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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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...
On the 18th October, Sharon joined with emergency workers - from the police, the fire service, ambulance and medical professions – to support the calls for those who protect us to be protected.
According to data from the Home Office, there were 23,000 assaults on police officers in 2016 alone – roughly 450 a week or an officer being assaulted every 22 minutes. A Police Federation welfare survey published earlier this year estimated there were nearly 6,000 assaults every day – an assault every 13 seconds, with the average police officer being assaulted 19 times a year.
NHS figures show 70,000 recorded assaults on NHS staff in England in 2016 – an increase from nearly 68,000 in 2015 and 60,000 in 2004. Figures obtained from a Freedom of Information request found that fire crews across the UK faced assaults more than ten times every week on average.
Sharon's support for our emergency workers comes ahead of Chris Bryant MP’s Private Members Bill (to be debated in Parliament on the 20th October) to create a new aggravated offence of assaulting an emergency worker. This builds on Labour’s manifesto promise in 2017 to “make it an aggravated criminal offence to attack NHS staff.”
The Bill would make offences, such as malicious wounding, grievous or actual bodily harm and common assault aggravated when perpetrated against a constable, firefighter, paramedic, nurse or people assisting these professions in the execution of their duties. The Bill would also require assailants who have spat at emergency workers to undergo blood/saliva tests.
Ahead of the debate, Sharon said:
“Our emergency workers do an amazing job to protect us by running towards danger and doing all that they can to keep us safe. It is only right that we protect those who are protecting us every day and night.
“It is shocking that men and women doing their jobs and ultimately keeping us safe are facing assault whilst on the job, with growing reports of assault and attacks in recent years. It is time that we did more to protect the protectors and I am proud to support Chris Bryant MP’s Private Members Bill on this issue.”
On the 18th October, Sharon joined with emergency workers - from the police, the fire service, ambulance and medical professions – to support the calls for those who protect us...
Sharon has dressed in pink to lend her support to Breast Cancer Now’s flagship fundraiser, wear it pink, which will see thousands of people across the UK adding a splash of pink to their outfits on Friday 20th October and raise vital funds for breast cancer research.
Sharon is encouraging her constituents to join her, and sign up to take part in the UK’s biggest pink fundraiser. The event, which takes place during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is in its 16th year and has raised over £30 million to date for Breast Cancer Now’s life-saving research.
Sharon was joined by fellow parliamentarians in Westminster earlier this month and showed her support for the thousands of women and men affected by breast cancer each year, encouraging people across the UK to take part on wear it pink day.
“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. One in eight women will face it in their life time, and every year around 11,500 women and 80 men lose their lives to the disease.
“Breast cancer affects so many people in Washington and Sunderland West, and I know from my own experience how heart breaking that can be.
“That is why, as the Co-Chair of the APPG on Breast Cancer and as a local MP, I support Breast Cancer Now’s Wear it Pink day and all the important work Breast Cancer Now does throughout the year to help stop breast cancer taking the lives of those we love.
“Wear it Pink day is a fun and easy way to raise awareness and money for vital breast cancer research.”
To find out more about Wear It Pink, you can go to Breast Cancer Now's website here.
Sharon has dressed in pink to lend her support to Breast Cancer Now’s flagship fundraiser, wear it pink, which will see thousands of people across the UK adding a splash...
On the 17th October, the Boundary Commission published their revised proposals for the boundary changes and have announced that they will be proposing that the constituency of Washington and Sunderland West remains intact, with the addition of the Sandhill ward.
Since the initial proposals, Sharon has campaigned for the five wards in Washington to remain within one constituency and for the town to have recognition in the name of a Parliamentary constituency.
This included presenting to the Boundary Commission in Newcastle on the 14th November 2016, where Sharon was the only MP from Tyne and Wear making a representation and the only elected official calling for the town to be kept within one constituency. She called on the Commission to rethink their proposal, citing emails from constituents who felt passionately about maintaining the Parliamentary representation they have had since 2010 when the town was united into one constituency.
Reacting to the Commission’s revised proposals, Sharon Hodgson MP, said:
“The new boundary proposals set out in the Boundary Commission’s revised proposals are fantastic and I am delighted that the campaigning by myself and many Washington residents has proven worthwhile and seen the town’s importance recognised by the Boundary Review, after their shocking decision to split the town across three constituencies.
“At the time, it was deeply disappointing to see this important town’s Parliamentary representation watered down, including no name recognition in any of the three proposed constituencies. The people of Washington are very proud of their area and it is important that their concerns were raised; that is why I went to the Commission’s public meeting last November and called for the town to remain united within one constituency.
“The new changes now keep the Washington and Sunderland West constituency completely intact, with the inclusion of the Sandhill area of Sunderland, and maintains the long and proud heritage of the two areas. These are still only proposals, that is why it is important that residents of Washington and Sunderland West make their support for this plan known to the Commission so that they do not change their minds during the final stages of the review.”
- The Boundary Commission will now undertake a final consultation on the revised proposals which will run for 8-weeks, from the 17th October to 11th December 2017. These views will help form the final decisions made by the Commission. To submit views on the revised proposals, local residents can go to the Commission’s website and submit their views. The link to the website is: www.bce2018.org.uk
- You can read Sharon Hodgson MP’s contribution to the public hearing in Newcastle on the 14th November 2016, by following this link and going to page 43: https://boundarycommissionforengland.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/FINAL-BC-Newcastle-20161114-with-index.pdf
On the 17th October, the Boundary Commission published their revised proposals for the boundary changes and have announced that they will be proposing that the constituency of Washington and Sunderland...
This week saw the commemoration of Baby Loss Awareness Week (9th October – 15th October) with many events in Parliament.
As part of the week, Sharon attended the Baby Loss APPG reception where MPs heard many accounts from families affected by baby loss, including Emma who gave a heartfelt account of losing her baby, Oscar, which nobody will forget. This was as well as attending the General Debate on Baby Loss and the remembrance service in the Chapel of St Mary of Undercroft.
Many families will be affected by the loss of a baby and it is important that bereavement support is on offer to families to cope with such a loss at whatever stage it occurs from very early pregnancy through perinatal to neonatal and beyond; this was the theme of this year’s awareness week.
The week provides people with the chance to raise awareness of issues around pregnancy and baby loss in the UK and is a collaboration between more than 40 charities.
Following the week’s events, Sharon said:
“As someone who has experienced the loss of a baby, this is an issue very close to my heart and it is important for MPs to work together to raise awareness of such issues, especially ones which can prove difficult to talk about to show that people are not alone in coping with the sad loss of a baby. I was proud to once again show my support and I thank everyone who made it such a special and memorable week.”
To find out more about Baby Loss Awareness Week, you can visit the Baby Loss Awareness Week website here: https://babyloss-awareness.org/
There will also be a global wave of light at 7pm on the 15th October (which coincides with International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day), where people will share a photo of a lit candle on social media and take a moment to remember. You can read more about this by following this link: https://babyloss-awareness.org/get-involved/#wave-light
This week saw the commemoration of Baby Loss Awareness Week (9th October – 15th October) with many events in Parliament. As part of the week, Sharon attended the Baby Loss...
Sharon signed up to support the UK’s drowning prevention charity in its work to reduce drowning and provide water safety education and lifesaving awards across the UK and Ireland.
Representatives from The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) made the trip to Parliament ahead of its annual national Don’t Drink and Drown campaign which, this year, runs from December 4 to the 10.
Sharon Hodgson MP was invited to find out more about the charity and its work, and learnt shocking statistics about alcohol and drug related drownings.
An average of 73 people a year, the equivalent of one in every five, who lose their lives to drowning have alcohol or drugs in their system. Those most at risk include 17 to 29-year-olds, 45- 49-year-olds and 60 to 64-year-olds, particularly males.
In Tyne and Wear, there have been 30 accidental drownings between 2012 and 2016, 10 of which involved alcohol.
“Too often in our local area we hear of the lives lost because of accidental drowning. That is why water safety is such an important issue to me and why I want to raise awareness of campaigns like the RLLS UK’s Don’t Drink and Drown campaign.
“Raising awareness of the risks of drowning is crucial in reducing the number of people who lose their lives in the water every year, especially following drinking. That is why I am pleased to sign the pledge to support the RLSS UK in their aim to reduce the rate of drowning in the UK and will continue to raise awareness of the risks of drowning in our local area.”
The RLSS UK works tirelessly to promote drowning prevention messages and deliver water safety education nationally, as well as offering a range of awards and programmes that teach lifesaving skills to all ages.
Sharon signed up to support the UK’s drowning prevention charity in its work to reduce drowning and provide water safety education and lifesaving awards across the UK and Ireland. Representatives...
Read Sharon's latest Echo column below or find it on the Sunderland Echo website.
As Parliament returns from summer recess, Brexit has dominated not only the headlines but the Parliamentary agenda too as we began the passage of the Great Repeal Bill (now known as the EU Withdrawal Bill).
This Bill has received a lot of interest, especially from those concerned that it was to block Brexit.
The simple answer is no, it was not.
We are leaving the EU come March 2019, as was decided during the referendum and endorsed by the Parliamentary vote in March to trigger Article 50 – which I voted for.
However, the Bill put before Parliament was a power grab by Tory ministers to cut Parliament out of the process and give ministers unfettered power to change laws as we convert EU legislation into British law without any scrutiny by Parliament, laws such as workers’ rights to animal welfare and environmental protections.
Since the General Election in June, the Tories have been acting as if they won a huge majority.
That is far from the reality of it with Theresa May relying on the help of the DUP to stay in Number 10.
Parliament is the centre of our democracy and should not be side-lined.
I take my role in Parliament very seriously, including when it comes to Brexit and ensuring the best deal possible for our area.
To remove all accountability and scrutiny of the Government by Parliament is something that I could not support.
This is why I could not vote for the Bill in its current form this week and will work with colleagues across the House to improve the Bill as it continues its passage through Parliament.
As I have said before: Brexit is one of the biggest political, economic and diplomatic issues this country will face – this has not changed.
It is crucial that Parliament is consulted by the Government, instead of railroaded as ministers grab powers to rewrite legislation without scrutiny.
No Government, especially a minority government, should hold such powers.
It is important that our democracy is not watered down and just as I consulted with constituents and promised to continue listening to their views during this process, so should the Government with Parliament.
Parliament is elected by the people to hold the Government to account and pass and amend legislation.
This Bill, in its current form, is an affront to democracy.
Read Sharon's latest Echo column below or find it on the Sunderland Echo website. As Parliament returns from summer recess, Brexit has dominated not only the headlines but the Parliamentary...
Over the 2017 summer holidays, Northumbria University conducted a mapping exercise into holiday hunger provision across the United Kingdom.
Their findings found:
- A rise in the number of organisations delivering holiday hunger clubs since 2015 with a sharp rise in the establishment of new holiday clubs in 2017.
- The regions of the UK with the greatest number of responses to the survey are the North East of England, London and Scotland.
- Over two thirds of organisations surveyed do not charge for their holiday club provision.
- The majority of organisations provide food and a range of activities for children.
- Voluntary or community based groups and church or faith groups together make up over half of all holiday club providers.
- The majority of organisations rely on both paid and volunteer staff and partner with other organisations or agencies to deliver this provision.
- Holiday clubs are available to children of all ages but organisations predominately focus their provision on primary school aged children (5 – 11 year olds).
Over the past five years, Sharon Hodgson MP, has campaigned on the issue of child hunger issues, including holiday hunger, including the commissioning of the first mapping exercise in the summer of 2016 as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food.
In response to the latest information released on the holiday hunger situation in the UK, Sharon, said:
“It is deeply concerning to see that holiday hunger provision this summer has increased so drastically compared to last summer, especially with some of the greatest number of responses to Northumbria University’s survey coming from the North East.
“The staff and volunteers who help provide this vital support to families over the summer holidays should be thanked profusely for doing such an amazing job, but it is high time that the Government seriously addressed this issue once and for all.
“The Government must acknowledge this is becoming an ever-more serious issue in our country and come up with policy to tackle this issue. By continuing to put their heads in the sand, they are letting down generations of children who deserve the best start in life, no matter what their background or circumstances. The time to act is now.”
You can see the full report from Northumbria University here: http://www.frankfield.co.uk/upload/docs/Holiday%20Club%20Survey%202017.pdf
Over the 2017 summer holidays, Northumbria University conducted a mapping exercise into holiday hunger provision across the United Kingdom. Their findings found: A rise in the number of organisations delivering...