Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

News Highlights

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke during a secondary legislation committee on the approval of the Draft Draft Local Authorities (Public Health Functions and Entry to Premises by Local Healthwatch Representatives) (amendment) Regulations 2017. These regulations allow for the continued mandation for health visitors to undertake universal health visitor reviews. Whilst they were not opposed, Sharon did raise concerns about the watering down of who can do health visitor reviews and pressed the Government to keep an eye on this concern raised by health visitors themselves. 

You can read Sharon's speech here: Sharon Hodgson Draft Local Authorities (Public Health Functions and Entry to Premises by Local Healthwatch Representatives) (amendment) Regulations 2017

Speech pasted below:

6.06 pm

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Alan. The Opposition are pleased that the Government have finally brought these regulations before us, especially with the end-date for the mandation of health visitor reviews being so close—it will be in five days’ time, to be exact. I welcome a lot of what the Minister said.

The regulations are welcome as they continue the mandation of health visitor reviews, which are an important part of an early intervention strategy. We will therefore not seek to divide the Committee. However, I have concerns about health visiting and what the regulations will do that I wish to raise with the Minister and on which I seek reassurance.

This year marks 155 years since the start of health visiting, which has had a range of different guises over the years, in 1862. It is important that we protect this long and proud career and give it the support it deserves. It is therefore concerning to see in the provision relating ​to regulation 5B of the principal regulations a potential watering down of who can do universal health visitor reviews, allowing other qualified health professionals to conduct reviews instead of health visitors. That is concerning when there is anecdotal evidence that health visitors are being told to delegate to other professionals, but are doing so only because they are so overstretched and busy with their huge workloads. That does not mean other health professionals cannot be complementary to the reviews, but the core reviews must be done by health visitors, because they are the specialists and it is their job to do it after being trained to undertake that role.

A health visitor’s role should not be diminished. I hope the Minister agrees and will assure me that she will closely monitor that issue, as I certainly will, to ensure that health visiting is not a diminished profession and that we do not see a reduction in the quality of health visitor reviews. I look forward to her response.

Draft Local Authorities (Public Health Functions and Entry to Premises by Local Healthwatch Representatives) (amendment) Regulations 2017 27.03.17

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke during a secondary legislation committee on the approval of the Draft Draft Local Authorities (Public Health Functions and Entry to Premises by Local...

A week after International Women's Day and over a week away from Mother's Day, Sharon secured a debate on the effects of Maternity Discrimination, and raised issues with this form of discrimination's impact on society and our economy, along with the work of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the Women and Equalities Select Committee, and what more the Government should be doing to tackle this discrimination in the workplace. 

You can read Sharon's speech here in Hansard: Sharon Hodgson MP Effects of Maternity Discrimination Westminster Hall Debate 15.03.17

Speech pasted below:

9.30 am

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the effect of maternity discrimination.

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope. I am very pleased to have secured this debate on an important topic for many women and a key campaigning area for the Labour party: maternity discrimination. I thank all hon. Members who have turned out this morning to contribute to it.

Maternity discrimination is an issue that cannot be ignored. It is only right that action be taken to ensure that this persistent issue in our society is ended once and for all. It is a welcome point of reflection for us all that this debate comes exactly a week after we celebrated International Women’s Day and just over a week before mothers’ day. I felt it was important to secure the debate between those two dates, to press the Government to do more, but also to raise awareness of the many women beyond these walls who are met with blatant and unnecessary discrimination.

Many people—some of whom may even be in this Chamber today, although I hope not—think that maternity discrimination is not a concern that we should focus on, possibly because it does not feature on their radar at all. But it is real, it is happening and it is becoming ever present in our society. Action is needed. That is clearly documented in the Women and Equalities Committee report from last August, which highlighted the fact that pregnant women and mothers are now reporting more discrimination and worse treatment in the workplace than 10 years ago. By some estimates, that discrimination is double what it used to be. According to the Government’s own figures, one in nine women—54,000 in total—are forced out of their jobs each year because of being a mother or becoming pregnant. If that statistic applied to the women elected to this place, it would mean 21 of our fellow female MPs being forced out of this House. If that happened, we would be up in arms and raising merry hell on the Floor of the House. Well, if it is not acceptable for women in this place, it is not acceptable for women in any workplace.

A hundred years ago, women got the vote for the very first time, as part of a campaign to see women become part of public life so that they did not have to abide by the whim of a man and could be fully integrated into society, taking their rightful place as both actors and influencers in how our country should look and act. However, a century on, women still face many hurdles, and all because of their gender.​

I will touch on three key themes in my speech. First, I want to set the scene by expanding on the ramifications, both economic and social, of maternity discrimination in our society. I will then move on to the work of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Women and Equalities Committee. Finally, I will look at what the Government are doing—or not doing—to end maternity discrimination.

As I said, this place would be a lot worse off if the statistics on maternity discrimination were replicated in this, the mother of Parliaments. However, maternity discrimination has a far broader impact on our society than some may first expect. The financial costs identified affect not only society, but businesses, the Government and the women themselves. A report last year by the EHRC found:

“The cost to employers of women being forced to leave their job as a result of…discrimination…was estimated to be around £278.8 million over the course of a year.”

Much of that cost was incurred owing to recruitment and training to replace the woman who was forced out of her job, lost productivity from being down a member of staff and statutory maternity payments if the woman was on leave when she left work. For the Government, maternity discrimination means not only lost tax revenue from women not working, but increased benefit payments when they seek support because they have been forced out of work. The cost to the Government is between £14 million and £16.7 million a year.

The financial losses that women themselves face have been estimated to range from between £28.9 million and £34.2 million. Some 20% of women reported significant financial losses as a result of failing to get a promotion, receiving lower pay increases or bonuses than they would have secured were they not pregnant, or even demotion for becoming pregnant. Pregnancy and children are costly—there is no doubt about it—but the costs incurred by women are unjust, unfair and discriminatory. The gift of pregnancy should never be a cost to a women’s potential or her economic worth.

It is not only the economic costs of women being forced out of the workplace or facing discrimination for becoming pregnant that are a problem, but the social and equality issues that arise. Women’s position in society has come on in leaps and bounds from the time when they were not able to vote, could not work once they were married, had to stay at home or had to defer to a man for every major decision made in their life—as late as the 1970s, women had to have a male guarantor for a mortgage. However, the specific issue of maternity discrimination highlights the fact that the position of women in our society is still tentative. There is still a long way to go.

Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate and on her excellent speech. Does she agree that such discrimination also happens later on in life? We should recognise that women also face discrimination during the menopause. That point was very well made to me on Saturday by the Wales TUC women’s committee, which is doing a survey on that very subject.

Mrs Hodgson 

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that period in women’s lives. I will not be able to touch on it in my speech, but it is very important. There is a real lack of knowledge about what women have to go through during the menopause. I am probably not long off that period myself. People have no idea what women may have to go through, but we hear all the horror stories. A little understanding from employers would make all the difference. I know that I would probably be a better employer after I have gone through it; unfortunately, men do not have that luxury, so they rely upon us to tell them. That is definitely an important aspect of the matter, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising it.

Some may argue otherwise, but for me and many other women—especially on this side of the House, but across the House, too—equality is a cause worth fighting for, because it creates not only a fairer society, but a stronger and more resilient one. Maternity discrimination holds us back from achieving that goal of an equal society. We need renewed vigour to tackle the problem, so that we can fully realise our country’s potential, with everyone having a fair chance in life and not having to face discrimination for being who they are. It was therefore welcome that this time last year the EHRC and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published their findings on the prevalence and nature of maternity discrimination in our society, so that we could fully understand the scale of the problem, which was indeed damning. The research showed that, of the women surveyed,

“77%...had a negative or possibly discriminatory experience during pregnancy; maternity leave; and on their return from maternity leave.”

Such experiences included facing harassment or negative comments related to their pregnancy, struggling to secure flexible working from their employer to manage the demands of pregnancy and subsequent childcare, or, for 9% of women, feeling that they had to leave their job because they were being treated poorly or unfairly.

What women are documented as facing because of pregnancy and impending motherhood is worrying and deeply shocking. Even case studies from Maternity Action’s helpline have documented these shameful occurrences. One woman became so stressed with her working environment, where she was being singled out by her manager and treated appallingly, that she was signed off sick with stress before her maternity leave had even begun. As we all know, when someone is pregnant, stress is the last thing she needs. She is told to have a calm and radiant time, which was hardly the case for that mother. It goes without saying that no woman should face such hurdles in life or feel pressured into choosing between having children or having a career that progresses at the same rate as the careers of their male counterparts.

Following the forensic light shone on the issue by the EHRC, the Women and Equalities Committee, under the excellent leadership of the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), who I am thrilled to see in the Chamber today—I look forward to her contribution —undertook to investigate maternity discrimination further. In August last year, that inquiry produced some excellent recommendations for the Government to look at and act upon. Sadly, however, it took until January of this year for the Government to respond to the inquiry’s findings.​

Included in the recommendations in the Select Committee’s report were further calls for action around the health and safety of pregnant women in the workplace, such as placing a duty on employers to conduct an individual risk assessment for new and expectant mothers, all the way to identifying issues around casual, agency and zero-hours workers, who do not have the same pregnancy and maternity entitlements as women classed as employees.

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab)

In an economy that increasingly relies on temporary contracts, more and more women are unable to access any kind of statutory maternity leave, because they have no right to it. That is because they are classed as workers rather than employees. Does my hon. Friend agree that much more needs to be done to provide those women with better access to maternity rights?

Mrs Hodgson

I totally agree. On the issue of workers and employees, there is clearly a need to tidy up the law so that women who work in these areas of the labour market are protected and guaranteed the same rights as those women who are classed as employees, so I am very pleased that my hon. Friend has raised that issue. Indeed, Maternity Action has pushed for action on it and recently made a submission to the Matthew Taylor review, which aims to look at working practices in the modern economy, and to the Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy inquiry, “Future World of Work”. I hope that the Minister will be able to shed some light on progress on this issue.

It is safe to say that when the Government eventually responded to the Women and Equalities Committee report, the response was far from pleasing. Although the Government’s commitment to zero tolerance of discrimination against expectant or new mothers in the workplace is to be welcomed, as is the announcement of a consultation on protecting pregnant women against redundancy, sadly the wider response failed to see words leading to action. The Government’s response can easily be seen as a mixture of defending the unacceptable status quo and kicking the issue into the long grass, as if it was something that should be thought about on another day. The Government are failing to realise that this is happening right now.

I am not just making a party political point. The likes of Maternity Action have analysed the Government’s response and reaction to each of the recommendations and have come to the same conclusion: that the Government see this as an issue for another day. I have a lot of time and respect for the Minister who is responding to this debate—she knows that—but I find the Government’s response disappointing to say the least. That is why I hope she can offer me some reassurances when she responds to this debate.

I would like the Minister to consider two things ahead of her response. First, when will we see the details of the consultation on protecting pregnant women from redundancy? Two months on from the Government’s commitment to consult on this issue, we are yet to see publication of the scale or time frame. I hope that information will be forthcoming following this debate, and sooner rather than later. Even better, the Minister could announce further details in her speech today.​

My second ask is that the Government take another look at the excellent recommendations in the Select Committee’s report and heed the words of the right hon. Member for Basingstoke, who said that the Government’s response was

“a missed opportunity for the Government to demonstrate the urgency and bite on this issue that we found lacking”.

I could not have put it better myself. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will commit to re-evaluating the Government’s response to the Select Committee report and their own wider actions when it comes to maternity discrimination.

To conclude, we have come a long way in the march for women’s equality. I know that this point will not be lost on the Minister, but it bears reiterating: as the current standard bearers, we in this House have a duty to uphold the work done by the women who came before us. Failing to end maternity discrimination would betray our crusading predecessors, who campaigned to improve the position of women in society. As women here today, we have the power to make the changes possible for women who face discrimination in the workplace for being pregnant or being a new mother. However, we must also stand up for the women who will come after those facing these challenges now, and ensure that in the future no woman faces discrimination in the workplace for doing what is only natural—having a child.

I hope that the Minister will heed this call to arms and take it back to her officials, knowing that we in this House and many more women beyond this Chamber are willing her on to make the changes needed and improve the standing of women in the workplace. She alone has the power to do that. I hope she realises that and does not squander this incredible position she has to enact change.

Effects of Maternity Discrimination Westminster Hall Debate 15.03.17

A week after International Women's Day and over a week away from Mother's Day, Sharon secured a debate on the effects of Maternity Discrimination, and raised issues with this form...

As part of the Budget Resolution Debates following the Chancellor's 2017 Budget, Sharon spoke in the debate allotted to discussing education and skills. In her speech, Sharon discussed issues around Nissan, the wider manufacturing sector and the need to boost skills as part of the process of leaving the EU; with one example through the creation of a Materials Catapult.

You can read Sharon's speech here in Hansard: Sharon Hodgson MP Budget Resolutions Debate: Education and Skills 14.03.17

Speech pasted below:

5.32 pm

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)

I want to focus on the need to boost skills and jobs in our country, especially in manufacturing, following last week’s Budget. That is especially pertinent as we begin the process of leaving the EU.

It is unsurprising that, in a constituency-wide Brexit listening exercise I conducted, Nissan, which is based in my constituency, dominated, especially in terms of trade, investment, jobs and skills. Last week’s Budget was the perfect opportunity for the Chancellor to lay the foundations for strong economic growth that is resilient to any storms we may weather during the EU negotiations, but, sadly, we were left wanting. The announcements we did get on skills did not go far enough, and they must be placed in the context of the Government’s wider approach to education and skills.

Since 2010, we have seen the further education budget cut by 14% in real terms. That is a cash reduction from £3.18 billion in 2010-11 to £2.94 billion in 2015-16. That is compounded by the fact that the non-apprenticeship adult skills budget has been depleted by 54%. However, that negligent approach by the Government has not scuppered the innovative work by great employers in my constituency. Only last Friday, I was honoured to open Unipres’s new training academy, which will help to boost the skills of our local workforce by offering much-needed apprenticeship opportunities in engineering and manufacturing. It goes without saying that manufacturing is symbiotic with the north-east. We are the country’s makers and builders—I am pleased that Stoke colleagues are not here to shout me down—due in part to the innate talents of the people in our region and the skills we inherently have within us to manufacture with high quality and high productivity.

I like to call my constituency the manufacturing hub of our region, perhaps the country, with the likes of Nissan, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Unipres, Rayovac and Gestamp, to name but a few, all based there. The manufacturing presence in our region will only be strengthened with the creation of the IAMP—International Advanced Manufacturing Park—which will be based not only in my constituency but that of my neighbour, ​my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr Hepburn). However, the success of the IAMP and manufacturers in my constituency—from the large, some of which I have mentioned, right down to small and medium-sized enterprises such as AdFab Ltd, Washington Components, and PFF Packaging—depend on the Government strengthening their approach to skills and jobs. This is especially important with Brexit on the horizon.

There is one way in which Ministers could easily help to bolster our manufacturing, not only in the north-east, but across the country—through catapults. I am not talking about the ancient war machines but instead “a network of world-leading centres designed to transform the UK’s capability for innovation in specific areas and help drive future economic growth.”

A number of catapults have been started across the country, yet there seem to be none for materials. This means there is no support for the innovation and development of materials such as steel, ceramics, glass and plastics, all of which are crucial to the dominant industry in Sunderland—the automotive sector. If we were to see a catapult for materials like the industry-supported proposal by the Materials Processing Institute in Redcar that received cross-party endorsement in January from the all-party parliamentary group on steel, this could have a positive impact on the whole of the manufacturing industry. However, it would especially help the Nissan supply chain, which Nissan has said needs re-powering.

Anna Turley

I appreciate my hon. Friend mentioning the fantastic institute in my constituency. Does she share my concern at a story on WalesOnline last week saying that Swansea is predicted to receive £80 million for a steel science centre that would almost directly duplicate the work that is happening at the MPI in Redcar and could then impact on the Nissan supply chain that she mentions?

Mrs Hodgson

I do not want to take anything away from Wales, especially with colleagues from Wales in the Chamber, but duplication does not make any sense, especially when there is so little funding around, and we definitely do not want to take any support away from Nissan. I am pleased that my hon. Friend made that point.

Currently, only a minority of parts used to build a Nissan car are made here in the UK, through a 38,000-strong supply chain workforce across the UK, with 27,000 of those jobs based in the north-east.

Graham Evans

What an exciting constituency the hon. Lady represents! My understanding is that one of the reasons Nissan decided to stay in her constituency is the cluster of battery technology companies. Is that true?

Mrs Hodgson

Yes—I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman makes that point. Electric battery technology is going from strength to strength. I was very pleased to see that there was an announcement on electric vehicles and battery technology in the Budget.

However, we see a predicament looming on the horizon as we begin to leave the EU—WTO tariffs. Ministers have given countless reassurances that we will strike a deal with the EU that does not mean we have to fall back on the 10% WTO tariffs. Yet only this weekend ​this was blown out of the water when a leaked document showed the Prime Minister’s willingness to fall back on those terms, regardless of the economic impact they may have. That was then reiterated by the Foreign Secretary on TV, also over the weekend. This would be catastrophic not only for the country but for my constituency and the businesses there. In the case of Nissan, falling back on to WTO tariffs and crashing out of the customs union would cause significant delays on products coming into the country that they rely on.

Another issue is that overseas parts currently used to build Nissan cars would have to be reduced significantly to meet the WTO rules of origin. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has said that cars need to have 50% local content to meet the rules of origin and be classed as British-made, and that could prove a major problem for Nissan. This is where the materials catapult comes into play. Not only would it reinvigorate the supply chain with innovation, especially in skills and jobs, but it could act as a way to mitigate the issues arising from the potential impact of WTO tariffs on manufacturing. I cannot make this point strongly enough the House: this catapult could also mean potential jobs growth. If we take the case of reducing overseas content in Nissan cars, it could significantly boost the UK supply chain and create tens of thousands of new UK jobs, which could seriously transform the manufacturing sector in the UK. Catapults could help in part to achieve the resilience I have talked about, and I hope the Government will listen and look again at the potential of a materials catapult.

Budget Resolutions Debate: Education and Skills 14.03.17

As part of the Budget Resolution Debates following the Chancellor's 2017 Budget, Sharon spoke in the debate allotted to discussing education and skills. In her speech, Sharon discussed issues around...

Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Feb-Mar 2017 number 93

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Read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Feb-Mar 2017 number 93

Sharon Hodgson MPs report Feb-Mar 2017 number 93

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As part of Teach First North East's 5 year celebrations, Sharon spoke at their awards ceremony about the issue of child poverty in education. You can read her speech below.

sharon_at_teach_first.jpg

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

INTRODUCTION

Thank you for inviting me to speak today. It is an honour to be here to celebrate 5 years of Teach First here in the North East.

For me, just like everyone in this room, I see education as a crucial route out of poverty, whereby we unlock the potential of children by believing in them and offering them opportunities they might never have had, so that they can reach their full potential.

As the second President of the United States, John Adams, said: “Before any great things are accomplished, a memorable change must be made in the system of education … to raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher.”

Adams was speaking about his new fledgling country’s education system, in its widest sense, but what resonates with me in this quote is the belief that a memorable change can have such an impact on our lives, acting like a catalyst that can change the course of a child’s life for the better, if done the right way.

The facilitators of that change are teachers and everyone who works within the school environment. Each and every one of you here today can have a substantial impact on the lives of the children in your schools. That power must never be forgotten and must be realised at every opportunity available.

Whilst I am not standing here today to tell you how to do your jobs – teachers get enough of that from politicians already – what I am here to do is recognise the amazing work done day-in and day-out by teachers and how it is vital that this work is used to help alleviate poverty in our society.

Poverty is a multi-faceted and complex issue, where one fix will not address all the causes of poverty.

It goes without saying that to end poverty in our society, we need to address a whole host of issues, from low pay, to housing, to worklessness, and education should not be singled out as the silver bullet.

But what education can do is provide a vehicle out of poverty, if linked together with strategies in other places, but one thing education can do on its own is provide children, who endure poverty everyday of their childhood, with the sanctuary to escape it while still living in it, as teachers you can’t change that, but you can allow them to realise their potential and their worth without being burdened by the weight of poverty on their shoulders, in the knowledge that this gift of education can be their escape to a better, more prosperous and fulfilling life.

Regardless of what is going on down in Parliament or in government to address these issues, each and every day that a teacher walks into their classroom, they are doing what we all say we must do: break the cycle of generational poverty by inspiring children and teaching them that they have far more to offer in life, than what they may presume.  To make them believe that their future really is in their hands, that it doesn’t have to be like their past or their present.

I see this often when I visit schools in my constituency just down the road in Sunderland or when I visit schools up and down the country, but also in documentaries, such as “Educating Essex” or “Educating Yorkshire” – which show the lengths by which teachers go to transform the lives of children.

One clear example that sticks out for me, is from Educating Yorkshire, where we see Mr Burton help Musharaf, a pupil with a severe stammer, to overcome his impediment which has the triumph of Musharaf speaking in front of the whole school in assembly for the first time, with confidence and with no stammer.  

I don’t know about you, but when I watched that episode, and saw the final scenes, I was deeply moved and also humbled at the power of our education system to transform lives for the better and of course, I shed a few tears.

This power to transform a child’s life through education can be a valiant fight against poverty in our schools.

Today, there are three things that I want to talk to you about: the current state of poverty in the UK and how poverty affects education; what I have been doing during my time as a Member of Parliament, specifically around hunger – which is an all too real part of poverty in our society, and finally; how education and our schools can be a driver to alleviate poverty.

Current State of Child Poverty & impact on education

It has been estimated that in 2014-15, 3.9 million children were living in poverty – an increase of 200,000 on the previous year. As a percentage, this means out of all children in the country, 28% are living in poverty.

Here in the North East, there are approximately 132,000 children living in poverty.

These are all big numbers – unfathomable to many. But if we were to look at this matter on a micro-level, say the classroom, these figures would translate into 9 children in each classroom living in poverty.

These 9 children in your classroom will be living in difficult circumstances – I know, I was one of them – be it poor housing conditions, to a dysfunctional family environment, to looking after family members or their siblings or dealing with many of the other difficulties life throws at them without having the resilience to deal with them.

Poverty for these 9 children can also manifest itself as not having uniform changes or nice clothes for mufti-days, or money to go on school trips or to events that the school puts on, to even not having money to buy the ingredients for cookery lessons.

The persistence of poverty in our society has a knock-on effect on the education of our children.

It is a well-known fact that the most disadvantaged children are falling behind those from more affluent backgrounds.

This was clearly shown in 2015, when GCSE results were analysed and showed that 36.7% of disadvantaged pupils received 5 A* to C grades, compared with 64.7% of all pupils.

Compound this with the fact that England has a stronger correlation between parental social background and children’s test scores than many other developed countries, then it is clear that schools are a prime place for us to help alleviate some of the issues children in poverty face.

There are many more facts out there that show that poverty is impacting on the lives of children and their educational attainment. Such as the fact that only 5% of children eligible for free school meals – seen as a key determiner of poverty – gained 5 A grades at GCSE.

Or the fact, that a child living in one of England’s most disadvantaged areas is 27 times more likely to go to an inadequate school than a child living in one of the least disadvantaged.

The list of facts and figures could go on. This is one of those examples where the facts really do speak for themselves and instead of some Government heads being buried in the sand, they should be facilitating progress and improving the lives of the worst off children in our society. 

What can we do?

This is why I have been a key supporter of poverty proofing the school day, and have spoken on this matter often in the past and also worked to introduce policies that can help alleviate poverty.

This has included campaigning to introduce universal free school meals – I’ve partly succeeded and we now have Universal Infant Free School Meals, the story behind that is a speech in itself – this is so important because these meals provide children with the necessary nutrients at lunch time to help improve learning, behaviour and wellbeing.

What some people don’t realise is this meal can often be the only nutritious meal a child has in a day. With this fact in mind, this can mean that children who rely upon their free school meals can go without during the school holidays when they do not receive their free school meal. The impact this has is well-documented by teachers who see malnourished children who return from the long summer holidays having fallen behind only to improve and catch up again after a few weeks of access to free breakfasts and lunches to aid their learning.

This issue is commonly known as child holiday hunger, and is an issue which I have campaigned on for a number of years now, in my capacity as Chair of the APPG on School Food.

Some out there think that, when the school gates lock for the school holidays, it is none of our business about how a child eats, or doesn’t in some cases, when they are at home.

But children are at school for 190 days of the year, and the rest, a total of 170 days, their food is the responsibility of their parents totally.  Some may say this is right and how it should be.

But what I say, is that when children in 21st century Britain are going hungry for sustained periods, then inaction is simply not acceptable.

If we are to seriously address child poverty through education, then we cannot do it with hungry children, especially when all the hard work that goes into improving children’s life chances is reversed, if they are too hungry to learn, all because some say it is none of our business to get involved.

I have also campaigned on school uniform policies, which can be a source of contention in schools where it can be used as stealth selection or cause bullying amongst pupils, to even more inane issues which get overlooked, such as not having the right stationary, books, equipment or ingredients when a child comes to a lesson to learn.

These are only a few of the things I have campaigned on, and what we can do to help eradicate poverty from the school environment and the impact it has on a child’s attainment.

But for teachers directly, you are in the perfect position to inspire, lead and nurture children to be the best they can possibly be.

Remember the example I gave earlier from Educating Yorkshire – you too can be your own Mr Burton and change a child’s life – I’m sure you’re doing it already. It just takes passion and determination – something I know you all possess already to be here.  

Teach First is a perfect example of how we can help change the lives of children in the most deprived areas, where poverty is the most apparent.

The driving force of the charity is that every child deserves the best education possible and that a child’s socio-economic background does not disadvantage them, and you place high achieving graduates in schools where they can relish the chance to really improve the lives of children and young people.

That is why I want to thank everyone at Teach First and all of you here today for doing that – it cannot be under-valued the impact that charities such as yours are having to help raise the attainment of children in the most deprived areas of our country.

Conclusion:

I truly believe that poverty is not an inevitability – we don’t need to see poverty in our society. What poverty tells us is that we have failed as a society to address social and economic issues which cause poverty, due to a lack of political will, innovative thinking and a drive to act.

But schools and teachers are the perfect conduits for allowing us to end this issue once and for all, as long as you are supported by policymakers who create an education system and environment conducive to such work and not one that encourages more social separation and division.

Each and every person here today has the power to change a child’s life – just like Mr Burton did with Musharaf – and Mr Ridley and Miss Brown did for me - and I hope when you go back to your classrooms following today’s celebrations that you will continue to do what I know you all do anyway: inspire children, regardless of their background, to dream big and be the best they can possibly be and not allow their background to limit them.

I started with a quote, and I will end with another, this time from the inspirational former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, who in her final speech as First Lady said:

“We can be whatever we dream.”

Remember that when you go back to your classrooms and to those 9 children who live in poverty – they may not know it, but you do.

Help them realise their dreams.

Thank you. 

Sharon speaks at Teach First North East's 5 year celebration

As part of Teach First North East's 5 year celebrations, Sharon spoke at their awards ceremony about the issue of child poverty in education. You can read her speech below....

During National Apprenticeship Week, Sharon was honoured to open Unipres' new Training Academy. 

You can read Sharon's speech below. unipres.JPG

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Thank you for inviting me to be here today to mark the opening of a fantastic new facility that will kick start the careers of young people wishing to enter into engineering, for generations to come.

High-quality apprenticeships are a vital way to help young people take their first steps into working life, and offer many young people the chance to earn and learn at the same time. That is why I am always delighted when local businesses in our community provide young people with these opportunities; Unipres has a long history of doing so.

We all know it, but young people are the future. Companies like Unipres who invest in the future are not only doing right by young people in the area, but by themselves as a business, as they build a strong and sustainable future.

Today's opening is about just that. It’s about creating a space that will strengthen Unipres’ team, and one that will also create so many opportunities for young people in and around Sunderland.

Nationally we have seen a real push for apprenticeships, and this has spurred on the more forward-thinking companies to look at new ways of growing their own talent.

That is why it is excellent to see Unipres tap into this national issue with the opening of their training academy, which will not only prepare themselves to manufacture more than just car parts, but also invest more in the workforce here in Sunderland.
Businesses are fuelled by people – while machines and facilities are one part of the picture, critically it all relies upon people, skilled people, to drive business and to innovate and create.

Sunderland has that, based in part on what I believe to be the innate abilities of the people of Sunderland when it comes to manufacturing and engineering, and also the dedication of local businesses to invest in the workforce in our area.

Combine both of our natural skills and industry-led training and you have a recipe for success, and today’s opening celebrates that.

Unipres working hand in hand with the city's college and the city council to deliver this Training Academy will be a great success for our City, and I am proud to have this initiative based in my constituency.

Sunderland College, and the FE sector at large, has faced incredible scrutiny from Government over the last year or so, but its role in bringing through talented young people who are ready to take the reins from the leaders of today, cannot be underestimated.

It is heartening to see a local business that has a commitment to this city is also reflecting a commitment to localism in its work with the education sector, and I am sure it will yield a strong partnership for many years to come. We have some tremendous assets in the city, and we must encourage them to work together to deliver bigger, better things for the next generation.

The automotive sector presents a huge opportunity for Sunderland. Despite the challenges that lie ahead as we begin our exit from the European Union, we still have a strong unique selling point as an attractive and flourishing automotive hub.

What this academy does is give Sunderland a vote of confidence, which will send a clear message to other businesses that may be looking at this part of the world. What this message says is: we are open for business.

Pair this message with the planned developments, such as the IAMP not far from here, then there is a world of opportunity out there for our City.

But the Government must make sure that this work done at a local level is supported and sustainable by ensuring what goes on nationally complements this work, but also local work is not hindered as we enter the negotiations to exit the EU and then leave the EU.

As the local Member of Parliament, I am fully committed to supporting the manufacturing sector here in Sunderland – as I am sure we all are in this room today.

Today is a fantastic step for the UK automotive sector, the North East, and especially for Sunderland. It’s a credit to Unipres, and to the skills of the team at the company, who have helped create the level of confidence needed for this fantastic business to continue with its investment in our great City.

I am both proud and delighted to be here today at the opening of Unipres’ Training Academy. Congratulations and I know it will go from strength to strength.

Sharon opens Unipres' new Training Academy

During National Apprenticeship Week, Sharon was honoured to open Unipres' new Training Academy.  You can read Sharon's speech below.  CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY Thank you for inviting me to be here...

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. 

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In the last couple of weeks, I’ve moved my office onto a new improved casework system. This allows me to record correspondence from constituents and identify major issues affecting the residents of Washington and Sunderland West.

Some people may think it would be Brexit or some other big national issue. However, surprisingly one of the top issues is animal welfare.

Since 2007, I have received 1,147 letters, emails or postcards about the vast array of issues on animal welfare.

This includes dog fighting, the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses, wild animals in circuses, concerns over trophy hunting, the controversial badger culls, puppy farming, fox hunting... the list goes on and on.

This isn’t surprising. Every week I write letters to constituents about a whole host of issues, but it is clear that the people of Washington and Sunderland West are passionate animal lovers.

As a pet owner myself, I completely understand this. Animals are defenceless creatures and it is up to us to uphold our moral duty to do the right thing by them.

Recently, on one of Parliament’s sitting Fridays – where Private Members Bills are brought before Parliament by Backbench MPs to be debated – we saw three Bills on animal welfare – one on wild animals in circuses, and two on sentencing around animal cruelty.

Yet, all three were opposed by the Government despite huge public support for them.

I should know, I have had many constituents write to me about these specific Bills.

Labour has a proud track record on animal welfare issues.

We will continue to champion this record and build upon it, which I will do with renewed vigour, knowing that this is an issue which my constituents care so deeply about.

ECHO COLUMN: Why I have renewed vigour in the fight for animal welfare

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.  In the last couple of weeks, I’ve moved my office onto a new... Read more

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke in a Westminster Hall Debate on Antibiotic Resistance and the need to improve public awareness of this issue, along with research and development of new and improved antibiotics to be brought onto the market to tackle antibiotic resistance of bacteria. 

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Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2017

You can read Sharon's speech here in Hansard: Antibiotic Resistance Westminster Hall Debate 09.03.17

Speech pasted below:

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) on bringing this important debate to the House. He gave an eloquent and knowledgeable speech clearly setting out the issue and the matters to be discussed following the O’Neill review. I thank him for that.

An estimated 50,000 deaths occur every year due to untreatable infections, rising to 700,000 globally. That is why it is only right that we do all we can to address antibiotic resistance. It is believed that the number of deaths will rise to 10 million a year by 2050 if no significant action is taken. As we have heard from a number of Members, deaths from drug-resistant infections could exceed deaths from cancer.

This is an incredibly timely debate. Only a couple of weeks ago, the World Health Organisation published a list of 12 bacteria for which new antibiotics are now needed. Some strains of bacteria have built-in abilities to find new ways to fight off treatments that can then be passed on to other bacteria via genetic material to make them drug-resistant too. I find it a bit scary to consider what we are up against. This is a battle that we have to win.

I also thank other hon. Members who have spoken in this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) gave a very knowledgeable speech about the use of antibiotics in farming; other hon. Members touched on the subject as well. I really think we need to get a firm grip on it internationally, with the UK leading the way. Ten other Members spoke in this very active debate: my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron), my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma), the hon. Members for Erewash (Maggie Throup), for Bosworth (David Tredinnick), for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson), for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford), for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), and the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day), who speaks for the Scottish National party. Their speeches were all thoughtful and knowledgeable, albeit brief because of time constraints.

I will touch on two key points: raising public awareness, and supporting research and innovation to combat antibiotic resistance. It is generally accepted that antibiotic resistance is a natural process—bacteria naturally evolve to become resistant to certain drugs used to fight them off—but it has been exacerbated by humans. As Dr Hsu of the Singapore Infectious Diseases Initiative has said, the causes come down to

“a single axiom—abuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs.”​

Concerns have also been raised that the development of new antibiotic drugs has dried up, contributing to the situation. According to the World Health Organisation, we are left in a precarious position. The WHO’s director general, Dr Margaret Chan, describes antimicrobial resistance as

“a crisis that must be managed with the utmost urgency.”

That urgency applies here in the UK, too. In 2014, the chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said that

“we could be taken back to a 19th century environment where everyday infections kill us as a result of routine operations.”

We could be taken even further back: as the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton said, this could be the new black death. That is not as melodramatic a statement as people may first think. Antimicrobial resistance is a really serious problem that we need to address here and now, so that those predictions do not come true.

I do not always do this, as I am sure you have noticed, Mr Hollobone, but I must give credit to David Cameron’s coalition Government, who were global leaders when they announced Lord O’Neill’s review into antimicrobial resistance. The review’s 10 recommendations show just how complex and multifaceted the issue is and how wide-scale the actions needed to address it are. The review’s final report was published in May 2016 and the Government responded at the end of last year, so now is a good time to ask the Government for an update.

One of the review’s key recommendations was to introduce a large-scale global awareness campaign to reduce the demand from patients to be prescribed antibiotics when they are diagnosed with an illness. I am a firm believer in public awareness campaigns relating to health issues, especially cancer. My hon. Friends and I fully support such a campaign for antimicrobial resistance and we want to see the Government working hard to achieve it. The review’s recommendation was for an international awareness campaign, but what does the Minister plan to do here in the UK to complement that international work? That is a pertinent question because a 2015 Wellcome Trust study found that people in the UK did not fully understand antibiotic resistance and how it affects their health. They did not understand that antibiotic resistance is to do with the bacteria in people’s bodies, rather than a lack of antibiotics or the cost of them; it is not just a case of doctors being awkward. I would therefore be grateful if the Minister told us what relatable public awareness campaigns she is planning to ensure that people understand more about the problem and about what they can do personally.

I have already mentioned the problems with combating antibiotic resistance caused by the drying up of innovative developments in drug technologies. The O’Neill review identifies that the low commercial return on research and development for antibiotics makes them less attractive to pharmaceutical companies and reduces the chance of new drugs being developed. To reverse that situation, it recommends considering market entry rewards to encourage companies to develop new or improved drugs, especially in areas of urgent need. I hope the Minister will explore that issue further in her reply.

Public and private funding is being made available to help to combat these issues. On 20 December, the Minister referred to

“international programmes to tackle AMR, including the Fleming fund and the Global AMR innovation fund, which represent ​more than £300 million of investment over the next five years.”—[Official Report, 20 December 2016; Vol. 618, c. 1294.]

There is also the incredible work of the Longitude Prize, which is in the middle of its competition to develop

“a cheap, accurate, rapid and easy-to-use point of care test kit for bacterial infections”

to help to address antibiotic resistance. That is important work and we support it.

In summary, we cannot afford to get antimicrobial resistance wrong. Millions of lives depend on our tackling it. It is not far away; it is happening right here, right now, and it affects us all, so it is important that we do all we can to address this growing problem, both in the UK and internationally.

Antibiotic Resistance Westminster Hall Debate 07.03.17

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke in a Westminster Hall Debate on Antibiotic Resistance and the need to improve public awareness of this issue, along with research and...

In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education, Sharon will be joining an esteemed judging panel to judge a competition to redesign the British passport post-Brexit.

The unofficial competition is a way for professional designers, non-designers and students from across the UK to join a conversation on the future of Britain, post-Brexit, through the medium of art by using the British passport as the canvas.

The top prize for the winning design will be £1000, with second place winning £500 and third place winning £250.

Following the competition, the winning designs will be published in Dezeen magazine and exhibited at the Design Museum in London, with a wider selection of entries exhibited at Clerkenwell Design Week in London in May 2017.

Along with Sharon, the other judges include: Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum; Rohan Silva, founder of Second Home and former government policy advisor; Margaret Calvert, graphic designer; Oliver Wainwright, architecture and design critic for the Guardian, and; Marcus Fairs, founder and editor-in-chief of Dezeen.

The judges will be looking for a combination of a strong overall idea, good execution, practicality and a convincing justification for their design.

Sharon said:

“Creativity and artistic expression are uniting forces, and at a time when the country seems more divided than it as ever been, it is important that we all come together and look to a positive future for Britain.

“That is why I am delighted to be involved in Dezeen’s Brexit Passport competition, which aims to bring people together through the medium of art and using the canvas of what the British passport will look like once we leave the EU.

“I hope as many people as possible, including my own constituents, will get involved in this competition, from top designers to the next budding designer looking for their artistic break, and showcase to the world a positive outlook on the future of Britain, post-Brexit.”

You can read more about the competition, including rules and the entry form, by following this link: http://www.dezeen.com/passport

Sharon joins judging panel for Dezeen's Brexit Passport Competition

In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education, Sharon will be joining an esteemed judging panel to judge a competition to...

Sharon is backing the Royal Mail Children’s Stamp Competition which will see children across the country showcase their creative designs featured on the official Christmas stamp for 2017.

This will be the fourth time in Royal Mail’s history that the official Christmas stamp has been designed by children – previous years included 1966, 1981 and 2013, and this year’s stamp could be designed by a child from Washington and Sunderland West.

The theme of the competition this year is: “What does the Christmas season mean to you?”. Out of the submissions, two designs will be selected by a panel of judges and these two winning designs will feature on the 1st Class and 2nd Class stamps this Christmas.

The stamps will also be approved by the Queen herself, who approves all special stamps that go out via Royal Mail. This means the winning designs will appear on millions of letters and parcels that are sent over the Christmas period.

All entries must be received by the closing date of Friday 17th March 2017, and details about getting one of the 8,000 available resource packs can be found by visiting: www.royalmail.com/stampcompetition

Sharon said:

“Creativity is something we should always aim to nurture and support, that is why I am backing Royal Mail’s Children’s Stamp Collection so the next generation of artists and designers can have their creative visions featured up and down the country during the Christmas period this year.

“I hope that parents and primary schools in my constituency will get involved with this competition and help light the spark of creativity within our children so they can inspire to become the next top designer or famous artist, and celebrate all that the UK talent has to offer when it comes to creativity.”

 

Sharon backs Royal Mail Children's Stamp Competition

Sharon is backing the Royal Mail Children’s Stamp Competition which will see children across the country showcase their creative designs featured on the official Christmas stamp for 2017. This will...

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