• aids and adaptations

    Aids and adaptations in the home can greatly enhance the quality of life for people living with arthritis and support them to live as independently as possible. I was concerned by reports that some people with arthritis face barriers in accessing this support. Arthritis Research UK has highlighted that, despite policy being in place to ensure provision of home aids and adaptations, people are living without them and are unaware that local authorities have a statutory duty to provide this type of equipment.

    The Government maintains that the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG), which supports people living with arthritis, has increased year-on-year. However, an independent review of the DFG, published in December, found that the fear of triggering demand that cannot be met by local authorities has resulted in minimal advertising of the DFG. The review concluded that this makes it very hard for people to find out about the help that may be available.

    By 2020, local authorities will face reductions in Government funding of nearly £16 billion since 2010. Directors of Adult Social Care warn that spending on prevention is again set to reduce in 2018-19 and it is becoming harder for councils to manage the tension between prioritising statutory duties towards those with the greatest needs and investing in prevention.

    At the last general election, I stood on a manifesto with a commitment to put prevention at the centre of a new National Care Service, which would have included exploring an increased role for aids and adaptations. More widely, I will continue to press the Government for the proper finances to be put in place to address our nation’s health needs and improve the support available for people living with arthritis.

  • House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee

    I am delighted to have been elected to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.
    The Committee undertakes inquiries into all aspects of foreign policy – recently looking at Britain’s relationship with China, global freedom of the press, UK sanctions policy and Latin American affairs.
    It also examines the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
    Britain and the world are facing uncertain times with unprecedented global challenges, and I am pleased to take on this important role in helping to scrutinise and inform UK foreign policy.

  • the Tory Government has broken its manifesto promise on free TV licences

    I am appalled that the Tory Government has broken its manifesto promise to free TV licences keep until 2022 and now millions of elderly people are facing losing their free TV licences. In St Helens North, 6,590 older households could face having to pay a licence fee, costing a collective £991,795 annually.
    The prospect of over-75s losing their free TV licences makes a mockery of Theresa May’s claim that austerity is over. The Government should take responsibility and save TV licences for the elderly.

  • the death of Mrs Mary O’Hare

    I am so sorry to hear about the death of Mrs Mary O’Hare from Whitecross. She was a woman of kindness, integrity and most of all a great family friend.
    Mrs O’Hare and her family suffered the awful injustice of her daughter Majella’s killing; she was 12 years old when a soldier shot her in the back while she was on her way to the local church.
    I was proud to play a small part in getting the Government to apologise for the wrong inflicted on Mrs O’Hare and her family.
    I also want to pay tribute to another Whitecross man Eugene Reavey, who still seeks justice for his three brothers who were killed by the Glennane gang. The Reaveys deserve the truth and I will support them in seeking it.
    The Reavey and O’Hare families never strayed from the path of dignity, faith and compassion. I cannot adequately articulate how much admiration I have for them.
    To Mrs O’Hare’s son Michael – my good friend – and the wider family, I can faithfully say that ‘Ma’ was what I call a ‘quiet leader’.
    May she rest in peace.

  • care workers pay

    It is shocking to hear that some care workers in Merseyside are being paid less than the minimum wage when on ‘sleep-in’ shifts. This is unacceptable and is degrading to the hard-working care and support workers.
    I have added my name to a joint letter to the Government raising concerns over the actions of the Alternative Futures Group. Staff who support disabled and older people at night undertake often difficult work and deserve fair pay.
    They provide a vital service but are being undervalued and exploited. Ministers must make it clear that staff must be paid the minimum wage – including for ‘sleep-in’ shifts.
    I support UNISON and the care and support workers in St Helens and across Merseyside in their fight to end this appalling practice.

  • Brookvale Young Boys FC visits Rainford

    It was lovely to welcome Brookvale Young Boys FC from the village where I grew up in county Armagh to St Helens borough, where they enjoyed a series of games with one our fantastic local youth football teams Rainford Rangers.
    Brookvale YBFC have visited Merseyside several times over the past 20+ years and last year Rainford Rangers visited Ireland. It was a pleasure to see two good games, both keenly contested, and I was delighted to present the ‘player of the match’ awards.
    I am proud of this strong and special connection between these two clubs. My thanks to Paul Duffy and everyone at Rainford Rangers for their fantastic hospitality – which was a credit to the village and our whole borough – and to Brian Sloan and everyone at Brookvale YBFC who were great ambassadors for their club and community.

  • International Workers Memorial Day

    On International Workers Memorial Day, a large gathering of trade unionists, activists, workers, members of the public and elected representatives gathered in Vera Page Park in St Helens to unveil a memorial to all those local workers who have lost their lives whilst in work.
    I want to congratulate former Pilks worker and Unite the Union member John Riley, and Councillors Martin Bond, Richard McCauley and Paul Pritchard for bringing the idea to fruition in just a few short years. Inspired by The Construction Workers Memorial in Ontario, Canada, the memorial acknowledges those who have lost their lives through accident or industrial disease and for those who have been left behind. I am honoured to be a Patron of the St Helens Workers’ Memorial Charity.
    I recently attended the Golborne Pit disaster memorial – we must always remember and commemorate those who died, and vow to continue the fight for the living.

  • Zimbabwean nationals being refused asylum in the UK

    I share the concerns of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, who have all reported abuses against protestors in Zimbabwe by security forces, including the use of live ammunition.

    The violence that followed the general strike on 14 January 2019 was utterly deplorable. I am further concerned by the Zimbabwean Government’s shutdown of internet services in the days that followed the violence. This action severely disrupted the flow of information and obscured the behaviour of the army and the police.

    In light of the troubling reports of oppression of activists in Zimbabwe, I believe it is important that the UK Government makes clear how it has deemed it safe to return asylum seekers to that country.

    I am concerned that people who may be at risk could be deported and that insufficient regard is being shown for potential human rights abuses. I am clear that deportations should not be happening in any serious case where human rights are under threat.

    More widely, regarding the situation in Zimbabwe, I believe that President Mnangagwa must act swiftly to restore the hope that existed last summer and put an end to attacks on civilians. We do not want history to repeat itself, nor do the Zimbabwean people.

     

  • the Guide Dogs ‘Talking Buses’ campaign

    Labour has consistently supported calls for buses to have audio-visual communication systems.

    I know that a survey by Guide Dogs in 2014 found that seven in ten visually impaired respondents had experienced a bus driver forgetting to notify them at their stop. I understand that this situation could be distressing and potentially dangerous.

    I agree that introducing audio-visual information could make a vital difference to people with sight loss, as well as elderly people who rely on public transport for their independence.

    As you know, the Bus Services Act 2017 enabled the Department for Transport (DfT) to introduce regulations that require bus operators to provide audio-visual information on local bus services. The DfT has indicated that this would include information on the route and direction of service, upcoming stops, and diversions. A related consultation was launched in July 2018, and the DfT has committed to invest £2 million towards installing audio-visual equipment on buses.

    In March 2019, the DfT said that it was still analysing the consultation responses. It also indicated that it expects to announce the next steps regarding the regulations and publication of guidance later in the year. I appreciate that this delay must be frustrating, particularly as audio-visual information on buses could be a transformative policy that makes a huge difference to people’s lives.

    Labour recognises that bus services are lifelines for many people and communities and has committed to provide the investment and regulation we need across the transport sector to ensure that disabled passengers’ rights and freedoms are protected. As part of this, the Opposition would require all bus drivers and staff at bus terminals to complete approved disability equality training.

  • the Pensions Dashboard

    As you know, in 2016 the Government committed to launch a Pensions Dashboard. It was designed to be a digital platform that allows an individual to view their various pension pots and see how much they have saved for their retirement.

    I believe that it is deeply concerning that many people across the country currently have a limited understanding of the value of their pension. They may be in multiple schemes and as a result, they may have no idea what their returns might be.

    I think the Pensions Dashboard is a welcome step in the right direction, as it will make pensions guidance more effective and give people a better insight into their future earnings after they retire.

    The Government recently published its response to its consultation on the Pensions Dashboard. Under the plans, the initial industry dashboards are expected to be developed and tested this year. The majority of schemes will then begin providing data via dashboards within a three to four-year timeframe.

    It also sets out that state pension information will be included at the earliest opportunity and includes assurances that legislation will be brought forward to compel all pension providers to make consumers’ data available to them through a dashboard.

    There is considerable cross-party support for the Pensions Dashboard and I hope that the Government introduces primary legislation on this as soon as possible. Indeed, Labour has said it stands ready to work with the Government to ensure that this issue progresses to the next stage.

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