In this Parliament, the Conservative Government has the chance to reverse some of the decisions that have impacted upon vulnerable children in a negative way.
It is unacceptable that there are now nearly four million children living in poverty. The Conservative Government’s cuts to the work allowances in Universal Credit and their decision to limit Tax Credit and Universal Credit payments to two children will increase child poverty in Worsley and Eccles South.
The manifesto I stood on at the recent General Election committed to tackle child poverty with a new Child Poverty Strategy. It also pledged to introduce a Breathing Space scheme for households struggling with high debts. As you may be aware, the current Conservative Government also has a manifesto commitment to adopt Labour’s Breathing Space scheme and I can assure you that I will hold it to account on this commitment.
I share the concerns of the Children’s Society about child poverty and its link with sexual exploitation. We have a moral duty to tackle abuse and violence towards children. I believe we must deliver earlier protection to victims of abuse by strengthening mandatory reporting and guaranteeing allegations will be reported and action taken to make children safe.
I also have a number of concerns about mental health provision for children. I believe we must invest in early intervention by increasing the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people. I also support the extension of schools-based counselling to all schools to improve children's mental health.
I am the Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care and work in this role to hold the Government to account on this issue.
For example, I have recently written to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to ask him a number of questions about services for young people with mental ill health and about the waiting times for these services.
I will be continue to press Conservative Health Ministers on the issue of mental health provision for young people and children. I will also be working with my Shadow Ministerial colleagues to hold the Government to account over its record on child poverty.