Jul 20

Government is failing to back childcare

Botched government plans to introduce 30-hour childcare for working families are letting down children, parents and providers.Childcare campaign

I met with Planet Wavertree chief executive Clare Roberts in Parliament this week at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Childcare and Early Education. It is clear that government promises to properly fund the expansion of childcare for working parents is failing, and putting providers under real pressure.

The government refuses to meet the full costs for small providers who face significant administration and other overheads, which reduces choice for parents.

More problems are on the horizon.

The existing Childcare Voucher scheme is due to close to new entrants on October 4. Thanks to pressure from parents, providers and MPs the government was forced to put off the scheme’s closure by six months.

Over two million families have benefitted from childcare vouchers since their introduction under the last Labour government in 2005.

The government’s new Tax-Free Childcare scheme will leave some families worse off, depending on a family’s individual circumstances. In March, the House of Commons Treasury Committee published a report which stated that while childcare vouchers could provide income tax and National Insurance relief worth up to £2,860 per parent, Tax-Free Childcare only provides £2 for every £8, up to a limit of £500 every three months. That’s £2,000 per year. The report also identified that with a take-up rate 90 per cent lower than initially expected, Tax-Free Childcare was clearly under-performing.

The six month extension was also a recognition of some of the problems with Tax-Free Childcare that have left many parents without access to essential financial support.

As I heard from providers this week, the childcare system is complex and chronically underfunded. The cost of childcare has risen by between 32 per cent and 47 per cent across England since 2010, while wages have only risen by around 16 per cent.

The government should abandon plans to phase out childcare vouchers for working parents from October.

I strongly support investment in childcare and believe there should be an extension of properly funded 30 hours of free childcare to all two, three and four year olds to give every child the best start in life.

Jul 20

Time to fight fatigue in the NHS

Fatigue logoI’m backing the campaign to #FightFatigue. It is no secret that our NHS is currently underfunded and under great strain, but what often goes unnoticed is the effect of that strain on NHS workers.

Tory spending cuts have led to staff having to work longer hours and increasingly sporadic shift patterns – both contribute to a fatigued NHS workforce.

The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland new campaign to raise awareness of the issue found that out of more than 2,150 anaesthetists, nearly three quarters reported that fatigue had a negative effect on their physical health or psychological wellbeing.

More than four in five (84 per cent) of anaesthetists felt too tired to drive home safely after a night shift and over half (57 per cent) said they had experienced an accident or near miss.

The fight against NHS fatigue should be a concern for us all.

That is why I am supporting the #FightFatigue campaign launched by The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine.

The professional organisations have  created resources for trainees and practitioners, including a ‘traffic light’ system to evaluate existing rest facilities, and outline ways for hospital management, doctors and other staff to work together on the issue.

It is in the best interests of patients that our NHS staff are able to work safely, and to do that there should be a minimum provision of free rest facilities within hospitals for ‘power naps’ when the demands of patient care allow, and for rest before staff travel home.

Jul 13

Breaking the glass ceiling

The AllBright Academy is offering 20 FREE places to women across Liverpool Wavertree for its freshly launched programmes to help all women gain the skills, confidence and network to help achieve career ambitions.Academy

The AllBright Academy is designed to support working women, whatever stage of their career journey they’re at to build resilience, manage the work-life balance and how to own a room. It is completely free to join.

Over 50 inspiring women have agreed to share their expertise, from business leaders to athletes, including design entrepreneur Cath Kidston MBE, Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Farrah Storr, GB Olympic gold medallist Crista Cullen and Propercorn founder Cassandra Stavrou.

There are two specialist streams led by academy co-founders, Debbie Wosskow OBE and Anna Jones: one for female founders, and the other on smashing the glass ceiling, whatever industry you’re in.

Debbie’s course gets into the nitty gritty of running a business, from taxes and sales to building and promoting a brand, while Anna’s equips women with the skills to ask for what they want at work, with modules on communication styles and how to negotiate to get what you want.

Both programmes start on September 10 and run online for 10 weeks. All the content is accessed online, wherever you are. You’ll just need to put aside three to four hours each week to complete the course.

Applications are open till the end of July, but it is worth applying as soon as you can by clicking here.

You will be asked for some information on your background and why you’d like to join, then enter the code Luciana20 when prompted to be considered for one of the 20 places for the constituency.

Jul 11

Raise awareness to save lives

I am backing Group B Strep Awareness Month to help cut life-threatening infection in newborn babies.Strep B pic

Every pregnant woman should be informed about group B Strep, which is a normal bacterium carried by around one in five adults, usually with no symptoms or side-effects.

However, Group B Strep, also known as Strep B or GBS, can cause infections when the bacteria are transmitted to the baby around labour.

These infections can be very serious and can cause conditions such as sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis. If left untreated, a GBS infection can kill a newborn baby within hours.

On average, two babies each day in the UK develop a GBS infection and each week, one baby dies from a GBS infection and another is left with a life limiting disability.

The charity Group B Strep Support is offering free copies of its new information leaflet on the disease to all NHS maternity units. It wants all pregnant women to be offered a copy so that they are aware of when a baby is at increased risk of GBS infection, and how to reduce that risk.

A test is available between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy to see if a woman is carrying GBS, but it is usually only offered to women who carried GBS in a previous pregnancy.

Thankfully, most group B Strep infections in newborn babies can be prevented, and early treatment can and does save lives.

However, one in every five pregnant women hasn’t heard of Group B Strep and we need initiatives like Group B Strep Awareness Month to get the risks more widely understood.

Jul 06

New compensation deal promised

Northern logoNorthern Rail is still failing passengers, weeks after an emergency timetable was introduced to deal with the near collapse of the system following the disastrous introduction of a planned new timetable.

Passengers continue to face overcrowding and late trains, but have at last been made aware of a specific compensation package brokered by Transport for the North.

Northern failed to hit punctuality targets for two years and has not run the expected number of trains on time in any month since June 2016. It also cancelled far many trains, missing its targets in all but one month since August 2017.

The Tory government, and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in particular, should be taking full responsibility for the misery because he was warned in advance. After a constituent raised concerns with me before the timetable changes came into effect, I asked what steps had been taken to ensure the planned new timetable would work.

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

Now Mr Johnson has been dragged to a meeting of Transport for the North, which brings together 19 local transport authorities from across the region, to agree a compensation package that will be funded by the rail industry.

Mr Johnson has written to me to explain that ‘eligible passengers will receive a cash payment equivalent to up to one month’s travel.’ This will be in addition to standard compensation for delays and cancellations.

However, details of who will get what are still being worked out and only passengers with weekly, monthly or annual season tickets on ‘the worst affected routes who experienced severe disruption before and after the May timetable change’ will get the full amount.

Mr Grayling cannot be allowed to duck his responsibility to all the passengers hit by the rail chaos, including parents late to pick up children from schools and nurseries, staff threatened with losing their jobs and businesses unable to fully function due to staff shortages.

I am pressing for the details of the compensation scheme to be published in full as soon as possible, and for a longer-term strategy to improve rail services that must involve failing train companies facing the loss of franchises to operate.

Jul 05

70 years of saving lives – thank you NHS

Today, I will be attending a service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate a truly extraordinary anniversary that proudly sets Britain ahead of every other country in the world – the founding of a National Health Service, paid for from general taxation, universally available to all free at the point of need.NHS group

Our National Health Service was founded at Park Hospital in Manchester on this day 70 years ago by the then Labour Secretary of State for Health Aneurin Bevan.

We have all benefited from the vision and determination of the post-war Labour government that fought off a determined rear-guard action by vested interests to establish a truly world beating institution.

Thank you to everyone who has worked for, campaigned for and promoted our NHS. We know that we need to recommit to the founding principles of our NHS again today.

Particular congratulations to the Zero Suicide Alliance who are regional winners of the NHS70 Excellence in Mental Health Care Award.

Today, suicide takes the lives of too many people, but it can be prevented. Since its launch last November with backing of our own Mersey Care, the alliance has supported nearly 5,000 people to complete online training to save someone’s life.

Labour’s commitment to the NHS, then and now, is underlined today in series of interviews from the Aneurin Bevan Society. Its chair, Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, has interviewed all past and current living Labour leaders. The full set of interviews are available by clicking here.

As former Labour leader Margaret Beckett points out in her interview: ‘When we left office, the NHS had the best ratings from everyone it ever had, and it’s already going very badly away from that. I am in no doubt that if we continue to elect Tory governments, the health service will be destroyed.’

The NHS has done so much over the last 70 years, but we know that there are challenges ahead – to achieve full equality of mental and physical health, to fully integrate health and social care and to create the sustainable funding framework that ensures its future.

Critically, we must also invest in prevention, early intervention and public health to do everything possible to stop people getting ill in the first place.

Over the next 70 years, our National Health Service has to do exactly what it says on the label – be national, support good health and not just pick up the pieces of ill health, and offer the services we all need.

Our NHS, 70 years young.

Please join me in sending the NHS best wishes on its 70th birthday by clicking here.


Jun 30

Let’s show our appreciation

Armed Forces Day is a great opportunity for us all to show our appreciation for our Armed Forces personnel and Reserves who work so hard to keep us safe.Armed forces day

Today is a chance to celebrate the work of our service personnel, veterans, cadets and service families. Armed Forces Day was introduced by the last Labour government in 2006 and has now become an annual event.

The national celebration, which moves every year, took place in Liverpool last year and is being held this year in Llandudno, North Wales. There are local events across the country. You can find out what is happening in Liverpool by clicking here.

I’m concerned that our Armed Forces are short staffed and under-appreciated.

Urgent issues around pay, housing and conditions have been left to worsen, despite many pressing hard for them to be addressed.

I hope that the government uses Armed Forces day to offer some real solutions and show how valued our armed forces personnel and veterans are with more than warm words.

People who are at the heart of our nation’s defences need a long overdue pay rise, real action to drive up recruitment and to see the 6 per cent vacancy gap closed.

You can show your appreciation and find out more about Armed Forces Day by clicking here.

Jun 29

Happy birthday to our NHS

NHS 70 cardThis weekend, across the country, people will be celebrating our National Health Service, which is 70 years young on Thursday July 5.

Labour Secretary of State for Health Aneurin Bevan founded the NHS at Park Hospital in Manchester and for once and all ended the nightmare of people having to pay to secure decent health for themselves and their families.

Although there have been huge advances in health technologies and treatments, the principle of the NHS being universally available, paid for through general taxation and free at the point of use has remained constant.

We all have very good reasons to be thankful for our National Health Service as an institution known and celebrated across the world. Of course, we should never forget that what makes it tick every single day are the people who work in it, both healthcare professionals and support staff.

Thank you to every single one of you for your dedication and hard work.

Every birthday is a time for a reflection and time for looking to the future.

It is no different with the NHS.

I am passionate about the NHS because I see the frightening levels of ill health and stark inequalities in health outcomes that still exist in our society.

The NHS alone cannot reduce those inequalities. We need the government to recognise its responsibility in tackling the social and economic causes of ill health, such as poor housing, precarious work and poverty.

I see in Parliament the tools and levers that could be used to really make a difference.

I want to see the NHS in the next 70 years better supported by policies across national and local government that help people get and stay healthy and live longer and healthier lives.

That means properly funding the NHS and social care – and to stop pretending that there is a pot of gold, or a magic money tree through the Brexit door. There isn’t.

Even after the Tory government’s latest promised investment, Britain’s health spending as a percentage of national income will still be well below the average of many of our nearest neighbours.

We need a sustainable, long-term funding deal for the NHS that is true to its founding principles and ensures that money flows toward prevention and early intervention services. That, in turn, would help reduce demand on crisis services in the NHS.

We also need to bring real equality between mental health and physical health and we need to be as visionary about social care as Aneurin Bevan was about health care.

Our collective birthday present to our National Health Service should be a renewed commitment to its founding principles of universal coverage free at the point of need.

For the next 70 years, that renewed commitment should be supported by a new Health in All Policies approach.

That would make the government consider the health impact of every decision it takes across every government department, from how to ensure we live in good housing, to what we learn in our schools, to how to ensure the financial and emotional stability that is the foundation for all good health.

You can join me in sending the NHS best wishes on its 70th birthday by clicking here.

Jun 28

Local teacher scoops top award

Music teacherCongratulations to local teacher Jay Bradley of The Academy of St Francis of Assisi who has been awarded a Silver Teaching Award for ‘Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School’.

Mr Bradley has been Head of Music at the school for the last three years and gained the Pearson Teaching Award after judges agreed that he had transformed the music department.

Body Percussion, Beat Boxing, Film Music, Samba band and a range of school choirs are all now on the school curriculum for students to try and to enjoy.

His teachers and students described him as inspirational and a fantastic role model.

Earlier this month, the Academy of St Francis of Assisi become a Musical Futures Champion School, part of an international network that promotes a love of musical learning and works with many young people across the world.

The Pearson Teaching Awards are an annual celebration of exceptional teachers, founded in 1998 by Lord Puttnam to recognise the life-changing impact an inspirational teacher can have on the lives of the young people they teach.

Mr Bradley will join fellow Silver Award winners at the 20th Pearson Teaching Awards ceremony on October 21 to find which of them has won one of just 12 Gold Plato Awards

The ceremony will be filmed and broadcast by the BBC as a showcase of excellence in education.


Jun 22

Simple adjustments can save lives

Improved healthcare could save the lives of three people with learning disabilities every day.

That is why I am backing learning disability charity Mencap’s Treat Me Well campaign.

The charity says that three people with a learning disability die avoidably every day but simple changes to healthcare could make a life-saving difference.

Simple things such as having a quiet space to wait for an appointment, jargon free easy to understand information and longer appointment times to allow people with a learning disability to express themselves may seem like small adjustments. However, they could mean the difference between a person getting the healthcare they need or missing out.

Around 1.4 million people in the UK have a learning disability. Listening to people’s experiences in Parliament this week placed a human face on the shocking statistics around life expectancy for people with learning disabilities.

Visiting a nurse or doctor can be an anxious experience and we need to make sure that everyone is able to understand what the healthcare professional is asking and explaining. We also need to make sure that doctors and nurses have the support and training they need to communicate well with people with learning disabilities.

This week’s Learning Disability Week 2018 is a great way for people with a learning disability and NHS staff to celebrate and share good practice, and to work together to improve care through making simple, reasonable adjustments. You can find out more by clicking here.

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