Speaking out on mental health

mental-health-and-me smallerMental health is still too often treated as a taboo subject. So it is very welcome that Liverpool’s Writing on the Wall Festival is putting the issue centre stage with a fantastic competition organised with Liverpool Mental Health Consortium to encourage people to speak out.

Diaries, blogs, short stories, journalism, poetry, letters and tweets inspired by the title Mental Health and Me are all eligible for the competition.

The shortlisted entries and winner will be published in an anthology and the winner will receive a trophy during a celebratory event at Central Library on World Mental Health Day, October 10.

To find out more and how to enter, click here or email info@writingonthewall.org.uk or telephone 0151 703 0020.

But hurry, the deadline for entries is September 1.


Need to get all voters registered

From: The Mirror. #novotenovoice

From: The Mirror. #novotenovoice

Around 7.5 million voters have gone missing – enough to influence the result of any General Election – and yet the Electoral Commission, charged with making sure people are signed up to vote, welcomes the figures as ‘encouraging.’

That is 15 per cent of potential voters who cannot participate in elections because they do not appear on election registers held by local authorities.

Even more people don’t vote at all, as the graph from The Mirror shows..

With the General Election less than a year away, we need urgent action to get people signed up to vote.

The Electoral Commission released its latest figures on the day Parliament went in to recess, preventing us from being able to tackle the relevant ministers about this shocking performance.

The Electoral Commission says that the figures are encouraging because they haven’t got any worse over the last three years – but that is not good enough.

The way people register to vote has also changed. Each member of your household must now register individually and provide their National Insurance number and date of birth.

Previously, one person in each household would register all eligible residents at that address on the annual canvas form. Instead, you will now be sent an annual ‘household enquiry form’ and must add anyone over the age of 16 who is resident in your home.

Voters most likely to be missing from the register are people in their early twenties, people recently moved, private renters and those out of work or in low-skilled jobs.

It is unacceptable that anyone is denied the chance to vote.

That is why we need to press ministers to get the Electoral Commission to act with a greater sense of urgency.

You can register online or update your details if you have moved by clicking here. You will need your National Insurance number.

You can find out more about the new registration process by clicking here or by telephone: 0151 233 3028.

Tackling the housing crisis

There will be a stark choice on housing at the General Election in May next year.

HousingIt will be a choice between the Tories who are failing to build the houses we need, turning their backs on ‘generation rent’ and leaving more and more working people unable to afford the homes they aspire to, and Labour, who will get Britain building again and give families who rent a fairer deal.

The Tories claim to be the party of home ownership, yet home ownership today is at its lowest point in any year since 1987. For every year of the last Labour government, home ownership was higher than it is now.

The only way to ensure more people can buy their own home, is to build many more homes. Labour will build 200,000 homes a year by 2020.

There are now 1.3 million families with children living in the private rented sector. That’s 2 million children. Many face real insecurity with often only a default six-month contract.

How can a family have the peace of mind that their children will continue to go to the same school? How can they manage the family budget with such uncertainty?

The 9 million people who rent, around a third of whom are families with children, deserve a fairer deal.

We have one of the most short-term, unstable and expensive private rented markets in Europe. A homeowner spends on average 20 per cent of wages on housing costs. A person who rents, spends on average 40 per cent of wages on housing costs.

A Labour government will ease the pressure by banning letting agent fees on tenants. We will legislate to make three year tenancies, not short-term tenancies, the norm for those who rent in the private sector. We will act on unpredictable rent rises too by putting a ceiling on excessive rent rises during the period of these longer-term tenancies.

In May next year the choice will be clear – another five years of a Tory-led government with falling levels of home-ownership fewer affordable homes rising homelessness and the bedroom tax.

Or a Labour government that will restore home ownership, build the homes our country needs, scrap the bedroom tax and provide security for those who rent.


Choose Labour for a better off Britain

Gold standard: (l-r) Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger and Tristram Hunt

Gold standard: (l-r) Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger and Tristram Hunt

Working people can’t afford five more years of the same old Tory economics.

We know that is they are elected next year, the Tories are not going to deliver a balanced, investment-led recovery that benefits all working people.

It will be five more years of racing to the bottom on wages, opposing a proper industrial strategy, flirting with leaving the European Union (which is our biggest trading partner) and prioritising tax cuts at the very top.

There is no doubt that the next Labour government will face great challenges, but we are determined to produce the long-term changes that will create an economy that works for all, not just a few.

First, we will make work pay and tackle insecurity in the labour market by expanding free childcare for working parents, freezing energy bills, introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax, increasing the minimum wage, ending the exploitative use of zero-hours contracts and giving tax breaks to firms that pay the living wage.

Second, we will ensure young people have the skills they need by introducing gold standard technical degrees, transforming vocational education. We will create new jobs by boosting apprenticeships and ensuring there is paid work for every young person out of work for over a year.

Third, we will create a stronger and more balanced economy by building 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 and devolving more funding to our cities.

Fourth, we will promote long-term reform and competition in markets like energy and banking so they work better for consumers and businesses.

Fifth, we will back British businesses by cutting business rates, maintaining the most competitive corporation tax in the G7, establishing a proper British Investment Bank and arguing for Britain to stay in a reformed European Union.

The next Labour government will get the deficit down in a fairer way, including by reversing the Tory tax cut for millionaires, tackling tax avoidance and cutting the winter fuel allowance for the richest pensioners.

The General Election in May 2015 will present voters with a stark choice on the economy.

It will be a choice between a Labour government making Britain better off and fairer with rising living standards for the many, not just a few, or more of the same from the same old Tories.


Labour will get the economy working again

Summer jobs campaignThe economy isn’t working for working people. Things are getting harder not easier, with working people £1,600 a year worse off than when this Tory led government came to office in 2010.

Today’s pressures are reflected in people’s worries about tomorrow and whether there’ll be a good job for their children and the chance of a better life for them.

If Labour is elected in 2015, we will make sure that our economy works for working people once again.

We will deal with the cost of living crisis and take immediate action to deal with the pressures facing families. We will get our young people and the long-term unemployed off benefits and into work so we can all earn our way out of the cost-of-living crisis.

We will take a different approach from the past and address the impact of immigration on wages and communities, making the system fairer for all, including tackling the exploitation of migrant workers that undercuts local workers. We will ban recruitment agencies that only hire foreign workers and put in place tougher enforcement of minimum wage laws.

We will back the next generation with a job guarantee for the young unemployed and more apprenticeships. We will make sure that unemployed young people who don’t have the skills they need to get a job are in training, not on benefits.

Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee will guarantee a real, paid job, preferably in the private sector, to every 18 to 24-year-old who has been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than a year and for every adult aged 25 and over who has been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than two years.

We will make work pay by increasing the National Minimum Wage and providing tax breaks to firms that boost pay through the Living Wage.

Labour will get the economy back on its feet and make sure that we can work our way out of the cost-of-living crisis.

Remembering the sacrifices of World War One

War graves logoI am visiting two local War Graves today to commemorate World War One and urge local schools and constituents to make a similar visit to recognise the scale and magnitude of the Great War and the impact that it has had on today’s society.

The Parish Church of Saint Anne, Stanley in Cheadle Avenue holds 21 war graves, 18 from World War One, and three from World War Two. The Holy Trinity Church in Church Road, Wavertree holds 28 war graves, from both wars.

I am visiting with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as part of a national initiative involving the All-Party Parliamentary War Heritage Group and the ‘In From the Cold Project’ that maps over 300,000 Commonwealth war dead by each parliamentary constituency.

I want to pay my respects, to remember the enormous sacrifices made by the people of Liverpool. I want to help local communities and young people engage with history.

More than 300,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women are commemorated in the UK. Many died in military hospitals whilst being treated for their wounds or fell victim to the flu pandemic as the conflict drew to a close. Their graves reflect both the local impact of the war but also its wider historical significance.

The virtual cemetery website www.cwgc-virtual-cemetery.org is an interactive tool which enables pupils and teachers to view images and videos, learn more about the war graves across the globe, and the people commemorated.

I hope people will take time this year to remember the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One.

Scotland – let’s stay together

Let's stay together logoOn September 18, Scotland will vote on its future, and decide whether to stay in the United Kingdom, or to separate from those of us who live in England, Wales and Northern Ireland forever.

I want us to stay together and I believe that most people in England, Northern Ireland and Wales don’t want Scotland to leave the UK, while respecting the right of people in Scotland to decide this for themselves.

The Yes/No battle is raging in Scotland, but I think it’s important that the feelings of those who live in the rest of the UK don’t go unheard.

Let’s Stay Together is a new website which aims to give a voice to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who want Scotland and the rest of the UK to stay together.

It brings together people of all political persuasions, from every community and corner of Britain, from all backgrounds and interests, to express how much we value the United Kingdom and Scotland as part of it.

It gives people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland the chance to let people in Scotland know just how much they mean to us as friends, families and colleagues.

You can add your name at www.letsstaytogether.org.uk - and why not consider making that call to friends and family in Scotland to let them know that staying together is important to you?

Labour plans to rescue NHS

NHS summerIt’s getting much harder to see a GP since David Cameron scrapped Labour’s guarantee of an appointment within 48 hours. Some 60 per cent of patients now say they can’t see their GP within two days.

Thousands of nurses and frontline staff have been lost from the NHS and the government has missed its A&E waiting time target every week for a whole year.

There is a crisis in A&E – in the last 12 months, almost a million people have waited more than four hours to be seen; more people are having to wait on trolleys before being admitted; and more people are being kept in ambulance queues outside A&E.

Cuts to services for older people are sending more people to A&E and making it harder for older people get the care needed at home.

After years of falling waiting lists with Labour, waiting lists for treatment are growing again. They are at their highest level for five years.

The Tory led government is responsible for this crisis. It wasted £3 billion on a damaging NHS reorganisation that they promised wouldn’t happen. The Lib Dems have been too weak to stand up to them and have backed the Tories all the way.

Labour rescued the NHS after years of Tory neglect before and we’ll do it again.

We’ll repeal the Tory NHS changes that have put private profit before patients so that NHS professionals can focus on people’s care.

We’ll start by guaranteeing a GP appointment within 48 hours.

The NHS is too precious to be left in the hands of this government.

Making physical activity fit for the future

Sport for allLabour is determined to make sure that more people of all ages and backgrounds can be supported to take part in sport and physical activity.

Our More Sport for All consultation is open now and wants to hear how we can best shape a long-term strategy and support community sport.

We want to look at a proper levy on the Premier League’s revenue from the sale of their television rights to help develop grassroots football, a new levy on sports betting to support community sport and help raise awareness about problem gambling, re-introducing two hours of sport for every primary school child which the Tories axed, new targets for increasing girls and women’s participation in sport and increasing the numbers of women running sports organisations.

Lots of physical and mental health benefits flow from participating in sport, yet, two years after hopes were raised by the Olympics and Paralympic Games, participation levels have worsened especially amongst young people.

This government has shown poor leadership and lack of vision for sustainable sport in the community. We need strong government leadership to create a long-term innovative plan for sport and physical actvity, instead of Tory-government disinterest and lack of ambition.

Grassroots organisations find it difficult to navigate the funding they need and would benefit from a more long term and joined up approach across Whitehall which also links in with local authorities and the national governing bodies.

The government’s role should be to support local enthusiasts and sporting bodies to take their activities to the grassroots and involve people of all ages and backgrounds.


Working to become a dementia-friendly office

DementiaFriendly_Land_CMYK_NEWI am working to become a dementia-friendly office as the latest part of my campaign to make Liverpool Wavertree a more welcoming and understanding place for people with this disease and their families.

Too many people with dementia are worried about leaving the house, using public transport, going shopping, or contacting services, like those of their MP.

So, I have signed up my constituency office to becoming dementia friendly. That means a person with dementia will be welcomed and can expect understanding, respect and support from me and my staff.

I have taken the national pledge, and some fantastic trainers from the Alzheimer’s Society have delivered a session to myself, my office staff and local councillors to raise our awareness of dementia and the needs of people who experience it.

With one in three people aged over 65 going on to develop dementia, the illness also has a major impact on family, friends and carers. It touches all of us.

The Liverpool Dementia Action Alliance will be working with us over the next year to help us enhance our services and make sure that we doing a little more each day to make the work we do easily accessible to people with dementia and their families.

Each year, we will be assessing progress and to continue being able to use the Dementia Friendly logo we will have to show the improvements we have made.

It is a great challenge to rise to.