Oct 14

Government should think again over pharmacy funding cuts

community-pharmacy-infographic-1The government is pressing ahead with new plans that threaten to cut pharmacy services in Liverpool and across the country.

This is despite over one million people signing a petition opposing the original government plan to cut funding for local pharmacies.

I witnessed the one millionth signature being made by Lil Benson at her local pharmacy here in Liverpool Wavertree in May this year. It helped force the government to think again.

The government’s initial plan to cut £170 million from the community pharmacy budget – a cut of 6 per cent – was put on hold after pressure from campaigners, but there is news today which indicates a new round of damaging cuts could now be imposed by the government.

The government’s own figures have shown that the £170 million cut could force up to 3,000 community pharmacies – one in four across the country – to close their doors to the public.

I know from meeting local pharmacists and talking to constituents who rely on them for prescriptions, advice and support that they provide a vital community service that also takes pressure off other NHS services.

Our national local pharmacy network supports our local communities. Pharmacists listen, advise and offer a professional health services on the High Street without an appointment, to everyone.

Threatening pharmacy services is short-sighted and will cause long-term damage to our NHS.

The government should drop its new plan to cut community pharmacies and get back around the negotiating table with the National Pharmacy Association and the wider sector to devise a plan that will protect this important High Street health resource.

The government needs to act before it is too late.

Oct 14

Rewarding the best in mental health services and innovation

mental-health-awardsA huge thank you to the user-led Positive Practice Mental Health Collaborative who were kind enough to make me their Parliamentary Campaigner of Year at their annual national awards last night.

I was deeply moved by the award which came on a great night for mental health services on Merseyside.

The Positive Practice Mental Health Collaborative is a user-led, multi-agency collaborative of 75 organisations, including, NHS Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, police services, third sector providers, front line charities and service user groups.

The collaborative highlights good practice that exists across the country and encourages services to take these up and spread excellence across the country. The collaborative also works with Members of Parliament to offer free mental health awareness training and bring people using services together with MPs and policymakers.

This week, its awards highlighted the great work that is being done across the country, and it was fantastic to see so many services across Merseyside recognised.

Mersey Care Older People’s team won an award for its user-led work. The wonderful Imagine Your Goals, a community programme backed by Everton in the Community and Mersey Care, picked up a winner’s award for its work in better integrating physical and mental health. Mersey Care was also highly commended for the mental wellbeing offered to its staff.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue was highly commended for its mental health and wellbeing support programmes.Fresh CAMHS based at Alder Hey was highly commended in the Innovation in Child and Young People’s Mental Health category.

Cheshire and Wirral NHS Partnership Trust picked up the award for Overall Achievement for Children and Young People’s Mental Health Service for its My Mind resource.

Congratulations also to 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Trust and State of Mind who were Highly Commended for their partnership linking Rugby League and mental health, and to all the other winners and entrants from around the country.

It is refreshing to know that, even with all the difficulties face by mental health services, dedicated staff, partnerships and community innovations are making a real difference. I am committed to celebrating and spreading that best practice.

Oct 14

Talking buses help people live independently

guide-dogs-party-conference-2016I was pleased to show my support at Labour Party conference for Guide Dogs’ proposal to make buses accessible for everyone.

I will be pressing ministers to place a requirement for talking buses in the Bus Services Bill, which is going through Parliament at the moment.

I have heard about the experiences too many visually impaired people who have missed their stop and been left stranded on a bus because they were unable to know where on the route they were.

Theirs is not an isolated experience: 7 in 10 passengers with sight loss have been forgotten on a bus.

Talking buses, which are buses that provide ‘next stop’ and ‘final destination’ announcements, are essential for people with sight loss to live independently.

Only one fifth of the UK’s buses are talking, 97 per cent of which are in London. For a sighted person, missing a stop is an annoyance, but for someone with sight loss, it is potentially dangerous.

Labour has already put forward an amendment to the Bill in the House of Lords to put in a requirement for talking buses, pointing out that it is the ideal opportunity to make buses accessible.

Talking buses give independence to people with sight loss, enabling them to travel on their own and reducing stress and anxiety. They also help other travellers including tourists and infrequent bus users to reach their destination safely.

The Bus Services Bill is the biggest reform of buses since the 1980s so it is a unique opportunity to make sure that everyone can use buses safely.

Oct 13

Draft Local Plan out for consultation

liverpool-local-plan-coverLiverpool council has opened consultation on a new draft Local Plan which lays out a framework for how our city will develop over the next 15-20 years.

All councils are required to prepare a local plan to guide the long term, strategic development of their area, including how land is used.

Following consultations, the final local plan will set out priorities for future development including the quantity and location of new homes, employment provision, shops, facilities and other services, transport and other infrastructure provision, climate change mitigation and adaption and the conservation and enhancement of the natural and historic environment.

Liverpool City Council has set out its priorities to:

  • Protect parks for the future health and wellbeing of citizens
  • Prioritise brownfield sites to allow the creation of 29,600 homes by 2033 and to support future economic growth
  • Focus shops and services within district and local shopping centres
  • Limit the concentration of take-aways
  • Plan new student accommodation and prevent an over concentration of houses in multiple occupation across the city.

Early next year, the final version of the Local Plan will be published, after taking in to account feedback provided during the consultation.

The council will consider representations until the end of this month. By May next year, a final version of the plan will be published so that any last minute representations can be made to an independent inspector before the completed plan is adopted at the end of next year.

You can find out more about the plan and how to comment on it by clicking here.

The council has set up a Local Plan team to answer any questions you may have.  You can contact the team by email: development.plans@liverpool.gov.uk or request a call back on 0151 233 3021.

If you have difficulty accessing the draft Plan and require it in an alternative format, please contact Mike Eccles on 0151 233 0332.

Oct 13

Speak out and report hate crime

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Hate Crime Awareness Week takes place this week and I have teamed up with Merseyside Police to help people understand how they can tackle it.

I know from personal experience that hate crime makes you feel pretty bad. You are attacked because of something you can’t change, by way of how you are born – whether it is your gender or because of a disability or your race or religion.hate-crime-logo

More often than not you experience it alone and that can be hard. When your family find out about it it’s difficult for them as well because they are concerned about your safety and wellbeing and they shoulder that pain and upset as well.

It is really important that people know what hate crime is, the different forms it can take, and how to report it. You can report it directly to the police, but also through a citizens advice bureau, a local hospital or community group.

Locally, you can find an organisation to report a hate crime to by clicking here.

My message for any victim is: ‘I know what it feels like. I’ve been at the receiving end of many incidents of hate crime and I’ve been supported by the police. Cases have been to court and people have been convicted.’

I want people to have the confidence to know that they can come forward.

Nobody should have to live in fear of abuse or intimidation because of who they are.

Anyone who has been a victim of hate crime can contact Merseyside Police on 101 – 999 in an emergency – or the Crimestoppers line anonymously on 0800 555 111. Stop Hate UK can be contacted on 0800 138 1625 or www.stophateuk.org


Oct 10

Today is World Mental Health Day

Congratulations to everyone around celebrating World Mental Health Day 2016.

The World Health Organisation organises World Mental Health Day on October 10 every year as chance to raise awareness and bring people together.

It is a great opportunity to start a conversation with family, friends or work colleagues about the issue affects one on four people and yet still carries far too much stigma.liverpool-wmhf-logo-2016

This year’s focus is on ‘psychological first aid’ – encouraging people to better understand the basic, pragmatic approaches to offering a helping hand or listening ear in a time of trouble that can make all the difference.

The World Mental Health Federation has produced a useful guide to how mental health first aid is approached around the world that you can read here.

In 2006, the then Labour government helped establish Mental Health First Aid with funding through the Department of Health. Today, over 100,000 people have been trained in its techniques.

Now we need the government to step up and take action to make parity between mental health and physical health services a reality.

There is a crisis in mental health that is particularly acute amongst young people. Almost a quarter of a million children and young people are using mental health services for problems such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders. We also know that thousands of children who are being turned away because thresholds to access services are out of reach for too many.

Unfortunately, government promises of new resources have simply not been realised fast enough to make the difference we need.

Here in Liverpool, World Mental Health Day is being celebrated with the awards ceremony for the annual Mental Health & Me Creative Writing competition. The ceremony takes place from 6pm at the Central Library in William Brown Street. Competition entrants will be reading their work and launching an anthology of winners and runners up, hosted by Liverpool Mental Health Festival Patron, acclaimed songwriter and musician Bill Ryder-Jones.

To read the full programme for the celebrations in Liverpool, which continue until the end of the week, click here. To find out more, email hello@liverpoolmentalhealth.org or telephone 0151 237 2688.

Oct 07

Remembering the Battle of Cable Street

c4-videoEighty years ago this week, thousands of people came on to the streets of East London to prevent the British Union of Fascists spreading their hate.

At a time when hate crime is on the increase and blaming foreigners for our country’s ills has become part of public debate once more, it is worth revisiting the events that took place on Cable Street in 1936.

Max Levitas, now 101 years old, was one of the people who took to the streets that day and he remembers the events in this video shown on Channel Four News.

In 1936 a beleaguered and impoverished Jewish community were under siege from Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists which had set up branches throughout the East End. On October 4 1936, Mosley’s movement planned to flood the area with four marching columns of uniformed fascists to mimic the horrors taking place in nazi Germany.

A local grassroots body called the Jewish People’s Council Against Fascism and Antisemitism submitted a petition with nearly 100,000 signatures, collected in just two days, asking the Home Secretary to ban the march, but the plea was refused.

Instead, Jewish and non-Jewish East Enders came out on to the streets in their hundreds of thousands to defend the area so that everyone could live without fear. It became impossible for Moseley’s uniformed thugs to move through the area.

Cable Street is rightly remembered as the day when the local Jewish community, the neighbouring Irish community and the organised labour movement came together in an unprecedented show of solidarity that turned the tide against fascism in Britain.

The Labour Party is organising a commemorative march in East London this Sunday. October 9, where Max Levitas will speak alongside Rushanara Ali MP, Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs, Greater London Authority member Unmesh Desai, the Jewish labour movement, and TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. The march assembles at 12 noon at Altab Ali Park, for a march to St George’s Gardens, Cable Street. You can find out more information by clicking here.

Oct 06

The nasty party is back under Theresa May

labour-nasty-toriesWhat a nasty party the Tories have proved themselves to be once again.  Speaker after speaker at the Tory Party conference, made it clear that the problems facing the country are caused by the European Union, foreign workers, junior doctors – in fact, anyone but the government.

They told British companies struggling with the uncertainties caused by government confusion over Brexit that they would have to keep lists of foreign workers. It is a divisive and discriminatory policy that would stoke workplace tensions and do absolutely nothing to help companies. Keeping lists of foreigners carries horrible echoes of the past and has nothing to do with our country’s proud history of integration and good community relations.

Drawing up lists of foreign workers won’t stop unscrupulous employers undercutting wages in Britain; slamming the door on international students won’t fund our universities, and refusing to employ qualified doctors from abroad won’t reduce NHS waiting lists.

The government could take action now to deal with the real impact of migration by offering local councils extra help to deal with pressures on our public services and tackle bad employers using cheap labour to undercut wages.

Ministers should celebrate the success of our internationally renowned universities which are able to attract the brightest and the best from around the world to study here and build positive life-long relationships that will serve our country well in the future.

We should all be grateful to doctors and other NHS staff wherever they were born who are willing to share their experience and use their skills in Britain. Ministers should properly fund the NHS now to end the lengthening queues for treatment.

The Tory Party conference was about Theresa May’s vision for our country. She has shown that vision to be small-minded, mean-spirited and nasty.


Oct 06

Liverpool Mental Health Festival takes off

liverpool-mental-health-festivalLiverpool’s Mental Health Festival 2016 is off the ground and running through Mental Health Day on October 10 to Sunday October 16. This year the festival takes over venues across the city and features an art exhibition, writing competition, day-long street activities in Williamson Square and much more.

The many free events and activities are designed to promote good mental wellbeing and challenge the stigma that still surrounds mental health. The fortnight-long festival is organised by Liverpool Mental Health Consortium, a user-led charity and community of service users, voluntary and statutory sector providers and commissioners.

This Saturday, October 8, the festival takes over Williamson Square with a marquee, stalls and special guests throughout the day from 10am-5pm. There will be music and dance performances and the chance to meet people from local charities, campaigns and services, including having a Big Brew with the team from Mersey Care.

The winners of this year’s Mental Health & Me Creative Writing competition are announced on Monday October 10 from 6pm at Liverpool Central Library, William Brown Street. Competition entrants will be reading their work and launching an anthology of winners and runners up, hosted by Liverpool Mental Health Festival Patron, acclaimed songwriter and musician Bill Ryder-Jones.

Tomorrow, Friday, the Respect art exhibition opens at Unit 51, Jamaica Street and continues in the Baltic Triangle until October 14. The exhibition will feature new and existing artwork produced by people locally and from wider afield that highlights the importance of respect in mental health.

There is more art on show around the corner at Constellations, 35-39 Greenland Street from October 10-16, with the chance to get creative in the Art for Wellbeing day there on Sunday October 16 from 11am-3pm. Constellations will make basic drawing materials available and local art groups will bring materials to get people involved and celebrate the final day of the festival.

At the Brink 21 Parr Street on Thursday October 13 from 7pm, two inspirational women talk about the different ways in which hearing voices impacted on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Dr Eleanor Longden had a diagnosis of schizophrenia and become an international mental health speaker and researcher. She’ll be talking about how she interprets her voices as a ‘sane reaction to insane circumstances’, while Sarah Mottram will talk about the problems caused when the mental healthcare system ignores physical health.

To view the full programme online click here. To find out more, email hello@liverpoolmentalhealth.org or telephone 0151 237 2688.

Oct 01

Education for all – #NoNewGrammars

educatioToday, Labour is standing up for education for all. Labour Party members will be out in communities across the country to oppose Tory plans to extend segregated, selective education.

Labour is committed to an education system for everyone, not just a select few, and we will be opposing the Tories regressive policy on grammar schools every step of the way.grammar

An education system built on selection entrenches division and increases inequality. It is not just Labour that says this. The Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Chief Inspector of Schools for OFSTED and the National Association of Headteachers have all pointed to the dangers of the policy.

Even David Cameron said that rejecting the stale old grammars debate was a ‘key test’ of whether the Tories were fit for government.

Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about delivering for everyone but what matters is what she does, and her actions reveal the Tories’ true colours: working in the interests of the few while everyone else is left behind. In one breath talking of creating a ‘great meritocracy’ and then in the next announcing a return to grammar schools.

All children deserve the best start in life. Labour wants the best for all our children, not just the lucky few the Tories care about. Pressing ahead with this policy will be counter-productive for the majority of our children’s education.

Every child has potential. Every child can succeed.

No child should be left out or left behind.

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