Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

News from Westminster

Sharon has backed calls from leading charity Diabetes UK for sustained funding to continue improving treatments and care for people with diabetes.

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The charity carried out a consultation with 9,000 people of different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds from across the UK, who shared their experiences of living with diabetes today, and what their hopes and fears were for the future.

Participants identified a number of ways that would make living with diabetes more manageable, including making support for emotional and psychological health more widely available, and better access to healthcare professionals, new technologies and treatments. Respondents also said that they wanted to see better education and information about managing diabetes, and greater support and understanding for people with diabetes at work and at school.

People said they hoped in the future to see more research into a cure, better treatments for all types of diabetes, and to see more done to prevent Type 2 diabetes.

These findings informed Diabetes UK’s new Future of Diabetes report, which was launched at a reception at Parliament on World Diabetes Day (14th November).

In response, Diabetes UK is urging the Government to radically improve health outcomes for people with diabetes, by committing to sustaining transformation funding at current levels of £44 million until at least 2021. The charity is also calling on the Government to challenge the food and drink industry to make their products healthier, build on the work outlined by the Childhood Obesity Plan, and commit to specific measures on front-of-pack food labelling, and tackling junk food marketing to children.

Sharon said:

“For someone living with diabetes, the condition affects all aspects of their lives: at home with family, mealtimes, work, exercise and socialising. It can make it hard to live with spontaneity and hope. Lack of understanding about diabetes in the health service, in the workplace, at school and in society generally can lead to people feeling isolated, misunderstood and stigmatised.

“We must listen to what people with diabetes are telling us. Their needs and experiences must be central to the care and support they receive. And by working together we can tackle the issues that matter.

“I will do all I can to ensure all my constituents are supported with their diabetes and that those at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes know what they can do to reduce this risk.”

Diabetes affects more than 4.5 million people in the UK and the number of people living with diabetes is rising fast. Every day, around 700 people are diagnosed with diabetes. That’s one person every two minutes.

Diabetes UK is inviting everyone to join in creating a better future for people with diabetes by campaigning for change, raising awareness and bringing people together. To find out more and for a copy of the Future of Diabetes report go to www.diabetes.org.uk/future-diabetes

SHARON BACKS DIABETES UK'S CALLS FOR A CHANGE IN FUTURE OF DIABETES

Sharon has backed calls from leading charity Diabetes UK for sustained funding to continue improving treatments and care for people with diabetes. The charity carried out a consultation with 9,000...

In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon has written a letter to Boots' Managing Director, Elizabeth Fagan, signed by over 130 Labour MPs highlighting their dismay that Boots have not fulfilled their promise to provide cheaper and more affordable emergency contraception to women.

Sharon alongside other Labour MPs pressed Boots for action on affordable contraception and have expressed their disappointment at the pharmacy’s failure to deliver on their pledge to women and their reproductive rights.

In response to lobbying from MPs, healthcare charities, and members of the public, Boots said in July that they were looking to source less expensive emergency contraception medicines for their customers.

In August, the company stated they had started to offer a £15.99 product in 38 stores and would be “able to offer this across all stores in October 2017.”

However, Boots have now confirmed that they are only providing the cheaper version in an additional 31 stores, bringing the total to just 69 of their nearly 2,500 shops. A number of the stores Boots have listed as selling the £15.99 product do not appear to have this in stock. In the letter, MPs state they are “dismayed” by Boots’ failure to “live up to their clear commitment to women.”

Boots have cited “supply chain delays” as the reason for their inability to roll out a more affordable product. Yet MPs have stated that it is “difficult to understand” how Boots – “our leading high street pharmacy, who states they have a commitment to women’s health and wellbeing” – have been unable to do so when the vast majority of their high street competitors have been offering less expensive options for a number of months.

In their letter to Managing Director Elizabeth Fagan, MPs say they are “deeply concerned that Boots are unable or unwilling to deliver” on their pledge, and call on the pharmacy chain to consider reducing the price of their own-brand emergency contraception, currently priced at around £26, if they are indeed experiencing difficulties sourcing another version.

The letter also highlights that pharmacy access to EC is of an even greater importance in December and January, as GP and family planning clinic closures mean that many women struggle to access contraceptive services and their usual family planning method over the festive period. Boots have made no commitment on a timescale for the much-delayed full roll out of the more affordable emergency contraception.

Sharon said:

“It is dismaying that Boots have not fulfilled their promise from earlier this year to provide cheaper, more affordable emergency contraception to women by October.

“Whilst Boots say they have started the process of rolling out this product in the stores, the progress they have made so far can only be described as a drop in the ocean with a long way to go before it is accessible in each of their 2,500 stores across the country.

“As we enter the festive period – where women struggle to access contraceptive services and their usual family planning methods – it is crucial that Boots get their act together and roll out this cheaper emergency contraception as promised earlier in the year.”

You can read the letter here.

SHARON LEADS LABOUR'S CALL FOR BOOTS TO FULFIL PROMISE ON EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION

In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon has written a letter to Boots' Managing Director, Elizabeth Fagan, signed by over 130 Labour MPs highlighting their dismay that...

At an event in Parliament, Sharon gave her backing to the launch of National Autism Project’s Autism Agenda.

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There are an estimated 700,000 autistic people living in the UK with approximately one-third of autistic people having a learning disability and 80% at some point in their life suffering from a mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression.

The Autism Agenda showcases the National Autism Project’s recommendations to highlight barriers that autistic people face and how these can be addressed. These recommendations include timely identification and diagnosis, removing barriers to accessing social care and fighting stigma and discrimination.

Alongside the National Autism Project, the National Autistic Society, Autistica and the Autism Alliance, as well as the Westminster Commission on Autism, supported the Autism Agenda report and its recommendation.  

Following the event, Sharon said:

“It was great to attend National Autism Project’s Autism Agenda launch in Parliament and offer my backing to such an important cause. It is important that the needs of those living with autism is supported, especially the need for more awareness and understanding of this condition and the lack of access to services to ensure a decent quality of life. This is something I feel passionately about and hope to see more work done in the future to support autistic people.” 

SHARON SUPPORTS THE AUTISM AGENDA IN PARLIAMENT

At an event in Parliament, Sharon gave her backing to the launch of National Autism Project’s Autism Agenda. There are an estimated 700,000 autistic people living in the UK with...

On 31st October, Sharon attended the Living Wage Foundation’s reception and pledged to encourage local businesses to become living wage employers.

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The real living wage, which is calculated annually by the Resolution Foundation and overseen by the Living Wage Commission, is £8.45 across the UK and £9.75 in London.

Unlike the national minimum wage, the real living wage is calculated according to the cost of living.

The real living wage is a voluntary scheme, but there are 3,592 accredited living wage employers nationally, including well known household brands such as Nationwide, British Gas and Nestle.

In Washington and Sunderland West, 12% of workers earn less than the real living wage. This means that they are paid much less than necessary to keep up with the ever increasing cost of living.

Currently, 26.1% of children in Washington and Sunderland West are growing up in poverty. Paying employees, the real living wage could help lift working families out of poverty.

Following the event, Sharon said:

“In-work poverty and poor pay are becoming ever-more endemic in our society. This is why I am a supporter of the real living wage. It is important that employers recognise the benefits of paying the real living wage, not only for their employees but also for their business and wider society. That is why I support the Living Wag Foundation’s campaign to ensure that employees get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and have pledged to encourage as many businesses in the constituency as possible to become living wage employers.”

SHARON ENCOURAGES LOCAL BUSINESSES TO BECOME LIVING WAGE EMPLOYERS

On 31st October, Sharon attended the Living Wage Foundation’s reception and pledged to encourage local businesses to become living wage employers. The real living wage, which is calculated annually by...

Sharon has criticised the Government’s failures to bring down the maximum allowed stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to £2.

Sharon and other Labour MPs have campaigned for many years to tighten control on FOBTs gaming machines which have been described as the “crack cocaine of gambling” and have caused huge damages to families and communities across the country.

FOBTs machines allow users to gamble up to £100 every 20 seconds, which can lead to huge losses, wider societal issues and family breakdown. British gambles lost a total of £1.7 billion on FOBTs in 2015, and 11.5% of all FOBTs users are serious gambling addicts.

Following a much delayed review, and sustained pressure from the Labour Party and gambling campaigners, the Government have announced a further consultation on the maximum stake allowed on FOBTs, rather than take firm action to curb addictive machines.

Restrictions on the machines would have a huge positive impact on the local area. Figures compiled for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling estimate that there are 51 FOBTs in Washington and Sunderland West alone, with local residents losing £1,602,254 between 2015-16 and a total of £10,855,045 between 2008 and 2016.

Sharon said:

“It is a deeply disappointing move from the Government, who appear unaware to the concerns raised by campaigners and others who have been telling the Government for years that they must do something about these highly addictive machines.

“Families across the country, and here in Washington and Sunderland West, have been devastated by the effects of gambling addiction which is too often accompanied by theft and drug and alcohol abuse.

“Reducing the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2 will make all our communities safer and better off and it’s now up to the Government to reconsider its approach and take firm action now.”

SHARON CALLS OUT GOVERNMENT'S MISSED OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE GAMBLING SAFER

Sharon has criticised the Government’s failures to bring down the maximum allowed stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to £2. Sharon and other Labour MPs have campaigned for...

Sharon has lent her support to a Private Members Bill which will reduce the voting age from 18 to 16.

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On Friday 3rd November, the Bill – presented to Parliament by Jim McMahon MP - will have its Second Reading and will place a requirement on Returning Officers to ensure reasonable steps are taken to register new voters and a requirement on schools to provide education on democracy and citizenship to improve our democracy.

By reducing the voting age to 16, an extra 1.5 million people will be able to vote, therefore giving young people the ability to influence politicians on the issues that affect their lives. It is estimated that 1,390 16 and 17 year olds in Washington and Sunderland West would be affected by this change.

The Bill has cross-party support and is backed by the Votes at 16 Coalition, a campaign group made up of over 60 organisations including the British Youth Council, National Union of Students and the Electoral Reform Society.

Sharon Hodgson MP said:

“Through-out my time in Parliament, I have been a supporter of votes at 16, understanding that young people are concerned about the issues that affect them and want to have their voices heard on policies that will impact their lives and I always enjoy meeting young people to discuss democracy and the importance of voting.

“It is time for the Government to recognise the importance of listening to the voices of young people and allow them to participate, contribute and engage in our democratic processes. The time has come for votes at 16 and I am glad to be supporting Jim McMahon’s Bill.”

SHARON SAYS THE TIME HAS COME FOR VOTES AT 16

Sharon has lent her support to a Private Members Bill which will reduce the voting age from 18 to 16. On Friday 3rd November, the Bill – presented to Parliament...

Sharon met firefighters in Westminster this week to recognise and celebrate the invaluable work they do keeping our communities safe.

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“Love Your Firefighters”, hosted by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), was attended by more than 70 MPs who met firefighters and union officials.

MPs were asked to support investment into the fire and rescue service by the FBU General Secretary, Matt Wrack. He urged MPs to take the message back to their constituents that the maintenance of a world class, professional fire and rescue service is something that all political parties should support.

At the event, two films were shown. ‘Operator’ (bit.ly/2dtilVA) won the Bafta short film award last year (2016) for its depiction of a control room operator taking an emergency fire call.  ‘The Firefighters’ Dilemma’ (bit.ly/2sek2dr) was made this year to convey the stress fire crews are under when they turn out to a fire and have to wait for a second fire engine before entering the premises. 

Following the event, Sharon said:

“It was a privilege to meet and support some of our country’s firefighters when they came to Parliament and recognise the invaluable, challenging and brave work that they do every day to keep us safe.

“This was clearly seen at the beginning of the summer when we saw firefighters responding to the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, where their training and professionalism was tested to the limit, yet they did all that they could to save those caught in the fire. I am proud to support my local firefighters, in the interest of both the public’s and firefighter’s safety.”

SHARON SUPPORTS FIREFIGHTERS IN WESTMINSTER

Sharon met firefighters in Westminster this week to recognise and celebrate the invaluable work they do keeping our communities safe. “Love Your Firefighters”, hosted by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU),...

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

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There are a lot of issues going on in Parliament at the moment, but one of the biggest is the serious flaws around Universal Credit – the Tories’ flag-ship reforms to the welfare system.

Labour support the original proposal of Universal Credit and making the system simpler, yet, the reality has led to serious concerns about how the system is working.

It has been estimated that where Universal Credit is in operation that one in four new claims are not meeting the six-week payment period, which is driving up debt, arrears and in some cases, evictions.

This is backed by 42% of families who are on Universal Credit saying that they are only in arrears because of the flaws of the system; from waiting times to receive their payments, support being delayed or stopped or administrative errors in the system.

Even in Newcastle where this policy is being trialled, a report by the council has shown serious problems emerge, including £1.2 million rise in rent arrears and the Leader of the Council saying that Universal Credit is returning the city to the days of Cathy Come Home.

The evidence stacks up and shows just how flawed this policy is.

This is even more concerning when the Government have begun to push ahead with their roll-out of these plans, which has seen a rapid increase in the number of Jobcentres brought under the programme to 50 a month – Sunderland will start using Universal Credit for all claimants in May 2018.

This is why last week the Labour Party forced a vote to pause and fix Universal Credit to ensure that it doesn’t push more and more people into poverty and sticks to its original intentions to support people when they face hardship and help them back into work.

Unfortunately, when it came to voting on this issue the Tories couldn’t be bothered to show up and instead abstained on the vote; ignoring the many campaigners who are concerned about this policy and their constituents who will be suffering under this badly-developed policy.

It is time that the Tories pulled their heads out of the sand and realise just how serious this issue is becoming and fix it before more people are pushed into poverty.

ECHO COLUMN: Universal Credit will cause more poverty if not fixed

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website.  There are a lot of issues going on in Parliament at the moment, but one of the...

Sharon has urged residents across Washington and Sunderland West who are at risk of getting flu to get their free vaccine jab before winter sets in as it emerged that 36,397 missed out on protection last year across Sunderland.

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Flu vaccination rates continue to climb across the country, but remain lower than ideal in many areas.

Sharon's call comes as the Chief Medical Officer warned that flu and complications associated with it cause 8,000 deaths on average a year in England - around 6,000 of which are people with existing heart and lung conditions.

And official figures show that just under 2.9m bed days were lost to flu and pneumonia last year in English hospitals, up almost 280,000 from the previous year – an 11% increase.

In the Washington and Sunderland area last year:

  • 13,473 older people missed out on their jab, and among over-65s with long-term condition which make them more vulnerable to the effects of flu, just 48% were vaccinated.
  • A further 16,624 working age people with long-term conditions also didn’t get the vaccine.
  • Thousands of young children (2-4 year olds) also didn’t get the vaccine, including 124 who were classed as being at greater risk.
  • 1215 pregnant women with no long-term conditions and 138 pregnant women with long-term conditions also didn’t get protected.

Sharon said: “We all try to avoid getting the flu during the cold winter months, as it can knock us all off our feet for a couple of days. That is why it is important that we all get vaccinated to protect ourselves from the flu. It is especially important for older people and those with long-term conditions in particular to get vaccinated as flu can cause serious health problems.

“Getting the flu jab is easy and offers the best chance of avoiding the flu and for those who are eligible, they can get it for free. I hope as many people from our local area will get vaccinated this winter and go and speak to your GP or local pharmacist about getting vaccinated before the cold weather sets in.”

This year, more people than ever – around 21 million - will be offered the vaccination. Children in school year 4 will be offered the vaccine for the first time and children over age 4 in reception year can get their vaccine in school. 

A £10m programme will also see a free vaccination offered to all care home workers via their GP or pharmacist. Official figures show that older people are three times as likely to be admitted to hospital with flu if they live in a care home, with emergency flu and pneumonia admissions from care homes jumping by 16% last year alone to around 29,000.

The national drive marks the start of the Public Health England and NHS England’s joint Stay Well This Winter campaign, which helps the most vulnerable people prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital due to common winter illnesses. 

More information on eligibility for the flu jab, and other tips on staying well this winter, can be found at www.nhs.uk/staywell

Sharon urges constituents to stay well this winter by getting a flu jab

Sharon has urged residents across Washington and Sunderland West who are at risk of getting flu to get their free vaccine jab before winter sets in as it emerged that...

On the 18th October, Sharon attended a meeting - organised by Gloria De Piero MP - for Labour MPs from coalfield areas, the National Union of Minerworkers and trustees of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme and has hailed it as a success.

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The aim of the meeting was to discuss with the trustees of the pension scheme about if they would support a renegotiation of the pension’s surplus sharing arrangement, which currently sees the Government pocketing 50% of any surplus that the pension investments make.

The Government has made £3.4 billion directly from the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme, but has not paid in a penny, and is still making £51million a year from the arrangement.

None of the surplus has been distributed out to the mineworkers in the pension scheme.

During the meeting, it was agreed that all would work together to present a case to the Treasury for a review of the surplus sharing arrangement scheme and protection of existing bonus payments for scheme members. The next step will be to collate the financial information needed so the case can be presented to Treasury ministers and officials.

Following the meeting, Sharon, said:

“It is shameful that the Government are pocketing so much of the surplus made from the mineworkers’ pension scheme, yet have not contributed in any way to the pot of money along with scheme members not benefitting from the surplus growth.

“This is a complete disregard for mineworkers and their families who rely upon this pension to support themselves and it is welcome that there is an agreement between Labour MPs, the NUM and the trustees of the pension scheme to make a strong case to ministers to review the current arrangements and end this injustice.” 

SHARON HAILS MEETING WITH MINER’S PENSION SCHEME A SUCCESS

On the 18th October, Sharon attended a meeting - organised by Gloria De Piero MP - for Labour MPs from coalfield areas, the National Union of Minerworkers and trustees of...

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