In my role as the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health, I responded to a Westminster debate on the issue of waiting times for autism diagnosis. The debate was well attended by my Labour colleagues and altogether a total of 22 MPs plus the Minister, SNP spokesperson and me spoke in the debate, which was led by my colleague Bambos Charalambous MP.
Securing an early formal diagnosis is fundamental to ensuring that people with autism, and their families, can access the right support. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guideline specifies that an autism diagnosis should be started within three months of the referral from the patient’s GP. However, this is just a guideline and there is evidence that waiting times can be much longer. At the debate, I asked the Health Minister what plans the Government had to speed up the diagnosis process.
Getting a formal diagnosis for autism is the first hurdle towards accessing support such as speech and language therapists, health specialists and welfare support. We heard in the debate that patients can be forced to ‘wait to wait’ for treatments. ‘Waiting to wait’ is a distressing and frustrating process for patients to go through and the delays it causes can lead to the development of other issues. This is not acceptable and I urged the Health Minister who replied to the debate to address this issue.
During the debate I also raised the issue of the shortage of professionals within the NHS, which causes long waiting times for assessments. This is not just an issue for children and young people who have autistic spectrum disorder, but it matters to adults who seek to be diagnosed later in life. We now have the first generation of people reaching middle age who were not able to get a formal diagnosis of autism when they were younger and we must take account of this in planning services for autistic people.
In my speech in the debate, I asked the Health Minister a number of other questions related to the Government’s strategy on autism. I urged her to consider the proposal made by the National Autism Society to implement an ‘Autism Register’ in order to gather useful statistics about the treatment of people with autism. I also asked the Government to commit to adding the data about autism diagnosis waiting times to the Mental Health Statistics published by Government.
The debate was a good opportunity to raise a number of issue with the Health Minister and I will continue to press the Government for action to reduce the waiting times for an autism diagnosis.
You can read my speech online at https://goo.gl/rXV6QS
In my role as the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health, I responded to a Westminster debate on the issue of waiting times for autism diagnosis. The debate was well...
The levels of taxation on beer and pubs is an important issue in Worsley and Eccles South. Pubs in the UK create one million jobs nationally and make £80,000 on average for their local economy each year. Pubs are also hubs for the community. I believe that we must take action to ensure their long-term future.
The pubs in Worsley and Eccles South play an important historical, cultural and community role and I share the concerns of publicans and their customers about the future of the industry and concerns about the level of beer duty.
At the 2017 Spring Budget, the Conservative Government increased the level of beer duty by retail price index inflation. This added 2p to the cost of a pint of beer and, together with increases in other alcohol duties, will cost pubs £125 million this year. I believe this was the wrong decision as it poses a risk to pubs, particularly alongside increasing inflation and higher business rates.
The Conservative Government announced in March 2017 that it would be providing a £1,000 rates discount for pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000. I agree with the comments made by CAMRA when they requested that Conservative Ministers go further in providing relief. I am concerned that the current relief represents only a temporary respite rather than long-term support.
There remain serious questions over how pubs will afford to stay open after the rates discount ends in 2018. I believe we need a fundamental review of business rates, alongside a number of other reforms, including switching from RPI to consumer price index inflation.
The levels of taxation on beer and pubs is an important issue in Worsley and Eccles South. Pubs in the UK create one million jobs nationally and make £80,000 on...
The Grenfell Tower fire is one of the most horrific and tragic events of our age. Our first priority must be to ensure that those people affected by the fire are given the support that they need now and in the years ahead. It will be important that people affected by the fire can access mental and physical healthcare immediately as well as counselling support for as long as it is required by each individual. Our approach to this issue should centre on rebuilding this shattered community.
I am pleased that the Conservative Government has now committed to some help for this community. My Labour colleagues and I will be monitoring progress closely in the period ahead to ensure that all those people who have lost everything in this tragedy are not let down again.
I welcome the fact that the Queen's Speech on 21 June confirmed there will be a public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower. It also included a commitment to publish interim findings. However, there is still significantly more that must be done. I believe that the initial findings of the inquiry must be published to allow action to begin on any emerging recommendations as swiftly as possible.
Locally, I have been in contact with representatives of Salford City Council and City West Housing Trust about fire safety measures in high rise blocks in Salford. I have been assured that this issue is being dealt with as a priority in Salford and Greater Manchester and I will be keeping up to date with any developments.
The Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has set up a task force to review fire safety residential tower blocks across Greater Manchester. Andy Burnham has asked Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, to lead the taskforce which is liaising with the fire service, councils and landlords. City Mayor, Paul Dennett, tells me that the advice he has received from the Department of Communities and Local Government on issues of fire safety and cladding has been confused. Paul Dennett has asked Sajid Javid MP, the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government, to clarify the advice given to councils and to clarify what funding the Conservative Government will make available to councils like Salford.
I agree with Paul Dennett’s comments that residents have the right to be reassured about the safety of where they live. I will continue to work with Andy Burnham, Paul Dennett and housing providers on tackling this issue.
The Grenfell Tower fire is one of the most horrific and tragic events of our age. Our first priority must be to ensure that those people affected by the fire...
Factory Farming is in need of review and reform if we are serious about creating a sustainable food chain. The Conservative Government must listen to the concerns of British farmers and implement a farming policy that reflects modern demands.
The United Kingdom has a proud history of high quality farming. I support British farming and want it to be economically viable and environmentally sustainable. I believe that we should be working to lead the world in animal welfare standards.
At the recent election, Labour’s Manifesto pledged to promote cruelty-free animal husbandry and to consult on ways to ensure agreed standards are better enforced. The Labour Party Manifesto had strong and clear pledges on animal welfare. Labour’s vision is for the UK to lead the world with high animal welfare standards in the wild, in farming and for domestic animals. Labour also pledged to increase the maximum sentence for those convicted of committing animal cruelty. All of these pledges are fundamental to promoting cruelty-free animal husbandry and consult on ways to ensure better enforcement of agreed standards.
I would like to see a growth in the trade and export of meat rather than live animals. British produce is market leading and I believe we should be encouraging farmers to use local butchers to slaughter their animals as close as possible to where they are reared. The current Conservative Government has promised to examine the future of live animal exports. I will await any proposals that the Government brings forward on this element of farming standards.
We must prioritise a sustainable, long-term future for our farming, fishing and food industries. We cannot allow our exit of the European Union to be used as an excuse for food standards to be reduced or to allow cheap and inferior produce to flood the UK market. I believe we should reconfigure funds for farming to promote sustainable practices so that the industry can thrive and succeed while benefitting local communities.
Factory Farming is in need of review and reform if we are serious about creating a sustainable food chain. The Conservative Government must listen to the concerns of British farmers...
The number of dogs being imported into the UK as pets from abroad is on the rise. Both the Dogs Trust and the RSPCA have categorised this type of smuggling as ‘puppy trafficking’.
I share the Dogs Trusts concerns that there has been such a rapid increase in the number of dogs being imported into the UK. It is particularly concerning that these puppies are being identified as dogs from countries where rabies has been reported and where the health and condition of the dogs is unknown. It is also often the case that these imported dogs have not been properly micro-chipped or vaccinated.
I know that the RSPCA and the Dogs Trust have both released detailed reports outlining these problems and calling for urgent action to prevent illegal puppy trading and the potential spread of disease. I hope that the Conservative Government listen and respond to these reports. Conservative Ministers should be encouraging specialist training in order to help Border Agency staff to identify and handle animals that may be subject to trafficking. The Conservative Government also need to take steps to ensure that ferry operators do not inadvertently contribute to this illegal and dangerous trade.
The EU Pets Travel Scheme was introduced on 29 December 2014 and was intended to lead to stronger measures on compliance. I would like to see this Travel Scheme maintained as we exit from the European Union. I also appreciate that the RSPCA has warned that this scheme needs to be accompanied by significant improvements in enforcement and wider steps to prevent the risk of serious disease being reintroduced into the UK.
I hope the Conservative Government will work with organisations such as the RSPCA and the Dogs Trust on this. I also believe that there should be a comprehensive review of standards in the breeding and sale of puppies and kittens based on the principles of the Animal Welfare Act that was introduced in 2006 by the previous Labour Government.
The number of dogs being imported into the UK as pets from abroad is on the rise. Both the Dogs Trust and the RSPCA have categorised this type of smuggling...
Parents of children receiving neonatal care understandably want to be with their children as much as possible during such a difficult and stressful time.
In England we have some of the best neonatal care in the world. Doctors in children’s hospitals work hard every day under challenging conditions, but I know that there is much variability in care and hospital services between hospitals and regions. I believe that it is time for the Conservative Government to rebalance the funding available to services in all regions.
The Department of Health's 2009 Toolkit for High-Quality Neonatal Services states that dedicated facilities should be available for parents and families of babies receiving neonatal care. I would like to see those units that currently offer the very best care spreading their expertise across the country. A sensible and co-ordinated approach is required from the Conservative Health Ministers, the NHS and local managers.
The charity Bliss does excellent work in offering emotional and practical support to families for the duration of their stay in neonatal care. Bliss also campaigns for better neonatal services for families to ensure that every baby born premature or sick in the UK has the best chance of survival and quality of life.
Bliss report that more than a third of all neonatal units in England do not have dedicated accommodation for parents of critically ill children. The Royal College of Nursing has said that it is "vital" that all services provide the facilities for parents to spend time with their babies in neonatal units as this can improve outcomes for babies and families.
NHS England's Maternity Transformation Programme is carrying out a review of neonatal services and a report is due in September. The Conservative Government has confirmed that the review has completed its data gathering stage and will be working with Bliss and other stakeholders to develop recommendations for service improvement, including the support and facilities for parents. I can assure you I will follow the report and its recommendations closely.
Parents of children receiving neonatal care understandably want to be with their children as much as possible during such a difficult and stressful time. In England we have some of...
In February of this year, NHS England overturned its decision not to routinely fund second stem cell transplants for patients who suffer a relapse. The Anthony Nolan charity was fundamental in creating the support and awareness necessary in order to overturn the previous decision.
I sympathise with anyone affected by blood cancer. Anthony Nolan conducts vital research and support for people who have blood cancer, its work saves lives. For example, Anthony Nolan and the NHS Stem Cell Registry has given thousands of people the opportunity to have a transplant where previously they may not have been able to be matched with a donor.
I support the work of the APPG on Stem Cell Transplantation. This APPG is working with the Anthony Nolan Campaign to expand the register of potential donors by developing the number of young, black, Asian and minority ethnic donors who are particularly underrepresented on the current donor register.
In July 2015 an independent NHS England Cancer Taskforce published a report called ‘achieving world-class cancer outcomes: a strategy for England 2015-2020’. This report contains proposals that could go a long way towards helping some of the estimated 2.5 million people living with cancer. If implemented in full, the strategy could save 30,000 more lives every year by 2020.
In my role in Labour’s Shadow Health Team I will continue to work to secure proper care and support for people who have blood cancer and their families. It is time for the Conservative Government to create a sensible and reasonable care package for those with blood cancer.
In February of this year, NHS England overturned its decision not to routinely fund second stem cell transplants for patients who suffer a relapse. The Anthony Nolan charity was fundamental...
I understand that HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) is proposing to privatise the work of around 150 civilian enforcement officers. HMCTS has confirmed it is in discussion to extend the work of approved enforcement agencies. The Public and Commercial Services Union are currently running a campaign opposing the proposed privatisation. The campaign states that the HMCTS currently employs these officers but plans to outsource the work to a private company. The Public and Commercial Services Union state that "the government is threatening to privatise the jobs of 150 staff who carry out the enforcement of fines for criminal courts in England and Wales".
I recognise the important job Civilian Enforcement Officers do in recovering and enforcing financial penalties. However, whilst the HMCTS states no decisions have yet been taken, I share your concern that outsourcing of Civil Enforcement Officers would combine weaker oversight with pressure to maximise profits and risks more people becoming victim of rogue private bailiffs. I believe that this is a flawed idea and worry that it would come at the expense of delivering a fair justice system that works for all.
A previous attempt by the Conservative Government to privatise all enforcement work was abandoned in 2015, but only after Conservative Ministers wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers' money pursuing a policy that was widely criticized. Following the failures in the part-privatised probation system and the problems surrounding G4S tagging contracts, I am concerned that the Government is considering to further privatise the justice system. This is particularly concerning after the reports earlier this year about widespread abuses within G4S prisons and youth offender centres.
As a frontbench spokesperson in the Labour’s Health Team, I am unable to sign Early Day Motions. However I am concerned about the impact this privatisation could have upon my more vulnerable constituents in Worsley and Eccles South. I will continue to follow the development of these plans closely.
I understand that HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) is proposing to privatise the work of around 150 civilian enforcement officers. HMCTS has confirmed it is in discussion to extend...
The provisions and support for deaf children have been dramatically impacted by recent political changes. Since 2010, there have been significant cuts to council budgets from the Conservative Government. Now 89% of directors of children's social care services say they are struggling to meet their statutory duties to disabled and vulnerable children.
I am very concerned that the numbers of teachers with a specialist teaching qualification in Sign Language have fallen by 12% since 2010. The National Deaf Children’s Society has reported that half of the teachers currently specialising in teaching deaf children are due to retire within the next 10-15 years. The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf believes "there is a huge tension between the policy of inclusion and reality". The professional body states that class size, target setting, whole class teaching, and streaming make it very difficult for all children with severe communication difficulties to participate independently in mainstream education.
Most deaf children attend mainstream schools. Some of these schools have resources led by specially qualified Teachers of the Deaf. A smaller number of children are taught in special schools, some of which offer residential provision. It is a requirement that pupils in these schools are taught by appropriately qualified specialist Teachers of the Deaf and that they obtain this qualification within three years of beginning their work with deaf pupils.
The National Deaf Children’s Society is also concerned that the significant cuts made to council budgets by the Conservative Government mean that deaf children are unable to access some support services as a result. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children has held a year-long investigation into the state of children's social care and has published its report, "No Good Options". The report found 89% of directors of children's social care services are struggling to meet their statutory duties to disabled and vulnerable children.
At the General Election, Labour’s manifesto promised to deliver a strategy for children based on investment and services which are inclusive. Labour campaigned to embed special educational needs training within the Government training courses for both teaching and non-teaching staff. By encouraging people who work in education to undergo special educational needs training, a Labour government would be able to build a more supportive and secure education system for deaf children.
It is now time for the Conservative Government to take steps to invest in the education of all children, as Labour has outlined.
The provisions and support for deaf children have been dramatically impacted by recent political changes. Since 2010, there have been significant cuts to council budgets from the Conservative Government. Now...
I share the frustration of the Mayor of Greater Manchester, City Mayor, MPs and Constituents at the Conservative Government’s decision to scrap the electrification of the Manchester to Leeds railway line. This is a serious breach of the promise made by the previous Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne, and exemplifies the Conservative Government’s attitude towards the North of England.
The Government appears to have abandoned its ‘Northern Powerhouse’ project completely, in favour of more investment into already booming central London. The Conservative Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, waited until the summer break to announce that he is scrapping the electrification of northern railway lines. He then announced billions of extra investment for London Crossrail just four days later. This is a huge disappointment for businesses and commuters across the North which are again left with an infrastructure system that is well out of date.
I fully support the comments made in July by Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, when he said:-
“This statement from the transport secretary will cause widespread anger across the North of England. With every day that passes the promise of a Northern Powerhouse becomes ever more distant. People here have had to put up with sub-standard rail services for decades and will simply not accept that spending billions more on London is the country’s highest priority for transport investment. It will not escape people’s notice that this commitment to London today comes just days after the transport secretary cancelled electrification schemes all over the country. It raises the question of whether taxpayers everywhere else outside of London are paying to make Crossrail 2 viable.”
I am pleased to see that Members of Parliament from across the North of England have joined together to express their outrage at this decision. If the Conservative Government is willing to find the money to support Crossrail and provide a blank cheque to the High Speed Rail 2 project then it must invest in the town to city rail links that are the lifeblood to the northern economy. I will be continuing to keep up the pressure on the Conservative Government throughout summer and into the new parliamentary term.
I share the frustration of the Mayor of Greater Manchester, City Mayor, MPs and Constituents at the Conservative Government’s decision to scrap the electrification of the Manchester to Leeds railway...