Dec 03

Supporting Small Business Saturday

Our locally based small businesses and enterprises do a fantastic job all year round of supporting our local economy and communities.

Shadow Minister for Small Business Bill Esterson MP with Luciana Berger MP

Shadow Minister for Small Business Bill Esterson MP with Luciana Berger MP

Today, Small Business Saturday, is a great opportunity to say a big thank you by visiting one of the hundreds of local small business across Liverpool Wavertree and doing a little pre-Christmas shopping. small-business-saturday-uk-2016-logo-english-blue

Small Business Saturday is a grassroots campaign, held on the first Saturday in December each year. It highlights the success of small businesses and encourages customers to support small businesses across our local communities.

Previous years have seen a 20 per cent increase in footfall for small independent businesses across the country.

The campaign has also succeeded in raising the profile of small businesses and independent retailers, with two-thirds of UK consumers aware of Small Business Saturday.

It was also a major success on social media, with 3.5 million views of the Small Business Saturday facebook page and the #1 trending spot on twitter all day last year.

Small Business Saturday bangs the drum for entrepreneurs and small businesses in all sectors. Please do your best today to support our fabulous local businesses.

Dec 01

World AIDS Day – time to end HIV stigma

Today is World AIDS Day when all around the globe people show support for those living with HIV, remember those who have lost their lives and learn the facts and realities of HIV today.aids-fact

This year’s Not Retro campaign challenges HIV stigma as outdated, unfashionable and un-modern – something that should be left in the past.

Being diagnosed with HIV today means something very different than it did decades ago. HIV is no longer a death sentence. However, people’s attitudes can still make living with HIV difficult. As the Not Retro campaign points out, some things from the 1980s and 1990s are worth revisiting, but HIV stigma isn’t one of them. It’s time to end HIV stigma.

Over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK, while around the world an estimated 34 million people have the virus.

Luciana Berger with staff and volunteers at Sahir House

Luciana Berger with staff and volunteers at Sahir House

The virus was identified in 1984, since when more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

Scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment and so much more is understood about the condition, yet each year in the UK around 6,000 people are diagnosed with HIV.

Too many people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.

That is why I am backing World AIDS Day – to remind people that HIV has not gone away. We need to continue to increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

Here in Liverpool, the day is co-ordinated by Sahir House which provides information and support and raises awareness about the need to reduce the stigma related to HIV and sexual health. You can download its World AIDS Day information pack by clicking here.

Nov 29

Help make a difference with #GivingTuesday

giving-tuesdayPeople across the world are stepping up today #GivingTuesday to do a little extra for charity.

The day was brought to the UK from the United States three years ago by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) to encourage people to make a charitable donation, volunteer, or support a campaign locally, nationally or internationally.

Last year #GivingTuesday raised £6,000 a minute for UK charities and broke the world record for the most amount of money donated online to charity in 24 hours.

The simple idea is to encourage people to support a good cause in any way they can. Last year, over 1,500 charities and businesses signed up as partners, including household names such as BT, Facebook, Argos, NSPCC and Cancer Research UK.

To find out how you can do something special for #GivingTuesday, please click here or visit: www.givingtuesday.org.uk

The website is packed full of ideas and information about what is happening this year as well as inspiring stories from last year’s record-breaking efforts.

For instance, over 300 charities have signed up for the Big Give Christmas Challenge, which launches on #GivingTuesday. Together, the charities are hoping to raise around £7.5 million in 72 hours.

The charities span a wide variety of causes including child poverty, reducing loneliness amongst the elderly, international development, arts, the environment, and animals.

Online donations made between Noon today and Noon on December 2 on the Big Give website will be matched by a combination of charities’ key supporters and Big Give Champions, effectively doubling your gift.

Nov 26

Join me at the special Liverpool showing of Starfish

Please join me at the Picturehouse FACT for a special Liverpool screening of the amazing new film Starfish on Thursday December 1 at 6.15pm.starfish-film-poster-1024x767

Starfish is a movie about the resilience of the human spirit. It tells the true story of Tom and Nic Ray, a couple from Rutland, whose lives are turned upside down in an instant when Tom develops the  disease sepsis after a routine trip to the dentist.

The film stars Joanne Froggatt, Tom Riley and Michele Dotrice, and is directed by Bill Clark.

This moving British indie follows the happily married couple who suddenly have to cope with Tom’s life-threatening illness. Pregnant Nicola works in an office, while Tom writes children’s books and looks after their daughter at home. When he contracts sepsis, only multiple amputations and radical facial surgery can save his life.

The film shows the devastating effects on their relationship and the wider family of multiple operations and the onset of depression but avoids mawkishness.

The UK Sepsis Trust campaigns to raise awareness about sepsis which kills 44,000 people every year in the UK. Starfish is an excellent way to raise awareness and gain better public recognition of the condition.

It promises to be a moving and inspirational evening. I hope to see you there. For more information and to book tickets, please click here.

Nov 25

Campaigning for our National Health Service

nhs-action-dayOur NHS is underfunded, understaffed and failing to meet the needs of millions of people who rely on it.

Under the Tories, around 3.9 million people are on waiting lists, 1.8 million people have had to wait four hours or more in A&E and one in four patients have to wait a week or more to see their GP.

People with mental health problems are being turned away or facing long waits to be assessed, let alone properly treated.

It is unacceptable, but the government’s response is to set the NHS on the road to another re-organisation aimed at cutting billions from the NHS budget. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement this week did nothing to provide our NHS with the resources it needs.

The British Medical Association which brings together GPs and hospital doctors should be listened to when it warned earlier this week that NHS sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) will have to deliver £22 billion of cuts by 2020/2021 because of a staggering financial crisis.

The BMA warned that the sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), which should be about designing the best NHS to meet people’s changing needs in the 21st century, have become all about slashing funding.

The government claims that that these plans are clinically driven, but two thirds of doctors say they haven’t even been consulted.

These crucial discussions about the future of our NHS cannot take place behind closed doors. We need patients, carers, families and all those who work in the NHS to be involved in the plans.

That is why Labour is campaigning across the country tomorrow, united in our determination to protect and care for our National Health Service. It was Labour who created the NHS and it will be incumbent on us to protect it and ensure it exists for future generations.

We will properly integrate the NHS and social care and ensure equality for mental health services.

Our NHS cares for us, and we must care for it. If you would like to join one of many campaign day events, please click here.

Nov 25

Let’s work together to eliminate violence against women

Today marks the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I am proud to join millions of people around the world campaigning to end the terrible epidemic of gender-based violence.violence

Two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner. Worldwide, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence — mostly perpetrated by an intimate partner.

This is a reality for women and girls and it shames us all.

Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. We must challenge the attitudes, cultures and behaviours that lead to gender-based violence.

That means supporting women and girls to speak out, working with our schools to educate children and young people and investing in women’s rights organisations to prevent gender-based violence worldwide.

Governments can make a difference.

For instance, between 1997 and 2010, successive Labour governments fundamentally changed the way domestic violence is tackled, challenging the perception that domestic violence was a ‘private’ issue.

In 1999, Labour made tackling violence against women and girls a specific responsibility of the Home Office, signalling its national importance.

In 2004, Labour passed the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 which made common assault an arrestable offence for the first time so that the police could step in at the first signs of domestic violence.

Labour extended civil orders to include same-sex and cohabiting couples, to recognise the fact that domestic violence is not limited to married men and women.

Successive Labour governments also brought the police and support organisations together in partnership and provided additional support to groups supporting people exposed to domestic violence.

It is a proud record, but it needs to be built on because violence against women and girls remains a serious issue in our society.

One in four women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, almost one in 10 will experience domestic violence in any given year and one in five children have been exposed to domestic violence.

We know that violence against girls starts at an early age. Home Office backed research has found that too many teenagers don’t properly understand what abusive, controlling behavior is, and how it can escalate to physical abuse. Too many young people see these types of relationships as ‘normal’.

That is why it is so important that the government thinks again and introduces statutory, age-appropriate sex and relationships education in every primary and secondary schools.

We need a lead from government to ensure that every child learns about healthy, respectful friendships and relationships from the earliest age so that we can affect the next generation and do everything possible to eliminate violence against women.

Nov 24

Chancellor’s Autumn Statement silent on NHS crisis

Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed yesterday that the government has absolutely nothing to say about the crisis facing our NHS, social care and mental health services.autumn-statement

The Autumn Statement should have been the occasion for the government to recognise that millions of people are now facing long delays in getting the help they need, but there was not one single mention of the vital issues of mental health, public health or the NHS in the long 72-page statement presented to Parliament.

I challenged the Chancellor directly, but he batted away the concerns being expressed by constituents here in Liverpool Wavertree and across the country. You can see our exchange by clicking here.

Under the Tories our hospitals have been starved of investment, leaving a record 3.9 million people on NHS waiting lists.

The NHS is this year facing its deepest ever deficit, £2.45 billion, while nearly half of hospital authorities are cutting beds and one in three A&Es may close under new NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans.

As I told the Chancellor yesterday, it is economically illiterate to ignore the massive decrease in people receiving social care in the community and the cuts to public health and NHS staff training. The government’s approach just stores up costs for the future and leaves people in distress.

Over one million people in need are not receiving the social care they need, while September recorded the highest levels of delayed discharges from hospital – people who should be cared for at home if social care support was in place – on record.

Responsibility for that and the financial crisis faced by councils and the NHS sits squarely with the government.

What we got from the Chancellor was confirmation that there will be more taxes, more debt and more borrowing to deal with the consequences of the government’s failure to plan for Brexit, the greatest economic challenge our country will face for a generation.

The government has left the country unprepared and ill-equipped to meet the challenges of Brexit and protect our NHS and other vital local public services.

Only a Labour government will deliver on the ambition and vision to rebuild and transform our economy so that no one and no community is left behind, and our NHS, social care and mental health services are protected.

Nov 21

Help Liverpool City Council decide on budget solutions

council-funding-infographicLiverpool City Council has lost 58 per cent of its funding through severe government cuts – that’s £330 million cut from the budget already and another £90 million to come.

The cuts have struck at a time of rising demand and leave the council with stark choices.

It has launched a budget simulator to show residents the impact of the cuts and to involve everyone in decisions about what needs to be done next.

The fact is that if Liverpool had been hit by the average cuts imposed by first the Coalition Tory-Liberal Democrat government and now the Tory government, the city would have £82.4 million more in its budget.

The severity of the sustained cuts is shocking. In 2011-12, the government forced £91.4 million of cuts on the council, in 2012-13 another £50 million, in 2013-14 £32 million more, in 2014-15 £55 million, in 2015-16 £48.6 million and in 2016-17 £53.2 million.

That is a total of £330 million that the council has had axed from its budget, but it has meant cutting spending on important community services. Now the government is demanding another £90 million of cuts over the next three years.

The council faces having to cut more valuable services that residents rely on every day, or raise more money to help pay for them.

There are more children in council care than ever before – up 18 per cent since 2010. By 2019, there will be 4,000 more children in local schools. The number of over-65s will rise 30 per cent by 2026, and there has been a 26 per cent increase in the number of people at risk of homelessness seeking help.

Behind every number, there is a person in real need of help and support. The council has to consider every option to protect people from these savage government cuts, including asking people to pay a little more.

However, only 11p in every £1 of the city’s budget comes from council tax – far less than nearly every other council in the country. It means any increase brings in a relatively small amount. For instance, a 1 per cent cut in government funding costs the council £3 million, while a 1 per cent rise in council tax brings in £1.4 million.

The government allows councils to raise council tax by a maximum of 3.99 per cent, unless people vote for a higher rise in a referendum. A rise of 3.99 per cent in 2017/18 would bring in around £5.7 million in additional income. Yet, the council has to find £41 million of savings over the next year alone.

That is why the council is asking people now if they would be willing to pay up to 10 per cent more and have the money protected to be used for adult and children’s services. That can only be done if people vote in favour in a referendum.

The budget simulator allows people to see the impact of reducing spending across council services.

council-tax-risePeople can also leave their comments and ideas about how to bridge the budget gap to help the council understand what is important to residents when it makes its budget proposals later this year.

The simulator also asks if people would be willing to pay more council tax to protect services for vulnerable children and adults.

These are hugely difficult questions and there are no easy options, but it is vital that people are involved in the decisions that have to be taken.

To use the budget simulator and let the council know what you think should be done, please click here or visit: www.liverpool.gov.uk/budget

The budget simulator will be open until Friday December 16.

Nov 18

Offering people with guide dogs the best service

There are many great taxi and minicab drivers and firms around who recognise the importance of offering the best service to all their passengers, including people with guide dogs.guide-dogs-luciana-berger-2

Unfortunately, I have had too many people tell me that their experience hasn’t lived up to the best, and in fact they have been refused a taxi service because they have a guide dog with them.

One constituent told me that she and her husband have been refused taxi access and restaurant access more than once and had sought the support of the Guide Dogs charity in challenging these decisions.

Local councils in and around Liverpool have issued posters and leaflets to licensed cab drivers and after I raised concerns that this was not enough, have worked with Guide Dogs locally to publicise the law further and work on enforcing it more effectively across council borders.

These types of experience are not only deeply frustrating and offensive, they are actually unlawful.

That is why today, I am backing my colleague Andrew Gwynne’s Private Members Bill that seeks to ensure that Disability Equality Training is available to help people providing taxis and minicab services understand the law and how they can help.

The Transport Select Committee, Law Commission and House of Lords Equality Act Committee, as well as 30 national charities and organisations, have all recommended mandatory disability training for taxi and minicab drivers. It is clearly time for action.

This Bill, if made law, will ensure that all taxi and minicab drivers get the training they need to understand their duties under the Equality Act and improve the experience of getting a taxi for many people living with a visual impairment.

Last year a Guide Dogs survey revealed that 75 per cent of assistance dog owners have been refused access to a shop, restaurant or taxi because they were told their dog wasn’t welcome. Taxis and minicabs are the most common business to turn guide dog owners away

Guide Dogs change lives and support people who are blind or partially sighted to enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else. They must not be excluded from taxis or minicabs.

The Bill could make a huge difference and that is why it is getting my full support today.

 

Nov 17

The government should reverse planned cuts to ESA

The government should use the Autumn Statement next Wednesday, November 23, to reverse planned cuts to Employment and Support Allowance.daniel-blake

If it doesn’t act, from April next year support for new claimants who are disabled or too unwell to work will be cut by £30 a week.

Labour in Parliament yesterday used one of it Opposition Day debates to force the government to come forward with new details on the full impact of its benefit cuts.

There are additional costs faced by people with long-term medical conditions who cannot work. The government needs to recognise that people with disabilities cannot afford to have their incomes cut, particularly at a time when prices are threatening to rise.

Nor can families, struggling to bring up children. The End Child Poverty coalition recently published new figures showing that there are 6,119 children living in poverty in Liverpool, Wavertree alone.

Maidenhead, the constituency of Prime Minister Theresa May is one of the 20 parliamentary constituencies with the lowest rates of child poverty in the country. The Prime Minister doesn’t see the full impact of child poverty in her own backyard. That is one reason why it is important that the real facts are presented to her.

Recent cuts to in work support under Universal Credit penalise low income working families and risk pushing more working families below the poverty line.

The benefits freeze in place until the end of the decade could mean that as prices rise, families on low incomes will find it increasingly difficult to pay for basic essentials.

Labour will use next week’s Autumn Statement as another opportunity to press the government to reverse its damaging cuts.

Labour is urging people to see the powerful film I, Daniel Blake, which highlights the human cost of a benefits system that does not properly support people when they are in most need. I saw the film the other week and it is a powerful and painful presentation of the reality for too many people in our country. I am ashamed that over a million people have had to access emergency food aid on behalf of themselves and their families in 2016. We can’t allow this situation to persist.

There are special screenings of I, Daniel Blake across the country tonight and the film is on nationwide release. You can click here to search for a screening near you.

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