Feb 25

Save Our Jobcentres – please sign today

Today, I am joining staff and users of the last two jobcentres in Liverpool Wavertree to highlight the vital role they play in supporting people to get back to work.Waverrtree jobcentre leaflet handout

The government plans to close the jobcentre in Wavertree and in Edge Hill – and that is after closing the jobcentre in Old Swan in 2012.

Please sign my Save Our Jobcentres petition today by clicking here and join me in signing the PCS union petition protesting at threatened closures across the city by clicking here.

I will be presenting the petitions in Parliament on Tuesday to show the government that these jobcentres really matter to local people looking for work, local employers offering jobs and to the wider community who must not be deprived of such an important resource.

Today, I am joining PCS members and jobcentre users at a public meeting to raise our concerns and highlight our campaign to protect employment support available for people locally.

If these two jobcentres close, over 3,000 people will have to travel miles, incur extra costs and risk missing appointments that could lead to benefit sanctions.

This is totally unacceptable.

Please show your support for employment support in Liverpool Wavertree by signing my Save Our Jobcentres petition by clicking here today and sign the PCS union petition protesting at threatened closures across the city by clicking here.

Together, we can make a difference.

Feb 24

We need to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK

Unison refugee Luciana Berger Lab (1)This week, I showed my support for a mass lobby of Parliament organised by the3million.org.uk, UNISON and New Europeans in support of EU citizens’ right to stay in the country after Brexit.

I signed a pledge to call on Prime Minister Theresa May to guarantee unilaterally the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. I was delighted to welcome constituents Yves and Peter (left) to Parliament to support this campaign.Unison refugee

The Tory Home Secretary Amber Rudd wrote to Conservative MPs during the recent Article 50 Bill debates to say: ‘I’d also like to reassure colleagues that Parliament will have a clear opportunity to debate and vote on this issue in the future. The Great Repeal Bill will not change our immigration system. This will be done through a separate Immigration Bill and subsequent secondary legislation so nothing will change for any EU citizen, whether already resident in the UK or moving from the EU, without Parliament’s approval.’

After the letter was sent, a number of Conservative MPs who had indicated that they would support an amendment to the Article 50 Bill to protect the rights of EU nationals, decided not to do so.

That meant that an amendment, which I supported, and which would have protected the rights of EU nationals in the UK was lost by 332 votes to 290 (a government majority of 42).

I supported the amendment because I believe that Parliament should protect the residency rights of EU nationals now and remove the doubts and fears expressed by many at the continuing uncertainty caused by the government’s inaction on this issue.

The fact that MPs from six different parties signed the the3million.org.uk, pledge this week shows the widespread concern of parliamentarians of this issue.

Workers from across Europe play a vital role in our public services, especially in the NHS and social care.

There are currently around 55,000 EU nationals working in the NHS and 84,000 working in social care in England alone. These services would not be able to survive without these EU nationals and the contribution they make. Some are long existing residents of the UK, they and their families deserve better than years of uncertainty and being reduced to bargaining chips in the upcoming negotiations.

The government must reconsider their stance on this important issue and unilaterally grants the Right to Remain for EU citizens before the process of Brexit negotiations begins.

I very much hope that the Home Secretary’s words are an indication that the government intends to act to protect EU citizen’s residency rights, but I will not be fully assured until Parliament has passed the relevant legislation.

Feb 20

Save our jobcentres

Job centres videoGovernment plans to close Edge Hill and Wavertree jobcentres will leave this area with no local help for people seeking work.

Please sign my petition today by clicking here.

I have joined with the PCS union to back a Liverpool-wide petition. You can add your name to our joint Liverpool-wide PCS petition by clicking here.

I will be presenting the petition to Parliament at the end of the month.

Over 3,000 people across Liverpool Wavertree are going be denied the local help they need every to find work.

People are being expected to attend more face to face interviews in Job Centres and failing to attend on time can lead to benefits being stopped.

It is totally unacceptable in these circumstances to make it more difficult for people to get to a Job Centre.

In 2010, there were three Job Centres in the Liverpool Wavertree constituency. Old Swan was closed by the Tories in 2012 and now the government wants to close the last two in Edge Hill and Wavertree.

If these two offices close, people will have to travel to Huyton or Toxteth to get the back-to-work support they need.

Liverpool Wavertree has the 41st highest unemployment level in our country, but the government wants to make it harder for the 2,950 people who have to attend the job centre every two weeks. They will have to travel further and will have to find additional bus fares of £8.60 a month to get that help.

As soon as the potential closures were announced I raised the issue in Parliament and asked how our constituents were supposed to get the support they need locally. You can watch my exchange with the minister by clicking here.

The minister’s response was not good enough. Jobseekers and local employers need a jobcentre they can contact locally and not have to travel outside the constituency to get information and support.

The plans are out for public consultation until the end of this month, and I will be presenting the petition to Parliament, making sure the government knows how its plans are going to hurt people in pour constituency.

The PCS public meeting takes place on Saturday February 25 at 3pm at the Frontline Centre, Lawrence Road, Liverpool L15. Please come and join us.

Please sign my petition today by clicking here.

Please sign the PCS Liverpool-wide petition by clicking here.

Feb 18

Start a conversation today

I’m joining the conversation about loneliness, and encouraging you to do so too.Jo Cox campaign 2

Throughout 2017, the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness will focus on the positive action we can all take to recognise it, build connections and help ourselves and others.

My colleague Jo Cox had taken the first steps towards setting up the Commission before she was murdered in her constituency of Batley and Spen last June. Jo was a doer and determined to combat loneliness after she saw how many people experienced loneliness in her constituency.

Three years ago, I met with campaigners in Liverpool to listen to their experiences of loneliness in our city and what we could do together to tackle it. Many older people experience loneliness, but so do many younger people struggling with problems in communicating needs and feelings and isolation.

In fact, loneliness can affect anyone at any stage of their life, people of all ages and from all backgrounds and can become a major problem when people are overwhelmed by it and can’t, for many reasons, find a way to tackle it.

By joining with partners – Action for Children, Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, The British Red Cross, The Campaign to End Loneliness, Carers UK, The Co-op, Eden Project Communities, Independent Age, Refugee Action, Royal Voluntary Service, Sense and The Silver Line – the commission will shine a light on those most likely to experience chronic loneliness and how we can all help.

The Commission is urging supporters to ‘Start a Conversation’, to get people talking; chatting to a neighbour, visiting an old friend, or just making time for the people they meet.

You can pledge to start your conversation by clicking here.

Feb 17

Tackling fuel poverty improves health and well-being

Warm Homes Campaign logoA baby born today and living in cold housing is more than twice as likely to experience breathing problems including asthma and bronchitis, and three times as likely to experience wheezing and respiratory illness. The baby’s chances of experiencing mental health problems are also higher.

Today, around four million UK households live in a cold, damp home and are unable to access equal life chances.

For the last three months, the Warm Homes Campaign organised by the charity National Energy Action has been raising awareness of the importance of being able to live in a warm, comfortable home.

One of the biggest barriers to achieving that aim is the cost of heating homes, which is why I am backing today’s Fuel Poverty Awareness Day.

National Energy Action has worked with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency to highlight some of the best practice being carried out by local councils.

Liverpool City Council’s Healthy Homes programme brings together help and advice with practical support on keeping homes warmer. It is one of just a few councils around the country that properly funds a team of environmental health officers who can use enforcement powers to make unwilling landlords improve properties if there are health and safety risks to their tenants.

Healthy Homes has supported around 46,000 initial assessments resulting in 22,000 referrals for additional support over the past seven years.

The programme estimates that it has saved the NHS around £55 million over a 10-year period, while the enforcement work has made private landlords invest an additional £5.5 million.

It is proof that a relatively small investment in long-term, preventative support carried out by local councils in partnership with local agencies can make a huge difference and actually save money in the long-term, as well as improve the health and wellbeing of people.

As a local MP, I have referred a number of constituents to this service, who have gone on to see improvements to their homes. Please get in touch by clicking here, or you can find out more about the Healthy Homes initiative by clicking here.

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.

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