Nov 03

I am backing Seni’s Law

I am backing my colleague Steve Reed’s bid in Parliament today to prevent deaths in custody and mental health units.Seni's Law graphic

Police and mental health staff work incredibly hard to provide quality services against the background of real financial pressures.

The best mental health units save lives and provide fantastic support to people recovering from a crisis. The professionals who work in them treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve.

But there can be no excuse for the use of inappropriate force that leads to the death of someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

Steve’s Private Member’s Bill, the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill, would end of the use of inappropriate force against people using mental health services.

The Bill will create accountability and transparency in mental health services and tackle the unconscious bias that means too many members of our black community are treated differently.

Steve was motivated to present the Bill to Parliament by the death of his constituent Seni Lewis, who died after being restrained by 11 police officers.

‘Seni’s Law’ will ensure that whenever force is used in a mental health unit it is properly recorded. Every unit will have a policy in place on the use of restraint and have a named individual responsible for implementing it.

The Bill is also about supporting staff, who can have an incredibly difficult job to do. It would mean much more training for staff on using de-escalation techniques. Staff would be better supported in handling challenging behaviour and the appropriate use of force, as a last resort.

That is why I am backing the Bill, and I hope that the government will ensure that it has the time to pass into law.


Oct 13

Community action to tackle loneliness

I am delighted to be joined today by Shadow Secretary of State for Health Jonathan Ashworth to host community organisations from across Liverpool, including the police health, housing associations and charities, to share ideas on tackling loneliness.

During his visit to Liverpool, Jonathan will pledge that the next Labour government will work with local councils, charities and business to reconnect communities and end loneliness.

There are proven links between high rates of loneliness and poverty and all the evidence suggests that as community services falter due to government cuts, more people are left isolated and experience the misery of loneliness.

Labour in government will reverse that by working with councils to support the kind of local initiatives that tackle poverty and bring people together in their communities.

Today’s initiative is about bringing people together to discuss ways of working together to tackle loneliness and was inspired by the work of my colleague Jo Cox, who was murdered in her Batley and Spen constituency in June 2016.

The Jo Cox Foundation, set up in her name, has made tackling the scourge of loneliness a major foundation for its work. Today, organisations that already do great work in this area and some that want to do more are coming together to share ideas.

We will be feeding these into the foundation’s work on loneliness ahead of national initiatives to be unveiled later in the year.

Liverpool is famed around the world for its friendliness and community spirit and I know that the work we do today will be shared across the country in the future.

Oct 12

Call to enter schools video competition

PSA video compIt’s hard to know what to believe in some of the media anymore – and that is why it is so important that young people get the chance explore news for themselves.

In its seventh year, the Political Studies Association Schools’ Short Video Competition is asking A-level students to make a video that tackles the issue of Fake News.

The competition is open to post-16 students who will be studying during the academic year 2017-18. Groups of students are invited to submit short videos examining what fake news is, what effect it may be having on the political landscape and what it means for expert opinion and ‘factual’ knowledge.

It is a great opportunity for A level students to add their voice to an important discussion that shows no sign of going away in the near future.

Shortlisted groups will be invited to Speaker’s House in the Palace of Westminster to discuss the ideas raised in their video with a panel of politicians, journalists and academics.

The winners will receive their award at the PSA’s Annual Awards Ceremony in Westminster on December 5 in London. The winning students will also get a week’s work experience with pollsters YouGov’s political team during school/college holidays.

The full competition details are available by clicking here, but hurry, the deadline for entries is noon on Monday October 30.

Oct 10

Celebrating World Mental Health Day

YouTube Preview ImagePeople are today celebrating World Mental Health Day with a renewed assertiveness.

Mental health is what everyone seems to be talking about. It’s good to talk. We don’t have to hide. We don’t have to pretend that everything is ‘fine,’ when really we are struggling. That is something to celebrate.

Liverpool Mental Health Consortium has put together a 14-day festival of laughter, theatre, music, film, debates and discussion which culminates on October 14 with a Festival Finale at Blackburne House featuring free workshops with Bring the Fire Project, followed by a spectacular, fire-tastic, tribal performance by Bring the Fire Project & Katumba. Full details of all the events are here.

The consortium has been bringing together people with direct experience of mental health problems for over 20 years, co-ordinating World Mental Health Day on October 10 for eight years and pulling together a festival for the last two.

We must continue to talk. That is why as part of the festival, I am holding a roundtable event on October 13, under the auspices of the Jo Cox Foundation, bringing together people and organisations to talk about what more we can do to tackle loneliness. Next month, in my role as Mental Health Adviser to Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram, I am bringing together employers to talk about what more we can do together to tackle mental health in the workplace.

It’s good to talk, but on its own talking is not enough. I am pressing the government to ring-fence mental health spending today and in the coming weeks and months because we must close the gap between the rhetoric of parity and the reality of cuts to services on the front-line. We must keep talking. But now is also the time for action.



Sep 15

Time to end the pay cap for all public sector workers

The House of Commons unanimously backed Labour’s call this week to scrap the pay cap for public sector workers, after the Tory government told its MPs to stay away.Scrap the cap

It’s very unusual for the government not to vote down an Opposition motion.

This week, the Tories have ducked a vote twice, first on the public sector pay cap and secondly on the Tories’ increase in student tuition fees.

Labour had the backing of all the Opposition parties in calling for the pay cap to be scrapped – including the Democratic Unionist Party which has done a deal with the Tories over Brexit.

The House of Commons also unanimously approved Labour’s motion to revoke the government’s latest tuition fee hike, which will cost students up to £1,000 each over the course of their degrees.

If the Tories do not now reverse the student fee rise they will be defying the will of Parliament in blatant disregard for our democracy.

In truth, the government avoided the votes because it knew it would lose.

The government may attempt to ignore the clear will of the House of Commons, but Labour is determined to stand up for democracy, pay justice in the public sector and our students.

Aug 23

Beating the international slave trade

Today, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, we remember the struggles of millions of slaves who, through everyday resistance over decades, brought about the abolition of slavery and showed the power of collective action.

On this day in 1791 an uprising of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue (modern Haiti) began. It was a crucial event in the fight to end the European transatlantic slave trade. The date has been designated by UNESCO as Slavery Remembrance Day, a reminder that enslaved Africans were the main agents of their own liberation.Slavery

In Liverpool, the International Slavery Museum is marking the day with a series of events that celebrates its own opening exactly 10 years ago, the bicentenary year of the abolition of the British slave trade.

Its exhibition Ink and blood brings together the stories of those affected by the abolition of slavery and later, freedom. It is an opportunity to see abolition up close through ink (paper) and blood (people).

There are still over 45 million people locked in modern slavery, including in child slavery and through people trafficking by which international criminals gain over $150 billion a year.

Slavery has not gone away and we need to address its root causes. Labour is committed to leading the international co-operation needed to tackle labour exploitation and deregulation and combat human trafficking.

Aug 21

Standing up for our NHS

Labour NHS summer 2017It was a Labour government which founded the National Health Service, our proudest achievement, and only Labour can be trusted to ensure universal healthcare will continue to be provided for all on the basis of need, free at the point of use.

Seven years of Tory neglect and underinvestment have left our National Health Service in a desperate state, with the mental health crisis deepening, ever more children’s operations being cancelled, lengthening waits to see a health professional, fewer people applying to become nurses and the looming threat of Brexit to our NHS workforce.

Now, over the summer and without proper parliamentary scrutiny, the Tories want to sell-off NHS Professionals, the body that saves the taxpayer around £70 million a year by organising last-minute or replacement staffing for NHS trusts in England, and ensuring hospitals don’t have to rely on expensive private agencies.

The deal is being pushed through behind closed doors with very little clarity for Parliament, taxpayers, NHS patients, or the staff employed at NHS Professionals about what the sale will mean for the future of the organisation.

It is typical of a Tory government that doesn’t really support our NHS.

For instance, since Theresa May became Prime Minister in July 2016 there have been 9,625 cancelled children’s operations. That’s an average of 963 cancelled children’s operations every month of her premiership – and figures uncovered by Labour indicate that cancellations are up by a third since 2014.

Figures I uncovered through Freedom of Information requests show that ambulance staff helped 30,000 more people experiencing a mental health crisis in 2016-17 compared with 2014-15, a strong indication that too many people are not able to access help through their GP or community services. You can read more here.

The government is dismantling the early intervention and prevention services that prevent people reaching a crisis and having to call an ambulance. Officially we’ve lost 6,600 mental health nurses and doctors since 2010. But many other posts remain unfilled too.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt must ring-fence mental health budgets so that funding reaches the frontline. Too much money pledged for mental health is not reaching the sector. In the absence of ring-fenced budgets, funding is being diverted to prop up other areas of the NHS.

By underfunding and overstretching the NHS, the Tories have pushed health services to the brink. It’s why Labour pledged appropriate levels of funding for the NHS in our manifesto and guaranteed the main four-hour A&E target would finally be met again consistently.

Prime Minister Theresa May must give the NHS the support and resources it urgently needs.

Aug 16

A pragmatic approach to pensions

Tory government plans will take £10,000 from 7.6 million people’s state pensions as it asks millions of people to work longer to pay for failing economic policies.WASPI2

The Tories want to bring forward their plans to increase the state pension age more quickly to the age of 68.

Labour wants to take a measured approach to retirement, leaving the state pension age at 66 while the evidence emerging around life expectancy is carefully reviewed and analysed. In that way we can plan together how to protect those doing the most demanding physical jobs from having to work until they drop while properly protecting the nation’s finances.

The government says it will implement the Cridland Review recommendations on increasing the state pension age despite new evidence on life expectancy and healthy life expectancy which shows a significant departure from expected trends.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, a leading expert, says that a century-long rise in life expectancy was ‘pretty close to having ground to a halt’ since 2010, pointing to this government’s failing austerity programme as a critical factor in this change.

Public Health England’s latest figures show the average Healthy Life Expectancy of men at 63 and of women at 64 years of age. The report also shows wide regional discrepancies and a clear North-South divide reflecting the government’s failure to rebalance the economy, tackle labour market inequalities and to ensure the social security system not only always makes work pay, but that it is fit for purpose in an increasingly flexible labour market.

You can see my response to the premature deaths of people in the North on Channel Four News here.

Bringing forward further increases to the state pension age will mean that many people experience ill health long before they have the chance to retire.

Poor communication of a later state pension age has already led to the terrible mismanagement of the state pension for women born in the 1950s – the WASPI women – which has left hundreds of thousands of women vulnerable with a longer wait for their state pension. It is an issue I raised during the General Election campaign and one we can’t allow to be repeated for other groups of people.

That’s why Labour wants to take a pragmatic approach, based on the best available evidence, and will leave the state pension age at 66 while plans are developed to ensure that everyone has the best chance to enjoy a secure and healthy retirement.

Aug 03

Tories deny transport investment to boost economy

The Tories are switching off the proposed Crossrail for the Northern Powerhouse project which was designed to link the people and businesses of the North and secure a sustainable future of economic growth and prosperity.

Liverpool is being overlooked for 20-miles more of investment that would bring High Speed rail to the city and open up new capacity to move more freight to and from our port.

Now the government says it is denying the North the electrification of rail lines running West-East that would better link up people and businesses from Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle.

Over the past decade public spending on transport in London has been more than double that in the North – the North would have received £59 billion more in investment over the last decade if it had received the same per person for transport as in London.

Whether it is rail, road or our buses, Tory cuts, lack of investment and centralised control are costing us dear. We need local control of our buses, and long-term investment to better connect our cities, people and businesses across the North.

I’m backing a new petition calling on the government to reverse its U-turn and make the investment we in Liverpool and people across the North need to secure our economic prosperity. You can sign it by clicking here.

And I welcome the call by Labour Metro Mayors in Liverpool and Manchester to convene an urgent transport summit in the North bringing together business leaders and politicians from right across the north on August 23.

The lack of investment means that Liverpool and other Northern cities will not enjoy the environmental benefits of wider electrification. For instance,

Network Rail estimates that electrification and the running of electric vehicles can help to reduce CO2 emissions by an average of 20 to 30 percent compared to their diesel counterparts and the maintenance costs for electric trains are 33 per cent lower than for diesel.

Network Rail also estimates that electric fuel savings are between 19 and 26 pence per vehicle mile.

Before the General Election, the Tories promoted rail electrification as a vital contribution to rebalancing the UK economy, but now they have pulled the plug.

Labour is committed to a £10 billion investment in a Crossrail for the North – a series of major rail improvements that would begin to reverse decades of underinvestment in Northern transport infrastructure and help deliver 850,000 new jobs by 2050

The Tories claim that diesel bi-mode trains will deliver the same benefits as electrification, despite saying for years that that failure to electrify the network costs more in the long run, causes more pollution, worsens air quality, lessens capacity and makes services slower and less reliable.

Labour will deliver the promised electrification, we will address the imbalance in transport infrastructure spending, committing to enhancing and expanding the rail network in order to drive economic growth and rebalance our economy.

Jul 28

Tackle the root causes of poverty to give every child the best start

Holiday hunger logoMore than 17,000 children across Liverpool receive free school meals. There are real concerns that now the school holidays are here, some children who get lunch through term time could be going hungry.

Nationally, the Tory government admits that it has not made an assessment of the children’s school holiday needs, let alone made any plans to make sure there is provision available locally. However, over a million school-age children have free school meals, which won’t be available during the summer holidays.

Real wages have been falling since 2010 as inflation rises, which will leave more children at risk of going hungry. Child poverty is at a seven year high, leaving working families worse off.

Increasing numbers of children are growing up in poverty and their families may not have the money they need to make sure the children receive all the nourishment they need over the summer holidays.

Figures from the Children’s Society show that in Liverpool Wavertree, around 3,300 children are living in families experiencing problem debts.

It is unacceptable that the government has not made the effort to assess the need and instead has left it up to local communities and charities to step in.

The Tory government has so far refused to measure the scale of the problem facing children across the country, let alone come up with the strategy and action needed to put matters right.

In fact, the Children’s Commissioner recently tried to pull together official figures on the life experiences of vulnerable children, but found government understanding to be sadly severely lacking.

The figures that do exist show hundreds of thousands of children and young people living vulnerable lives, but as the commissioner points out, even these shocking figures are likely to be just the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ The figures uncovered include:

  • 800,000 children aged 5 to 17 experience mental health problems
  • Almost 700,000 children are living in families that have vulnerabilities, including over 15,000 children living with an adult receiving alcohol treatment and nearly 12,000 living with an adult in drug treatment
  • 580,000 children are so vulnerable that the state has to step in and provide direct care, intervention or support
  • 160,000 children are temporarily or permanently excluded from school
  • 119,000 children are homeless or living in insecure or unstable housing
  • 170,000 children are estimated to provide unpaid caring for a family member.

In government, Labour will measure the problem and tackle the root causes of vulnerability, such as housing, crime, and poverty. For instance, Labour will introduce a Real Living Wage of £10 an hour to ensure that every family is able to make ends meet.

Labour will also put the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law and ensure every child gets the best possible start in life.

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