust to help make sure:

  • Every woman is able to understand why the test is important
  • Every eligible woman is able to attend
  • Action is taken to make the test more accessible

Cervical screening prevents 75 per cent of cervical cancers from developing. However, nationally one in four women don’t attend. In Liverpool, the figure rises to nearly one in three women. That can be because women don’t see the test as important, feel anxious about it or have had poor experiences in the past.

The national cervical screening programme saves an estimated 5,000 lives every year, but could save even more. Screening matters because cervical cancer spotted early can be successfully treated. Every year around 3,200 women in the UK are given a cervical cancer diagnosis.

We can all play our part in raising awareness. For instance, we can all talk to family and friends and discuss how to make it easier for people we are close to to take up smear test invitations.

Smear tests aren’t easy for everyone, but every woman should have the support they need to book and attend cervical screening because smear tests save lives.

Jun 09

Marching to combat prostate cancer

Good luck to everyone taking part in tomorrow’s Let’s March for Men in Liverpool event in Croxteth Park to raise awareness of prostate cancer.

Tomorrow’s march gathers at 10am for an 11am start with a short, medium or long walk available that winds its way around one of Liverpool’s heritage sites. The short route is fully accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

Hundreds of volunteers and supporters of Prostate Cancer UK will be walking to raise awareness and vital funds that will help stop prostate cancer being a killer.

It is a great chance to meet people whose lives have been touched by prostate cancer and raise awareness of the need for early detection and treatment.

Prostate cancer is already the most common cancer in men in the UK and it is set to be the most common cancer of all by 2030. Prostate cancer is currently the third biggest cancer killer in the UK.

Prostate Cancer UK says that it has a simple ambition – to stop men dying from prostate cancer.

It is holding fundraising marches around the country and tomorrow’s event in Croxteth Park promises to be a great success.

 

Jun 08

More vegetables please

Veg Power - Infographic 3_previewChildren hate vegetables and it is impossible to get them to eat more as part of a balanced diet, right?

Wrong, says a new campaign backed by chefs, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, food experts and parents across the country.

VEG POWER is a new initiative that aims to make vegetables as exciting to children as any sugary food that is backed by massive advertising budgets.

I know from my membership of the Health and Social care Select Committee that childhood obesity is a crisis across the country. Our new report, Childhood Obesity: Time for Action, shows that children are bombarded by advertising and marketing for foodstuffs that are high in sugar, fat and salt and feed the obesity crisis.

One of our key recommendations is to rebalance marketing in favour of healthy foods. It is crucial that the government use its childhood obesity plan to impose a 9pm watershed on high fat, sugar and salt food and drink advertising. It also needs to be smarter in recognising how the food industry uses cartoon characters and non-advertising marketing to promote unhealthy foods to our children.

We all need to be smarter in transforming children’s attitudes to the healthy foodstuffs, such as vegetables. Vegetables currently make up just 1.2 per cent of food and drink advertising spend in the UK. VEG POWER aims to change that by using the skills of marketing to make vegetables exciting to children.

Wouldn’t it be great to be pestered at the supermarket checkout for tasty carrots or peas please, rather than a bar of chocolate?

You can find out more about VEG POWER by clicking here.

Jun 08

Making an impact on early intervention

I was pleased to lend my support to the parliamentary launch of Getting my life back, a new report from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists that sets out the valuable work its members do in supporting people with mental health problems.Occ therapist

Mental health presents itself in many guises and what this report draws out is the effectiveness of occupational therapy in addressing the variety of problems people of all ages can face.

Most people first look for support with a mental health problem from their GP, but only 5 per cent of mental health professionals such as occupational therapists work in GP services.

That means that too many people have to reach crisis before they get any kind of help.

Getting my life back  looks at innovative occupational therapy services that crucially focus on prevention and early intervention. It makes a strong case that occupational therapy can have life changing effects on people with mental health conditions, from stress and anxiety to depression, psychosis and self-harm.

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists wants its members to be routinely helping young people with mental health problems to achieve their full educational potential and supporting people with mental health issues into employment.

Occupational therapists should also be involved in plans to improve the physical health of people with serious mental health problems and lead innovative service delivery that improves access to mental health support in primary care.

The more individuals we can reach earlier, the better for them, their families, their friends and their colleagues and employers. The recommendations in this report show how, by using occupational therapists innovatively, this can be achieved.

Jun 06

Hard work ahead to secure C4 bid success

C4 for LiverpoolThe hard work is underway to make sure that the very welcome decision by Channel Four to shortlist Liverpool to be its possible new HQ/Cultural Hub is translated into a winning bid.C4 bid pic

Parts of Channel Four are moving from central London and the broadcaster is looking for a city that offers it the right support and infrastructure to make a success of the move.

Liverpool’s bid is comprehensive, exciting and builds on the extraordinary cultural prowess of the city.

The bid has won commitments from the city’s energetic creative sector and has support from across the political leadership. You can read the motion myself and other Merseyside MPs have tabled by clicking here.

Liverpool’s ability to attract investors from across film, TV and music has helped to boost employment and training opportunities in recent years  Liverpool established Europe’s first Film Office and is now the most filmed outside of London with £90 million of productions currently in the pipeline.

The city has created a bid steering group that includes Liverpool John Moores University whose Screen School is recognised as one of the UK’s leading film faculties. Liverpool is also developing a new Film Studios, set to be one of Europe’s biggest, on Edge Lane. The city has a wealth of iconic locations for Channel Four and extensive existing studio capacity.

Good luck to the team that is drawing on all the goodwill and support from across our creative city to put in place the best possible bid. A final decision will be announced by C4 on October 1.

Jun 04

Grayling must take responsibility for rail chaos

Northern logoI am meeting the Rail Minister today to raise with him directly the many, many concerns that constituents have raised with me about the chaos on our railways, in particular services run by Northern.Northern sorry

Constituents have told me that their jobs are under threat as delays and cancellations are making them late for work. Home lives are being wrecked by long commutes home, and friends and families are being called on regularly to help pick up children from school and nursery.

It is totally unacceptable that people’s lives are being damaged in this way and our whole regional economy is having to pick up the cost of the government’s failure to make sure that we have a transport system that delivers locally for people and business.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has tried to point the finger of blame at Network Rail, which has overall responsibility for the timetable changes that have been introduced, but commuters tell me that the train operators were failing to deliver reliable services even before these recent changes.

The Tory government, and Chris Grayling in particular, must take responsibility. It is his job ultimately to make sure that such major changes to rail timetables across the country are properly introduced.

I raised concerns with the Secretary of State a month before the timetable changes after one sharp-eyed regular rail using constituent predicted the rail fail that was coming.

I asked the Secretary of State what steps he had taken to ensure that there was adequate track capacity and adequate train numbers in place to support the new timetable.

Mr Grayling handed the question on to his rail minister Jo Johnson to answer who would only say that it was the responsibility of the train operating company to get it right.

I will be telling the Minister tonight that his department’s failure to get a grip on a predictable crisis is damaging the lives and job prospects of my constituents. He can’t duck responsibility and must show leadership to end this rail chaos.

I want to see action:

  • A published plan with dates and milestones for when passengers can expect to see improvements as soon as possible.
  • An agreed and urgent deadline for when the significant backlog of outstanding Delay Repay claims will be dealt with.
  • A broader compensation offer for regular users given the scale of the disruption, paid for by fines levied on the train operator.

Northern must be put on notice that if it fails to deliver an agreed immediate action plan and a longer-term strategy to improve its service a process will be initiated to remove the train company’s franchise to operate.

 

May 28

Time to end the scandal of period poverty

I’m backing the campaign to #endperiodpoverty. Too many women and girls across our country are struggling to afford adequate sanitary provision, which in turn impacts their health, hygiene and livelihood.period poverty

Significant numbers of girls are not able to afford sanitary products each month. That impacts on all areas of life, including school attendance. A survey conducted by the children’s charity Plan International UK found that one in 10 girls have been unable to afford sanitary products and almost half had missed an entire day of school because of their period.

Some schoolgirls have had to improvise sanitary protection because their families cannot afford it. This should be a concern for us all.

The government has left it up to schools to decide whether to use some of their shrinking budgets to provide free sanitary products. That is not good enough.

Of course, it is not just school age girls facing period poverty. Too many women of all ages are living in poverty and struggling to get by. That is why I am joining with Merseyside Fawcett Society to call for end to the scandal of period poverty. All women, regardless of age, social status or background, should be able to access the sanitary products they need.

We need to ensure that free sanitary products are available in our schools, food banks and homeless shelters.

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