Apr 20

Investing in all our futures

I’m delighted my colleague shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has announced that Labour will introduce an additional health visit for new born babies at 12-16 weeks to offer mothers crucial additional support.health-visiting-logo

The pledge is part of Labour’s commitment in government to making Britain’s children the healthiest in the world and to tackling health inequalities through better early intervention services.

The evidence-based policy reflects research showing that new mothers are at substantial risk of perinatal mental health problems at around three months, and it is also a critical time in supporting continued breastfeeding.

Under the Tories, health visitor numbers and funding have tailed off as part of central government cuts to public health budgets spent by local authorities.

For instance, there were 8,244 full time equivalent health visitors working in the NHS as of December 2017 – a fall of more than 2,065 in just over two years and the lowest number since August 2013.

Cuts to health visitor numbers are now leading to huge variations in visits for children across the country and stalling health outcomes for babies and young children.

The future of health visiting services is at a critical point. An additional visit possible will help our children.

Apr 13

Vote for Sure Start

Children, books, bunnies and singing galore at Liverpool Wavertree Children's Centre.

Children, books, bunnies and singing galore at Liverpool Wavertree Children’s Centre.

Sure Start children’s centres are vital in supporting families and helping children get the best start in life. It was the previous Labour government that recognised the importance of investing in the under-fives and aimed to establish 3,500 centres by 2010, one for every community in England.

One-third have been lost across the country since the Tories took power in 2010. Labour-run Liverpool Council has managed – despite savage Tory government cuts – to support children’s centres across the city.

New research from the Sutton Trust and Oxford University shows the centres closing at twice the rate claimed by government – up to 1,000 gone across the country rather than the 500 previously claimed.

And the trust went on to warn: ‘There is now growing evidence of a further wave of large-scale closures in the pipeline as a ‘tipping point’ is reached.’

Tory Ministers should be ashamed. The true extent of the damage their policies are causing is now being exposed.

Children’s services provide a lifeline to thousands of children and families across the country, giving the next generation the best start in life yet funding has been slashed under the Tories.

The contrast between Labour and the Tories could not be clearer.

In Labour-run Liverpool, an additional £6 million is being allocated for children’s services, in particular to fund more social workers to work with increasingly complex cases of young people coming in to care.

Meanwhile, the Tory government has presided over real-terms cuts across the country of over £956 million to children and young people’s services.

At the local elections on Thursday May 3, please use your vote to protect our vital services – especially for children – and reject the Tory government’s continuing cuts.

Apr 13

Tory mortgage changes threaten more debt

Liverpool housesThis week, the Tories once again showed they are not supporting homeowners. From April 6, with too little warning and next to no publicity, the government changed the rules for those out of work and needing support with their mortgage interest payments.

After 70 years, the benefit has been scrapped. Now people have to apply for a loan with the risk that claimants who don’t take it up could end up in arrears on their mortgage and incur real hardship

Like the change to state pension age for women born in the 1950s, those affected have not been given adequate time to prepare.

The change hits 90,000 people across the country, 16,000 of them here in the North West.

Previously, homeowners have been able to get support if they find themselves in difficulty with their mortgage payments and are claiming one of the qualifying benefits, because they have been made redundant, are a pensioner on very low income or have become ill or disabled. In most cases there was a 39 week qualifying period and the money was paid direct to the mortgage company.

This benefit helped to stop people’s homes from being repossessed by paying the interest on the mortgage, and helped prevent homelessness.

The new government loan scheme they are introducing is administered by Serco and has to be repaid when the claimant re-enters work. Figures uncovered by Labour showed that just days before the changes took place, 5,000 people had not received an initial letter from the DWP telling them the change was about to take place. Over a third of claimants had not been contacted by telephone to explain the change.

The charity Age UK warns that claimants may try to manage by cutting back on essentials like heating instead of taking out the loan.

Putting home owners at risk of repossession will cause real uncertainty for people on very low incomes, many of whom are pensioners. I urge the government to halt the introduction of a loan and think again.

Apr 12

Make sure you are registered to vote

Local elections on Thursday May 3 are a chance to have your say about eight years of Conservative cuts to our public services and falling living standards.

To have your voice heard, you must be registered to vote by Tuesday April 17. You can check if you are registered to vote by telephoning 0151 233 3028 or emailing elections@liverpool.gov.uk. If you have not registered you can do so by clicking here.

It is £444 million of Tory government cuts between 2010 and 2020 to Liverpool City Council’s budget that are savaging our vital local services.

The Conservatives are promising more of the same.

Some councils, like Conservative-run Northamptonshire, are now effectively bankrupt. Labour in Liverpool has done its very best to balance the books and protect the city’s most vital services.

Liverpool City Council is fighting every day to protect our children’s centres, libraries, social care and vital public health services.

In Liverpool, despite 68 per cent cuts to the city’s grant from government, Labour councillors have protected Sure Start Children’s Centres, kept all our libraries open and invest £12 million a year in tackling and preventing homelessness.

Returning a Labour councillor on Thursday May 3 is vital to send a clear signal that we want our services protected.

Mar 29

Developing an autism friendly world

It can take years of worry and effort for many children to receive a diagnosis of autism, despite the government saying it should take only 12 weeks. One constituent wrote to me recently to say how, as a parent, she had ‘experienced first-hand ignorance, lack of education and sheer disregard of autism. We have experienced the devastating consequences that lack of support and often total dismissal … sometimes bordering on callousness.’

This World Autism Awareness Week, we need to see the government recognising the issue and taking action on it.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects 1 in 100 people in the UK. It affects the way a person communicates and how they experience the world around them. Autism is described as a spectrum condition. This means that while people with autism, including Asperger’s Syndrome, share certain characteristics, they will be highly individual in their needs and preferences.

Families find that getting their child’s needs assessed, and the right support in an environment which meets their needs isn’t easy. Research by Ambitious about Autism found that 71 per cent of parents said they’d lost sleep over it.

The time taken to get a medical diagnosis for autism can vary greatly, but currently only half of medical assessments are undertaken within the 12 week target.

To get a full diagnosis following an assessment can take longer with 69 per cent of cases having to wait more than a year and 16 per cent having waited more than three years

The average age at which a diagnosis was made was around 5.5 years for children with autism and 11 years for children with Asperger syndrome. This was despite parents first noting concerns regarding their child’s development much earlier; at around 1.5 years for children who later received a diagnosis of autism, and around 2.5 years for children who later received a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome.

That isn’t good enough. Too often, children without the right diagnosis end up failing at school before the right support is provided. This has a negative impact on their educational outcomes, their self-esteem and their long-term prospects.

The government needs to deliver a strategy for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities based on inclusivity that also supports teachers and non-teaching staff to offer the right support when it is needed.

I want to do all I can to make our country autism-friendly.

Mar 21

Tory cuts force up council tax

Council tax graphicLiverpool City Council has to make further savage cuts of £90.3 million between 2017 and 2020 due the Tory government slashing its funding. By 2020, the council will have faced cuts of £444 million since 2010.

When adjusted for inflation, that equates to a cut of 64 per cent of the council’s overall budget over the last decade.

In spite of this, the Labour-led council is doing everything possible to protect the most vulnerable in our city and make investment available to support the local economy.

This year, the city council is ring fencing 4 per cent of the 5.99 per cent rise in council tax to fund increases in spending on adult and children’s services to deal with growing demand in that area.

The Council Tax rise works out at £1.34 per week for Band A households, which make up almost 60 per cent of properties in Liverpool.

Overall, an additional £6 million is being found for children’s services, which will fund the recruitment of more social workers to work with increasingly complex cases of young people coming in to care.

In adult services it will to help meet the growing demographic pressures as more older people need support to live in safety and comfort at home.

However, when the 1 per cent cost of implementing the proposed local government pay settlement for staff is taken into account, it means only 0.99 per cent of the council tax increase is left to cover the cost of delivering other services.

That is far lower than the 3 per cent rate of inflation.

Despite the real financial pressures, the council is determined to support people, including:

  • £12 million on services for people who are homeless
  • £3.5 million protecting 42,000 people from the full impact of government reductions in council tax support
  • £2.7 million on almost 13,000 crisis payments to help people with the cost of food, fuel, clothing and furniture
  • £2.2 million on 8,300 Discretionary Housing Payments to people affected by welfare reform and hardship
  • A £2 million Hardship Fund from 2017-2020 to help residents who are struggling

If Liverpool had experienced the average cut that other local authorities from across the country have faced from 2010-2020 then the city would be £71.5 million better off. Instead, it is having to deliver services with 3,000 fewer staff.

This is a point I have consistently made in Parliament – it’s not just how much is available for local services across the country, it’s how unfairly the Tories are choosing to allocate it.

From 2020, the city will have to largely rely on income from business rates and council tax. That makes it vital that it does everything it can to attract new businesses and help them create jobs. That means investing in roads and big regeneration projects.

This includes purchasing land next to the former Littlewoods HQ on Edge Lane in Liverpool Wavertree which will soon be home to the new ‘Liverpool Film Studios’. The film studio will complete Liverpool’s world class digital and film industry offer and boost plans to create one of Europe’s leading creative centres.

I will continue to do all I can to make Liverpool’s case in Parliament and support the city’s job creation efforts.

Mar 16

Celebrating the best of our NHS

Our National Health Service turns 70 on July 5 this year, and despite determined efforts by some to see it retired, Labour’s proudest achievement is still going strong.NHS-RGB (2)

Thanks to its staff and the taxpayers who fund it, the NHS protects us all every day.

There have been amazing advances in science, technology, information and medical understanding over the last seven decades, but one element in the NHS success story has remained constant: the people who work in it and support the delivery of its services every day.

I’m really pleased to be taking part in the NHS70 Parliamentary Awards to thank those staff and to recognise some of the great services they deliver.

Over the last 70 years, the NHS has worked with local communities, councils and the voluntary sector to transform the health and wellbeing of the nation. We can all expect to live longer lives thanks in large part to our NHS.

I know from meeting and listening to people across Liverpool Wavertree that there are some excellent and innovative services on our doorstep that are among the best in the country. The NHS70 Parliamentary Awards are designed to recognise the best across the nation.

There are nine categories:

  • Excellence in Mental Health Care Award
  • Excellence in Cancer Care Award
  • Excellence in Urgent and Emergency Care Award
  • Excellence in Primary Care Award
  • Person-Centred Care Champion Award
  • Future NHS Award
  • Healthier Communities Award
  • Care and Compassion Award
  • Patient and Public Involvement Award

And there is a special Lifetime Achievement award for someone who has contributed to the success of the NHS for 40 years or more.

I am asking for your help in identifying the services locally that deserve that national recognition. I can only make one nomination in each category and the NHS judges will then decide a national shortlist and pick a winner.

To access the nominate form, please click here, but hurry, the deadline is Friday March 23.

Mar 16

Britain’s first functioning mosque recognised

The historical value of Britain’s first functioning mosque has now been recognised by Historic England the public body that champions and protects England’s historic places.

I’m pleased that the mosque, at 8 Brougham Terrace, L6 1AE, has now been upgraded to Grade II* providing it with greater protection and recognising its role in establishing a Muslim community in Liverpool.

The Georgian terraced house was bought in 1889 as a home for the Liverpool Muslim Institute founded in 1887 by influential Muslim convert William Henry Quilliam and is believed to be Britain’s first fully-functioning mosque.

The Liverpool Muslim Institute began as a small community when it was first established at the Temperance Hall on Mount Vernon Street. By the turn of the century this had expanded to around 200 Muslims.

When it opened in December 1889, the mosque at 8 Brougham Terrace became the first fully-functioning mosque in England with established community worship.

Historic England describes it as an example of Liverpool’s capacity to embrace different cultural and faith communities, as well as evidence of the social and cultural diversity that developed as a consequence of the city’s role as an internationally significant port and trading centre.

After Mr Quilliam left Liverpool in 1908, the terrace was partly demolished, with numbers 8-10 retained and used as a registry office. Having suffered neglect in the early 2000s, the building is now playing a key role in the Muslim community once again thanks to an on-going restoration by the Abdullah Quilliam Society.

The mosque features in The British Mosque: An architectural and social history published by Historic England. The book is the first ever overview and explanation of Islamic architecture in Britain. It includes different types of mosques across the country from the earliest mosques formed from the conversion of houses, to other large scale conversions through to purpose-built mosques and with these the emergence of an evolving Islamic architectural expression in Britain.

Mar 15

Teaching Parliament

If you are a local teacher and ever wondered what Parliament has got to do with you or the students you teach, there is a great opportunity to find out coming up.Parliament teachers

The UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador Programme is hosting a residential Teachers’ Institute on July 2-4. Teachers will experience Parliament first hand, and then return to their schools to support understanding of, and increase engagement with, Parliament.

Transport and accommodation costs are covered and applications are welcome from teachers, school leaders and teacher training providers working with young people aged 5-18.

The course includes:

  • Talks from subject specialists
  • Workshops devoted to key aspects of the work of Parliament
  • Q&A sessions with MPs and Peers
  • Opportunities to explore new and exciting teaching ideas
  • Tour of the Palace of Westminster

Application forms are available at UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador Programme and the closing date is Sunday April 8.

If you would like more information, please Tel: 0207 219 3436.

Mar 12

A great chance to widen horizons

Would you like to go abroad to study, work, volunteer, teach or train?Erasmus logo

If the answer is Yes, then here is some good news – a record amount of Erasmus+  funding is available for organisations in Liverpool, Wavertree this year.

Every year, Erasmus+ funds around 16,000 UK higher education students to benefit from a study or work placement abroad, 6,000 UK vocational education and training students to benefit from a work placement abroad, and 5,000 young people, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, to benefit from a volunteering experience abroad.

The funding is open to schools, further and higher education, adult education and youth organisations.

The funding covers a range of activities, from vocational training placements to collaborative research, from joint projects between schools to training for youth workers, and is delivered across the UK by the British Council and Ecorys.

Two application deadlines are fast approaching.

The first is on March 21 for education and training partnerships on best practice, including school exchanges. You can find out more by clicking here.

The second is on April 26 for activities in the youth sector. You can find out more by clicking here.

In 2017 the total funding available to UK organisations was more than €148 million, and a UK budget of over €170 million is anticipated for 2018.

The programme is just one of the vital international links threatened in the long-term by Brexit. However, the UK is taking part in Erasmus+ this year, and up to 2020 in principle.

So if you are a school, further or higher education college, adult education or youth organisation – or you attend one of these institutions – please consider applying.

Remember, the next deadlines for applications are March 21 for exchanging best practice in education and training and April 26 for all youth sector activities.



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