Thank you to the Patchwork Foundation and all who voted

Thank you to everyone involved at the Patchwork Foundation and all the people who voted for the wonderful honour of being named The Labour People’s Choice MP of the Year.

Luciana Berger MP with Sir Martyn Lewis CBE, Patron of the Patchwork Foundation

The Foundation does really important work encouraging young people from disadvantaged and minority communities to get involved in our democracy. It is heart-warming to know that the work I have been involved in throughout the constituency and across the country has contributed to these aims and been recognised by the members of the public who nominated and voted for me.

It is crucial for the future of our democracy that we all work together to remove barriers to people’s participation and encourage everyone to get involved in their local communities and politics more generally.

It is particularly important at a time when politics seems deeply polarised that elected politicians reach out and make sure that the people who we represent have their voices heard and are involved in all our decision making.

I can promise you that I will continue to work just as hard in the future for all my constituents.

We need a revolution in mental health

I am delighted to be appointed as one of three new Vice Presidents of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). 

I am currently President of the Labour Campaign for Mental Health I am also a member of the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee. My experience from both of these responsibilities, and from listening to constituents, tells me that we need a revolution in how we approach mental health. 

BACP champions the counselling professions and the expertise of its 47,000 counsellor and psychotherapist members, while working to raise professional and ethical standards within the field. 

I firmly believe we need a revolution in mental health, moving away from crisis toward prevention and early intervention; from mental illness to mental health. I know BACP will be part of that revolution and I really look forward to working alongside them and their members in the months and years ahead, to increase their success and impact. 

‘Revolution’ suggests a complete overthrow of the old order and a new system to replace it; I choose this word quite deliberately. We need a wholly new approach to mental health, of which counselling and psychotherapy should be a central part. 

Hundreds of people in Liverpool Wavertree experience mental ill health. But the system supposedly there to help is creaking at the seams. 

A National Health Service designed to deal with people when they are ill, rather than a whole-systems approach which intervenes early and tackles the fundamental causes of mental ill health, will always be on the brink of crisis. 

I want to see a ‘Health in All Policies’ approach that puts an onus on all national and local government departments to consider the nation’s physical and mental health before taking any public decision.  

Where you live, what you earn, how you work, what assets you own, how educated you are, and what your parents did – all these factors have an impact on a person’s length of life, and number of years lived free from physical and mental health conditions. 

Societies which are more equal and more prosperous enjoy better mental health and wellbeing. For this reason, if no other, social justice should run through our social and economic policies like a golden thread.

Reducing suicide by talking openly

I was pleased to witness first-hand the wonderful work being done at James’ Place to reduce suicide amongst men.

James’ Place is an initiative formed by Clare Milford Haven and Nick Wentworth-Stanley, as part of the James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Fund which they founded in 2008, after they tragically lost their 21-year-old son, James, to suicide.

James died 10 days after a minor operation. He had looked for someone to talk to about his anxiety and suicidal thoughts but didn’t get the urgent help he needed.  James’ Place aims to address this very issue, offering to support and listen to men who would like to talk.

I met with Centre Manager Jane Boland and Executive Director Nafeesa Zulfiqar who showed me around the centre that offers a calm and peaceful environment that includes a landscaped garden.

Jane was Suicide Prevention Clinical Lead for Mersey Care and played an important role in developing its suicide awareness and prevention training, which is now being rolled out in communities across the country.

They showed me ‘Lay Your Cards on the Table’, the innovative intervention they have developed to encourage people to talk. The centre points out that talking is a strength that all men should be encouraged to develop.

I wish James’ Place and all the team every success in supporting men from across the city. You can read more here.

Let’s look behind the smile

I was pleased to join Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, to hear about some of the work not-for-profit organisation n-compass northwest is doing to combat loneliness and isolation across our region. 

The organisation supports over 25,000 people in the North West each year and says that every person has a story to tell that we should all be listening to. Its Behind the Smile campaign, seeks to draw attention to the lives that exist behind our immediate facial expressions.  

People’s stories often tell of lives that are less fulfilled and meaningful that they could be with just a little community support and engagement. n-compass northwest aims to help people regain control of their lives, providing hope and a sense of purpose, through the provision of carers, advocacy, wellbeing, counselling and volunteering services.  

Like every organisation working across social care, n-compass northwest is feeling the impact of the government’s programme of cuts to local authority budgets and wants to do more. 

Tackling domestic violence

I’m backing a new initiative from the GMB union to call on employers to support their staff experiencing domestic abuse.  

We need employers to stand up for their employees and make the workplace a truly safe and supportive space. 

There are 2 million domestic violence incidents a year and often employers can help.  The GMB union is urging employers to sign up to a ‘Work to Stop Domestic Violence’ charter which urges employers to train staff to be able to appropriately and confidently support their staff. 

The Charter launches at a House of Commons meeting this afternoon chaired by Stephanie Peacock, MP for Barnsley East and a GMB member. 

Domestic abuse has a devastating impact on individuals and their families, but many specialist support services have themselves been victims of government cuts. 

People subjected to domestic violence can find the stress impacted on their work life too and the GMB reports members actually losing their jobs. 

Good employers can signpost affected staff to support services and create a work environment where employees are safe in the knowledge that they will be believed and not disadvantaged if they choose to disclose. 

A poster, a policy, a person who is trained to support staff facing domestic violence are the small things that can make a big difference. 

Taking action to support residents in Picton

Thank you to everyone who came to my  coffee afternoon in Picton to discuss a wide range of community issues.

The meeting was part of my continuing engagement with constituents across Liverpool Wavertree through regular one-to-one surgeries, casework, social media and community meetings.

Thank you also to Archbishop Blanch School for hosting the meeting and allowing us to use one of its rooms.

Housing issues, anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping, community relations and the devastating impact of cuts forced on the council by government grant reductions of £444 million since 2010 all came up.

In the coming weeks I will be working with Labour councillors in the Ward to follow up every issue with local housing associations, the police, local businesses, environmental health and other agencies to ensure that everyone is full engaged in supporting Picton.

I’ll be making sure that everyone who came to the meeting gets a report back on my actions and their outcomes.

I am hosting community coffee mornings across all the wards in the constituency – Old Swan, Kensington and Fairfield, Church, Childwall and Wavertree.

I know that people have real personal concerns as well as wider community issues that they want to raise with me. I hold regular surgeries and you can book an appointment by telephoning 0151 228 1628 or emailing luciana.berger.mp@parliament.uk.

Standing up to antisemitism at the Sara conference

I was proud to stand with colleagues and pledge to speak out and take action against antisemitism and misogyny. It is vital to our public life that young women, be they Jewish, or from any other minority background, are not dissuaded, deterred or otherwise afraid of being fully involved in our democracy and putting themselves forward for public office.

I know from personal experience that anti-Jewish hatred exists and takes its toll. I also know that for the sake of future generations I must stand up and challenge it.

New research shows that female Jewish politicians were 15 per cent more likely to be targeted by users of a leading hard-right website than male Jewish politicians. That is why we have a particular responsibility to call out and oppose this gendered hate.

I joined colleagues from across the political spectrum at the first global Sara conference and pledged ‘to stand in word and deed, against antisemitism towards women.’

Former Google data scientist and bestselling author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz carried out the new research for the Antisemitism Policy Trust and Community Security Trust, and concluded that women with political power from across the world are ‘particularly subject to antisemitic abuse.’

The Sara Conference marked a global first. The one-day event was named after the foremother of the Abrahamic faiths and in recognition and to reclaim the name for those Jewish nazi victims forced to adopt it if their name sounded ‘non-Jewish’ in origin.

The event brought together fellow MPs, government officials, regulators, academics and NGOs in a display of intersectionality between antisemitism and misogyny with a focus on online abuse, and barriers to public life.

The Sara conference marks an important stage in pushing for urgent change.

Take a stand against HIV ignorance

World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people across the world to unite in the fight against HIV and show support for people living with HIV, as well as remember those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

Around the world there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have HIV. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

Over 101,000 people are living with HIV in the UK. People still face discrimination that can limit opportunities, preventing them from living full and happy lives. Nearly half of people who test positive for HIV are finding out very late, meaning the virus may have damaged their health permanently.

HIV means you are more likely to live in poverty, and more likely to have poor mental health. But it is possible to live a full life into old age with HIV with the modern treatments and support that is available.

We are winning the fight against HIV because the numbers of people being diagnosed are falling. There is still work to be done to address the stigma attached to HIV.

Today is a great day to take a stand against HIV ignorance and for a fully inclusive approach, which I fully support.

Backing local business

Times are hard on the High Street and the government is not making life any easier for small businesses with so much confusion and uncertainty caused by its Brexit negotiations.

Today, on Small Business Saturday, we can all show our support for the local businesses that are such an important part of our communities.

I will be out and about across the constituency visiting many of the firms that make such a difference to our community life.

Small Business Saturday was founded in 2013 and is now the biggest annual celebration of small businesses in the UK.

I know that that local firms really appreciate the attention it brings, particularly at this time of year, so please join me in supporting our local businesses today.

I will be visiting cafes, delis, gift shops, law firms, markets and more. These wonderful businesses, many of them family concerns, help make Liverpool Wavertree a great place to live.

Celebrating Riverside’s first 90 years

Riverside, the housing association that has such an important role in providing homes across the country, starting life in Swan Street, here in Liverpool Wavertree back in 1928.

Liverpool Improved Homes, as it was then called, had 15 houses. Today, 90 years on, Riverside touches the lives of over 90,000 people as a major provider of affordable housing, care and support services in England and Scotland across over 160 local authorities.

In 1928 those first 15 homes represented a deliberate and conscious attempt to give people a decent home at an affordable rent. They were tough times in Liverpool. Soldiers and sailors had returned from World Way I with a promise of ‘Homes fit for Heroes’, but instead they were still living in slum housing and facing the Great depression, the soup kitchen and the dole queue.

Britain then, as now, was desperate for affordable homes for working people, and an end to exploitative landlords and unsanitary properties.

I was pleased to host Riverside’s parliamentary celebrations of its first 90 years in Parliament. It is an innovative housing provider, aiming to transform not only the lives of its tenants, but whole neighbourhoods.

The challenges of the last 90 years continue today. We need every neighbourhood to provide safety and security, space and light, and homes for people to meet, play and grow. I know that Riverside will be at the forefront of these aims.