• autism awareness

    More needs to be done to raise awareness and improve understanding of autism both in our constituency and across the country.

    As you know, this year marks the tenth anniversary of the Autism Act 2009, passed under the last Labour Government. This placed requirements on Ministers to publish an autism strategy and provided statutory guidance for local authorities and local health bodies on supporting the needs of people with autism. The strategy focused on increasing awareness and understanding of autism; developing a clear pathway for diagnosis and personalised needs assessments; and helping autistic people into work.

    Securing an early diagnosis is fundamental to ensuring that people with autism, and their families, can access the right support. I am concerned that too many people wait too long for a diagnosis. National targets set out a maximum three-month period between referral and a first diagnostic appointment. Yet research from the National Autistic Society (NAS) has found that people are waiting years for an autism diagnosis. Indeed, a survey by Public Health England found that in one local authority waiting times stood at 125 weeks.

    I pay tribute to the NAS and all involved in the campaign to end delays in diagnosis and I am pleased that, from April 2018, NHS England started collecting data on autism diagnosis waiting times for the first time. I hope this will allow the Government to identify gaps in treatment and support and act on these findings. I also want to pay tribute to the many local groups and charities across St Helens North who are working hard to support people living with Autism and their families, groups such as Little Smarties and Inspire to Aspire.

    In December 2018, Ministers launched a review of services and support for autistic children and adults. This will inform a new joint adults and children autism strategy to be published towards the end of this year. The Government said it will collect evidence from autistic people, their families, carers and professionals on how to improve services and support. A related consultation has been published by the Departments for Education and of Health and Social Care, which will run until 16 May 2019. I will follow its outcome closely.

    I have consistently campaigned on the issues facing people diagnosed with autism across St Helens having met with parents to discuss the needs of children with autism in the constituency and backed Saints launch of a replica shirt for Rugby League’s Magic Weekend which carried the logo of St Helens Autism Support.
    There are some great organisations in St Helens such as St Helens Autism Support which make a massive difference in the area by helping raise awareness of the condition and aiding people, particularly children, with all levels of autism.

    In the meantime, I will press the Government to do more to promote awareness and improve understanding of autism. I am committed to making our country autism-friendly and ensure that autistic people can access the services and support they need.

  • the recent Asthma UK report

    I am concerned by the findings of Asthma UK’s report that many people are struggling to afford their prescriptions and some people are not collecting their medication because of the cost. Skipping medication can have a severe impact on the health of people living with asthma. I agree that nobody should be forced to neglect their health and put themselves at risk of a life-threatening asthma attack because they cannot afford prescriptions.

    Asthma is unlike other conditions in that it varies over time and seasonal triggers can make it difficult for patients to predict how much medication they will need throughout the year. I sympathise profoundly with anyone who is affected.

    Prescription charges in England have risen by 25% since 2010. I believe this is a reflection of the Government’s financial mismanagement of the NHS. At a time when the cost of living continues to rise, the Government should be doing much more to help people with the cost of healthcare.

    I recognise that there is strong support for making prescriptions free for people with asthma, as demonstrated by a recent petition which received more than 57,000 signatures. While there is a broad system of exemptions from prescription charges, including for those on low incomes and for people with some long-term medical conditions, asthma is not included on the medical exemption list. I understand the disappointment that will be felt by many that the Government has no plans to extend free prescriptions to people with asthma.

    The list of medical exemptions was agreed in 1968 and the only addition to the list since then has been the treatment of cancer in 2009. I believe the exemption list is outdated and I support a review into which long-term health conditions should be exempt from NHS prescription charges. I will press the Government at every opportunity to undertake this review and ensure that Ministers listen and respond to the concerns raised by people living with asthma.

  • the retirement of four long-serving Labour councillors in St Helens borough

    This election marks the retirement of four long-serving Labour councillors in St Helens borough; Keith Deakin, Keith Roberts, Sandra Dyer, and Mayor Pat Ireland. I thank them for their outstanding public service and commitment to our communities in Parr, Earlestown, Newton and Thatto Heath.
    Keith Deakin has fantastically represented the people of Earlestown for over 30 years. Keith Roberts served for more than 20 years representing St Helens at a regional level – most notably fighting for the retention of bus services. Sandra, a great representative of Newton ward, is also stepping back. As will our Mayor, Pat Ireland, who has excelled in her position with much warmth and laughter.
    They have all played a crucial part in improving our borough – protecting services and improving the lives of those they represent. Their work on behalf of residents will be missed.

  • 20 years since the introduction of the minimum wage

    April marks 20 years since the introduction of the minimum wage. This ground-breaking advance for workers’ rights is one of many examples of the impact that Labour in government has.
    There is still much to do to make the job market fair. There are many people with insecure contracts and with wages that don’t support their and their families’ basic needs.
    The prevalence of in-work poverty is unacceptable. Many hard-working people don’t earn enough to support their families to live. 54% of low paid workers are regularly missing meals so that they can pay the bills. The Tories have created a perfect storm of low pay, insecurity and working poverty.
    Only a Labour Government will ensure a fair deal for working people.

  • inquiry needed into the blacklisting scandal

    I am shocked and appalled by the results of an internal police investigation, the Creedon report, which revealed the illegal treatment of construction workers by the major British building firms and the police.
    The names of construction workers were kept on a blacklist that led to them being refused work or fired from employment. Workers were blacklisted for activities such as joining a trade union, campaigning for safe conditions and even asking for clean toilets.
    We need an inquiry into the blacklisting scandal which destroyed lives, families and reputations for decades, and we demand justice for those affected.

  • my votes tonight

    Last week I voted against the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, which would be bad for workers, families, businesses and the community in St Helens and across the country.
    Tonight, I will vote in favour of a series of Brexit options to try and resolve this national crisis. None of them are ideal. But to try and solve this mess MPs need to compromise and show leadership.
    *I will vote to for two motions that would mean Britain leaves the European Union, with a customs union or under what’s become known as the Norway+ model.
    *I will also vote for a motion that would allow the public to have a final say on that or any other deal that Parliament reaches. And I will vote for a motion that puts measures in place to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
    In this time of national crisis, it’s not enough for MPs to just say no to the things you’re against, or only say yes to the things you ideally want. And so, I hope that Parliament can come together tonight and agree on a way forward that can start to bring the country together again.

  • how i voted on ‘indicative votes’ tonight

    This is how I voted tonight in the House of Commons on ‘indicative votes’ on a series of Brexit options about the basis on which Britain leaves the European Union.
    All of them are far from perfect, and in my view none of them are as good as the deal Britain has now as a member of the European Union.
    But Parliament needs to find a way forward and MPs need to show leadership, compromise and try to bring the country back together.
    I voted for negotiating to leave on the basis of Labour’s alternative approach, a customs union, ’Norway 2.0’ and for a confirmatory public vote on any deal.
    I voted against the economic catastrophe that would be caused by leaving with no-deal.

  • My views on this week’s Brexit developments

    These are difficult and uncertain times for the country and our community. The Government’s shambolic handling of Brexit negotiations has been chaotic and confused, and caused concern for people right across Britain.

    My mailbag today reflects that and also demonstrates the diverse range of opinions in my St Helens North constituency. I get hundreds of emails and letters each week from people who want to revoke Article 50 altogether and stay in the EU, from people who want to leave with no-deal, from people who want to leave but remain in the customs union or the single market, from people who want Theresa May’s deal, from people whose views since the referendum have changed in both ways – but primarily from leave to remain – and increasingly from people who want the public to have the final say over any deal.

    When MPs are told “get on with it”, “leave means leave” or “just cancel Brexit”, it unfortunately isn’t that simple. Parliament is divided, but so is the country.

    In 2016, a majority of people in St Helens borough voted to leave the European Union. But for every six people who voted to leave, four voted to remain.

    In respecting the result of the referendum both locally and nationally, I voted to trigger Article 50 to enable Britain to leave the European Union. I was as clear then as I am now that any deal or process for leaving should prioritise workers, families, businesses and the community in St Helens borough. In addition, it must be in the national interest, ensuring that we get the best deal to protect jobs and our economy, hard-won workers’ rights, environmental and food standards, human rights, security and defence co-operation with our European partners, peace in Northern Ireland and most importantly our young people’s futures.

    But Theresa May’s deal does none of that. It would make people in St Helens borough poorer and I will never do anything to enable that. Worse still, leaving with no-deal would be an economic catastrophe that would be devastating for our community, and so my priority is to ensure we don’t crash out in this way.

    The Prime Minister has shown that she is unwilling to listen, so now Parliament has taken control. Tomorrow night, MPs will undertake a series of indicative votes stating their preferred options to try and find a way forward. I hope we can find a consensus. But I am increasingly of the view that whatever Parliament decides, or if it can’t agree, we may still need to go back to the people for a final say.

    Finally, it is my job to represent everyone in St Helens North. Not just leave voters, not just remain voters, not just those who voted for me or the Labour Party, but everyone. I will keep doing that as best I can over the coming critical days and weeks.

  • Tory Government to vital Children’s Services in St Helens

    I am appalled that the Tory Government has cut funding for vital Children’s Services in St Helens borough by £13,962,762 since 2010/11.

    Spending on early intervention strategies and preventative services have been particularly affected. This means that local authorities are forced to shift spending to late intervention statutory services at a point where the negative impact on children’s lives will be significantly higher.

    A coalition of children’s charities has warned that unless the Government invests £3billion, local authorities will run the serious risk of being unable to keep children safe and well.

    These cuts are having a significant impact on the life chances of the most vulnerable children. I am calling on the Government to provide the critical investment that children’s services so desperately need.

  • Glass Futures update

    I am delighted that Glass Futures have identified St Helens as their preferred location for their new glass making facility that is set to have a production capacity of 30 tonnes per day.

    This is another vote of confidence in our borough as the best place in the North West for investment.

    I have met with leading representatives of the glass industry both here and in Westminster to make the case for St Helens borough. Our skills, infrastructure, location, and proud manufacturing history make us the perfect place for this new investment.

    Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has also voiced his support for St Helens as the ideal location. I will continue to push for this investment which would be a huge boost to St Helens borough.

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