Feb 10

Time to step up mental health research

Mental health research is an easy target for cuts when budgets are tight.

Yet without research and developing our understanding about how our minds work, we won’t be able to make the much needed breakthroughs that offer the chance to prevent future generations developing mental health problems in the first place, or getting the early help they need to make the quickest possible recovery.Luciana Berger MQ

There have been impressive advances in the treatment of mental illnesses in recent years. There have been improvements in psychiatry and in medicines, as well as in public attitudes towards mental health; but there is so much that we still need to understand.

Further research is vital and could help us better understand the link between hormones and anxiety disorders, or the link between folic acid and schizophrenia, or the connections between serotonin and depression, or how our brain patterns may create the conditions for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

One in four of us will develop a mental health problem in any given year. That’s around 15 million people.

The UK only spends around £115 million on mental health research each year – which equates to £8 per person effected by mental illness, or just 5.8 per cent of the total spent on UK medical research. In fact, we spend 22 times more on research into cancer than on mental illness.

The amount we spend on mental health research is too low given the scale of the challenges we face.

That is why I am backing the MQ campaign to demand more funding for research, especially into mental illness in young people.

The MQ campaign is eye-catching: ‘it’s time to give a XXXX about mental illness’, with celebrities such as Mel C, boxer Nicola Adams, and actor Gillian Anderson signing up.

The message is to swear to take on mental illness in children and adolescents – with the double meaning that the state of mental health services makes you want to swear, and that we should all solemnly swear to tackle mental illness.

The potential of research is vast. Mental health problems start early, with three quarters of mental illness in adults starting before the age of 18. As many as three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition.

Very few treatments exist specifically for children or teenagers. Our lack of awareness and knowledge mean that it can take as much as ten years to get the right support for many young people.

Well planned and well-funded mental health research could make all the difference.

You can find out more about the work MQ is doing and the campaign by clicking here.

Feb 09

Trade unions at the heart of our communities

Heart unions datesWe need our trade unions now more than ever. From now until St Valentine’s Day unions are coming together in Heartunions week promoting the benefits of union membership and raising awareness of the role trade unions play in our communities.

Unions are the voice of Britain at work. More than six million people are a member of a union – from nurses to checkout assistants to lorry drivers to airline pilots.

In fact, trade union membership currently makes up about 25 per cent of the working population in the UK. However, barely 5 per cent of trade union members in the UK are aged 16-24, and more than one third (39 per cent) are aged over 50.

Yet young workers are some of the most vulnerable and are often working in sectors with low or no union presence and without collective agreements, such as in retail, hospitality and outsourced social care. They are the workers who could benefit the most from trade union membership, yet their voice is currently missing from our movement.

Everyone has a legal right to join a union if you wish and it’s illegal for an employer to disadvantage you in any way just because you are a union member.

Trade unions offer individuals protection in the workplace and help to build stronger communities. At a time when many workplaces have become places of casual labour, zero hours contracts and precarious employment, trade unions offer people a sense of solidarity and practical support.

Unions help workers get together, stop people being treated unfairly and get a better deal from employers.

Unions support people at work when times are tough, even providing free legal advice to members.

More than 200,000 people get training and learning opportunities through their trade union that help them develop skills to move on in their career.

If you are already in a trade union, then you can use Heartunions week to help spread the word, or if you want to join a trade union then please click here.


Feb 03

Tackling the rise in child poverty

Luciana Child PovertyUnder the Tories, one in three children in Liverpool Wavertree – 6,119 – are living in poverty.EndChildPoverty2

Across the country, there has been a 200,000 rise in the number of children living in poverty, up to 3.9 million, in a single year.

That is the price children are paying for the Tory government’s failure to tackle inequality.

In 2015, the Tories scrapped children poverty targets, brought in by the last Labour government. That means the Tories no longer have a legal duty to do anything to measure or reduce the number of children in poverty.

Today, my colleague Labour MP Dan Jarvis put forward a private member’s Bill in Parliament to re-establish a target for the reduction of child poverty in the United Kingdom.

The Bill would require the government to set a child poverty target and a strategy for meeting it.

No child in Britain should have to grow up in poverty. For those children who do, poverty represents a real barrier to them reaching their full potential. Children in poverty are more likely to fall behind in school, less likely to secure a job, and more likely to experience mental and physical illnesses.

By pressing the government to establish a target to cut child poverty, Labour is making a clear statement that rising child poverty can and must be tackled.

Feb 02

Start a conversation on Time to Talk Day

Time to Change logo for the dayToday is #timetotalk day and I am pleased to be talking mental health with young people in Liverpool at the official opening of a brand new community hub that aims to bring a range of services together.

The Young Person’s Advisory Service Plus Community Hubs will bring together voluntary and statutory agencies offering children, young people and their families mental health support.

YPAS has been delivering mental health services for children, young people and families for over 50 years in Liverpool and receives over 3,000 referrals each year.

Funding from Liverpool’s Clinical Commissioning Group will enable a North Liverpool and South Liverpool Community Hub to be established alongside the existing YPAS city centre location and expected to reach around 200 families.

Brewfie logoIt is some welcome local news for young people’s mental health. We know that one in five children will experience a mental health difficulty at least once during their first 11 years and adult mental health problems often start in childhood. Half of young adults with mental health problems first developed symptoms by the age of 15, and three-quarters had symptoms in their late teens.

If ever there was a case for early intervention to prevent problems developing later, this must be it.

We can all do something to look after our own mental health and wellbeing, whatever our age, and we can all help to break down the stigma that still surrounds mental health by talking openly about the issue.

Talking about mental health can be as simple as making time to have a cup of tea or go for a walk, and get in to a conversation with someone about how they feel.

Mersey Care has set up the #Brewfie challenge to harness the power of a brew (whether this is a cup of tea/coffee or a cold drink) to bring people together. Reaching out and talking to someone may be the turning point they need. You can out more about the #brewfie challenge and how to share it, by clicking here.

Talking about mental health with family, friends work colleagues and in our communities makes it easier for people to share their experiences and encourages people to seek help earlier if they need it.

Please join me in supporting Time to Talk Day by starting your own conversation. Click here to see lots of great suggestions on how to get the conversation started.


Jan 30

I oppose Trump’s horrific travel ban

I am joining over one million people across our country in calling for the State visit of US President Donald Trump to be delayed until he withdraws the appalling ban he has imposed on travel to the America from seven Muslim-majority countries.Luciana Berger Metro Mayor campaign.

If you have not done so already, please join me in signing the petition by clicking here.

In addition to the travel ban on nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries, the US President has used his executive order power to impose a four month suspension on the United States’ refugees programme and an indefinite ban on welcoming refugees from Syria.

Thankfully, the executive orders are being strongly challenged in the US courts; hundreds of thousands of people across the US have responded with solidarity protests at airports; and hundreds of lawyers are giving their time for free to support those detained.

Here, Prime Minister Theresa May has been shamed into acting after initially saying President Trump’s actions were nothing to do with her. She acted only when her own MPs spoke out and the public raised its voice in unison.

We must take heart from the response to President Trump’s action which shows that people in the US, here and across our planet recognise that the solution to the threat from terrorist jihadist groups, is not blanket bans against Muslims, but solidarity around our shared universal human values.

Hatred and prejudice against the people of any country, race or religion must have no place in how we conduct our politics.

Our country has a proud record of welcoming people fleeing war, terror and persecution throughout its history. We cannot be seen to be walking hand-in-hand with a US President who is willing to turn his back on that famous promise carved in to the Statue of Liberty to welcome the ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

To any of my constituents from the affected countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – worried about the impact of this policy, please be in touch.

We cannot and must not roll out the red carpet for President Trump with a full State visit. I hope to make these points in Parliament today and that’s why I’m supporting this petition. Please join me in signing the petition by clicking here.

Jan 27

Commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust 2017Across the world, people will be coming together today for Holocaust Memorial Day. Here in Liverpool, I will join representatives from across the city at Liverpool Town Hall.

Together, we will remember the millions of people who perished at the hands of the Nazis, as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to share their history to educate young people.

Each year, thousands of commemorative events are arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘How can life go on?’ It invites us to consider how new generations can comprehend the Holocaust and act on its lessons.

Inevitably, as time passes, we enter an age when the lived experience of World War Two and the horrors of Nazism are no longer reflected to us by those who survived, but through their stories handed down through families and through books, films and the media.

That is why, today, more than ever, we must come together to remember and commemorate so that each new generation continues to fight against prejudice and intolerance.

I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to join the fight against prejudice and intolerance.

Jan 26

I’m backing Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

I am backing Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and urging the government to act to prevent 900 women a year dying of the disease.

smear-for-smear-logo_0The national cervical screening programme saves an estimated 5,000 lives every year. Every year around 3,200 women in the UK are given a cervical cancer diagnosis. Screening matters because cervical cancer spotted early can be successfully treated.

However the number of women taking up this potentially lifesaving test is declining year on year.

In fact, uptake is now at a 19 year low in England. Cervical screening coverage is just 67.1 per cent in Liverpool, which means that almost one in three eligible women do not attend a screening appointment although they receive a letter inviting them for the test.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has just released a new report, ‘Spotlight on cervical screening’, which shows that almost half (44 per cent) of local authorities and almost two thirds (60 per cent) of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England have not undertaken any activities to increase cervical screening attendance in the last two years.

The report also highlights many areas across England, like here in Liverpool, where local health teams are promoting screening. But the programme needs to see more women accept their invitation.

We need to do more together to spread the message that screening saves lives and encourage every woman called for screening to take up the life-saving opportunity.

Jan 26

Your views on triggering Article 50

Luciana Berger twitterThank you to all constituents who have contacted me in recent days about the coming parliamentary vote on triggering Article 50.

I welcome the fact that the Supreme Court decided this week that Parliament will get to vote on the issue.

Prime Minister Theresa May must now secure the permission of Parliament before sending the letter which will start the two-year countdown for Britain’s exit from the EU.

We live in a parliamentary democracy and I believe it’s critical that this issue is not left to the Prime Minister alone.

If you are a constituent – and for this post I would be really grateful if only constituents replied – I would love to hear your views. Thank you to the many constituents who have already contacted me. I am reading your views with interest.

I acknowledge the decision made by 52 per cent of the country back in June to leave the EU. I am also very conscious that locally over 58 per cent of Liverpool voted to Remain.

I am extremely concerned about the plans the Prime Minister set out in her speech last week for a hard Brexit and particularly what it will mean for us locally in terms of jobs and growth for all. You can read the letter I added my name to over the weekend by clicking here.

If you are a constituent, please let me know what you want to see in the Article 50 legislation. If the government doesn’t include what you want, what amendments do you think should be put forward? What do you think is best for Britain? How would you like me to vote as your MP?

Thank you in advance for your views.

Please let me know by clicking here.

Jan 25

Fair funding for our schools

school cuts logoTory cuts are threatening to slash 10 per cent from local school budgets by 2020, with spending per pupil locally falling from £4,997.26 in 2015/16 to £4,476.69 in 2019/20.

The £520 per pupil cut is the result of a new national government funding formula that will see schools across the country lose around £3 billion by 2020.

I know from visiting schools across the constituency and speaking regularly to students, parents, teachers and heads, that these cuts will have a serious impact.school cuts map

This is £520 that no school student can afford to have taken from their education funding pot by a Tory Secretary of State.

Heads and teachers are desperate to invest in raising standards and supporting students, but the government is failing them.

Education unions representing school staff, teachers and leaders – NUT, ATL, NAHT, UNISON, GMB and UNITE – have come together to analyse the government’s figures and produced a school-by-school map of how the cuts are expected to hit. You can view the cuts map by clicking here.

The cuts can be reversed if the government listens to the voices of the school students, parents and teachers who will be hurt most. The government’s Budget takes place on March 8 – that is when the Chancellor Philip Hammond should act.

Time is short. Parents and teachers are contacting me now about the Tories’ unfair funding formula. They are really worried about the devastating impact it will produce very shortly.

We need a fair funding formula that values education and supports teachers and parents in offering every child the best possible start in life and the chance to develop their talents.

The schools campaign has organised a petition, please sign it by clicking here.

Jan 20

Care for the NHS – today and everyday

YouTube Preview ImageI am joining Liverpool’s demonstration of solidarity with the NHS and opposition to Tory cuts tomorrow, as part of Labour’s national day of action.

I hope you will be able to join me for our protest and vigil from 11am to 11.30am at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, Prescot Street.

Under the Tories, our NHS is underfunded and understaffed. Nationally, around 3.9 million people are on waiting lists, 1.8 million people are waiting four hours or more in A&E, one in four patients are having to wait a week or more to see their GP, and social care is approaching a ‘tipping point’ according to the regulator.NHS care logo

Here in Liverpool, the Royal, Broadgreen and University Hospital Aintree have all issued alerts this month because of the Tory-generated crisis. That is why I have written to the Royal’s chief executive after patients were being treated in the backs of ambulances outside the hospital and elective surgery, including some cancer operations, was cancelled.

The Royal is not unique – dedicated staff being let down by a funding crisis, increasing numbers of people with mental health problems attending A&E, and cuts to local authority social care: all these issues are contributing to increasing pressure for bed spaces across the country.

Constituents who have contacted me have been full of praise for the kindness and dedication of NHS staff who work so hard 24 hours a day, but are dismayed at the state of our NHS. These views reflect my own experience of using the NHS.

As well as the NHS going through the largest financial squeeze in its history, we have seen £4.6 billion cut from social care budgets, leaving councils like Liverpool on the edge.

That is why I supported Labour’s motion in Parliament which called for the extra funding for social care to be brought forward to help hospitals cope this winter, and for a new funding settlement for the NHS and social care to be part of the March Budget so that councils like Liverpool’s can provide the social care people deserve.

The Tory government opposed the motion and continues to ignore calls for extra funding for the NHS. The Tory response is to blame over-stretched GPs for the problems caused by government cuts.

Tomorrow’s vigil at the Royal will be the first in a series of actions Labour is planning in Liverpool and across the country.

Please join patients, hard-pressed NHS staff and Labour Party members to show our support locally for our NHS. Please also show your support by signing our petition by clicking here.

Join the rally tomorrow, Saturday January 21. Assemble 10.30am for the protest and vigil from 11am to 11.30am at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, Prescot Street.

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