In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon has welcomed Labour's announcement on free school meals for all primary school children, and said:
“Lunchtime can often be an overlooked part of the school day; which can continue to ignore the growing problem in society where more and more children are going to school hungry and are unprepared to learn because they do not have the nutrients in them to fuel their bodies and minds.
“Many of those children must wait until lunchtime to get their free school meal, whilst some will not at all and will instead pay for their meals or opt for packed lunches which have been proven to lack any nutritional value to support a child’s learning. This policy allows for all children to reap the educational, behavioural and health benefits which come from having a hot and healthy school meal.
“Universalism is a proud tradition of the Labour Party and it is welcome that school food provision will now be a part of that important approach, continuing the important work the last Labour Government did when we introduced the universal free school meal pilots in Durham and Newham and had a fully-costed plan to roll this out to other areas post-2010, which was sadly scrapped by the incoming Tory-led Coalition Government.
“This policy will not only allow those children who are already on free school meals to see the stigma associated with these meals eradicated, but also the two thirds of children living in poverty who are actually in working households, known as the working poor, who will benefit from free school meals when they couldn’t before because they were just above the thresholds, and all other children who will benefit from access to a healthy meal that will aid their learning and help complement the whole school approach to food that has been pushed for since the publication of the School Food Plan.
“This policy announcement provides us with the space to continue our concerted campaigning for other improvements including access to breakfast clubs which have been shown to be the most beneficial intervention to support a child’s education, child holiday hunger which was first identified 111 years ago and unmet can reverse the many positive interventions seen throughout the school year, and wider household food insecurity which is a growing issue in society. This policy announcement is to be strongly welcomed.”
Notes to Editors:
Sharon has been the Chair of the School Food APPG for 7 years, and has campaigned on universal free school meals for over 10 years.
This has included being an integral part in pushing for the universal free school meal pilots in Durham and Newham in 2009, playing a key role in influencing the School Food Plan which recommended universal free school meals when the funding could be found in 2013, and then in 2015, to save Universal Infant Free School Meals when they were under-threat by the then Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan MP, in the lead-up to the 2015 Autumn Statement and Comprehensive Spending Review, when Sharon got the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, to commit at the Despatch Box to protect this policy for the duration of the Parliament.
You can read more about Sharon’s campaigning journey and some of the work she has been doing on this issue, by reading these two speeches from 2010 and 2015:
Recent research by St Mary's University showed that using free school meals as a poverty indicator may not be the most accurate measure of children in poverty, as two-thirds of children living in poverty come from families with at least one parent working; therefore they are not eligible for free school meals however, this policy would be most helpful to the children of the working poor in particular as it would allow those children who do not meet the current eligibility to take advantage of free school meals. Further info available here.
In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon has welcomed Labour's announcement on free school meals for all primary school children, and said: “Lunchtime...
In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon is calling on as many party members, charities and health organisations as possible to contribute to Labour’s Health and Social Care Policy Commission consultation document, especially on public health issues.
Public health policy will play a key part in Labour’s Health and Social Care policy development with specific questions around how to address health inequalities in our society, how to support parents to improve children’s health, tackling the obesity crisis facing the country, what we can learn from devolved countries, and specific health issues facing specific groups in society, especially LGBT and BAME communities.
Recent studies found that when £1 is invested in public health, we can see an estimated £14 return on that investment – showing just how important it is to invest in our public health services, not only for the health of individuals and the nation, but also our NHS. Improving public health investment will help to see issues addressed at source rather than later downstream when treatment can be costlier and less successful.
In NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, public health and prevention was to have a radical upgrade, and in the Refresh document published in March 2017, welcome measures were announced but public health was buried in the back of the document with efficiencies and cost saving measures; rather than being one of the key measures to improve the sustainability of our NHS.
This radical upgrade has been undermined by the current Tory Government, who have cut public health spending cut by £200 million with year on year cuts in each year of this Parliament. This means public health spending is expected to fall by around £600 million.
“Ensuring effective and high-quality public health and health prevention services are crucial components to Labour’s approach to the health of our country; not only does improved public health services make our country healthier but it can support the sustainability of our NHS and how it functions.
“Evidence has shown that investment in public health can have serious benefits to our nation, yet, sadly, public health has not been supported in the way it should be by the Tories – with public health taking a back seat in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View Refresh and the damaging cuts seen to public health since 2015, which are expected to continue in each year of this Parliament.
“That is why it is important that Labour hears from party members, health specialists and health organisations and charities about how we best approach public health policy, and this consultation document is perfect way to hear those views. Labour knows how important it is never to take our nation’s health for granted and it is up to us to ensure people lead healthier lives, but that future generations are healthier than the last and we have a healthy and sustainable NHS going into the future.”
To read and find out more about the Health and Social Care Policy Commission’s consultation document, follow this link: http://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/agenda-2020/commissions/health-and-social-care/npf-consultation-2017-health-and-social-care
The consultation is open until Wednesday 31st May.
You can also read a speech Sharon gave to the North East branch of the Socialist Health Association on public health to find out more about Labour’s approach to public health by following this link: http://www.sharonhodgson.org/drt/sharon_speaks_at_the_north_east_s_socialist_health_association_s_seminar_on_public_health
In her capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon is calling on as many party members, charities and health organisations as possible to contribute to Labour’s Health and Social...
Read my latest Sunderland Echo column below or find it on the Sunderland Echo website.
The last week has been dominated by the news of the London terror attack last week.
As people went about their daily lives – with tourists taking in the sights of London and Parliament voting on the Pensions Schemes Bill – terror befell the capital and the world watched as Parliament entered lockdown.
Thankfully due to the amazing reactions of our police and security personnel, Parliament was quickly secured and the terrorist was swiftly dealt with.
But sadly, in the moments before that happened, we saw many innocent people injured, some resulting in deaths, including that of Pc Keith Palmer, who bravely and selflessly defended our democracy and the many thousands of people who call Parliament their workplace, including myself and my team.
The gratitude towards our emergency services, from the police to NHS staff, could never be expressed enough, for their duty of running towards the danger whilst telling everyone else to go the opposite way, and of course to my parliamentary colleague, Tobias Ellwood, MP, who did all he could to save the life of Pc Keith Palmer, as did Tony Davis, the local boxing coach from Low Fell, who is now living in Darlington, who was one of the first on the scene, again running into possible danger to help.
Many words of reassurance have been said since last Wednesday, and in the days and weeks ahead, our emotions will run high and people will be understandably anxious about what this all means. I want to echo the words of many others, and say: we must never let terror win.
It will be hard, but we must continue with life as normal. Not as a way to forget what has happened, but as a display of defiance against such evil acts. We must maintain our resolve to uphold our freedoms and not give in to those who wish to destroy our way of life.
That is why the day after the attack took place, myself and my team were back to work early that morning doing the jobs that we were there to do and standing strong against the adversity of the day before.
And in the days following, I continued to meet with constituents and honoured all appointments in my diary, prepared for speeches in the Chamber for this week on various topics, from rare genetic diseases to local HIV services, and responded to constituent’s correspondence – as I do every day.
Primarily our thoughts must be with those affected by this horrific attack, especially Pc Keith Palmer’s family. But we must continue on as we always do; because not doing so, will let the terrorists win and we can never let that happen.
Read my latest Sunderland Echo column below or find it on the Sunderland Echo website. The last week has been dominated by the news of the London terror attack last...
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 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.
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
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.
“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
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...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
Parliament is currently dominated by Brexit as we continue the process of passing the Article 50 Bill which will see Parliament allow the Government to trigger Article 50 in March; however, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other issues going on which are just as important.
Last week, I attended a debate on Maintained Nursery Schools and the worry is that this jewel in the crown of our education system is under threat from this Government’s changes to the Early Years Funding Formula.
Here in Sunderland, we are lucky to have nine good nursery schools providing for the local communities, with four in my own patch in Washington and Sunderland West. H
owever, there are concerns that the changes in the funding for Nursery Schools here in Sunderland could drop from £5.38 an hour to £5.11. It may seem like a small change, but it is the difference between survival and closure for many nursery schools.
I have always been a champion of improving our early year’s education in this country. Giving children the best start in life is paramount to improving social mobility and giving all children the opportunity in life to achieve great things.
There has also been a lot going on regarding cancer in Parliament, and in my capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, I have been working hard on this issue especially in the lead up to World Cancer Day (which took place last weekend).
Firstly, we had a debate on Kadcyla – a breast cancer drug which can extend terminally-ill women’s life for many months, sometimes years – which is being removed by NICE and then research by Cancer Research UK released last week showed the impact that inaction on prevention measures – such as smoking and obesity – could mean more women developing cancer faster than men in the next 20 years.
Brexit may be taking all the headlines, but this Government is implementing policy decisions that if not addressed in a sensible way, will have ramifications on the long-term health of our country.
In my last few columns, I have mentioned that I am holding public meetings in my constituency to talk about Brexit. I recently launched my Brexit Listening Exercise, along with a questionnaire, and held the first of two public meetings last month and the next will be on February 25 in South Hylton. If you’re a constituent, please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0191 417 2000 to register.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. Parliament is currently dominated by Brexit as we continue the process of...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
Over the Christmas period, many of us would have spent much of our time with loved ones celebrating everything the holidays have to offer. Yet, this wouldn’t have been the case for many people who suffer from loneliness.
Over 9 million of us say we are or are often lonely, but almost two thirds feel uncomfortable admitting it. We shouldn’t; loneliness affects us all at some point in our lives. From moving out of home and to a new area, to becoming a new mum and struggling with the change in life or getting older and losing contact with friends and family.
There are small and simple ways we can reach out to others. Instead of walking by, we can smile and say hello to a neighbour or decide to ring an elderly loved one who you may not have spoken to in a while.
Even the #joinin hashtag on Twitter over Christmas, promoted by local comedian, Sarah Millican, showed how taking an interest in another person’s life can be transformative, help fight loneliness and shows how isolation affects many different people.
Two Christmas ago, I backed Age UK’s loneliness campaign in this column and just over a year later, it is important we all recommit our efforts to ending isolation and loneliness in our communities.
That is why I am supporting the Jo Cox Commission into Loneliness, which will be spearheaded by Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP. This commission was the brainchild of our late colleague, Jo Cox, and will be in memory of Jo and her desire to tackle isolation and loneliness in our society.
The Commission will be all about action, rather than being a talking shop. This work is something we can all get behind and come up with ways to address loneliness.
I commend both Rachel and Seema for taking up the mantle from our late friend, Jo, and continuing her work.
In my column at the end of last year, I mentioned that I would be holding public meetings in my constituency to talk about Brexit. I recently launched my Brexit Listening Exercise, with the first of two public meetings this weekend, and the second in February.
For those who cannot make it to the meetings, I have also launched a questionnaire for people to feed in their views to me. The response has been phenomenal, and I am so pleased to see so many constituents engaging with this listening exercise. If you’re a constituent, please contact my office at email@example.com or on 0191 417 2000 to get involved.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. Over the Christmas period, many of us would have spent much of...
Sharon has backed Maternity Action’s campaign to end pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
As part of the campaign, Maternity Action released three videos to empower pregnant women to address pregnancy discrimination in the work place. You can view the three videos here.
Pregnancy discrimination has risen dramatically in the past decade and now affects three quarters of pregnant women and new mothers at work.
Government figures have shown that 20,000 women leave their jobs because of health and safety concerns each year, and 53,000 were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments.
It is also estimated that 54,000 pregnant women a year are forced out of work because of unfair and unlawful treatment because of their pregnancy.
In support of the campaign, Sharon said:
“It is important that pregnant women and new mothers are safe at work and do not feel discriminated against or face problems in the workplace due to their pregnancy. That is why I am backing Maternity Action’s campaign and the launch of their three new videos to help support women if they need to raise concerns with their employer or resolve issues as early as possible.”
Sharon has backed Maternity Action’s campaign to end pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. As part of the campaign, Maternity Action released three videos to empower pregnant women to address pregnancy...
This is my final Echo column of 2016, and what a year it has been. It’s safe to say 2016 has been a year of upheaval. However, one thing remains constant, I will continue to represent the people of my constituency here in Sunderland to the full; making sure that their voices are heard in Parliament.
2017 is expected to be as busy a year as any, with the negotiations for exiting the EU expected to officially begin by March 2017 when Article 50 is invoked – which will begin the official negotiations of our exit.
We are still none the wiser as to what a post-Brexit Britain will look like or what our relationship with the EU will be, but it is welcome that the Government have finally conceded to Labour’s calls and will now set out their Brexit plans before Parliament.
It is only right that Parliament has a role to play in the negotiations. This is a momentous constitutional, economic and diplomatic task that we must get right, or face serious consequences and ramifications.
Parliament must be able to fully scrutinise the Government’s plans. MPs are elected by local people to be their voice in Parliament and hold the Government to account; Brexit does not change that.
The result of the referendum was clear, we will be leaving the EU, and if and when the times comes for Parliament to vote on invoking Article 50, I will be voting for it.
Yet, this does not mean that Theresa May and her Brexiteer Secretaries of State have free rein to do as they wish.
The people of our City did not vote to become poorer as a consequence of leaving the EU, and it is up to me, my other Sunderland colleagues and all MPs to hold the Government to account so we get the best deal possible that protects the jobs and livelihoods of people across the country.
To do that, I need to hear what the people of our area want us to do as their politicians, and I welcome any comments from my constituents about what Brexit should look like to them, and as part of this, I will be holding public meetings in the New Year to hear more about the views of the residents of Washington and Sunderland West.
Brexit will happen, but it is still unclear what it will look like.
I will make sure to continue to hold the Government to account, and continue to be the voice for Washington and Sunderland West in Westminster.
For me, we need a good deal that respects the outcome of June’s referendum but does not make us poorer because of it. This will be my driving force in the coming year.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. This is my final Echo column of 2016, and what a year it...
The age-old proverb: “out of sight, out of mind” always springs to mind when we have some old electricals tucked away at the back of the cupboard or stowed up in the loft.
They sit there for years on end gathering dust and filling up useful storage space, and we always think, “I will get that fixed soon” or “I’ll get round to throwing that away eventually”.
According to United Nations experts, the electronic waste (e-waste) which is discarded by consumers globally totals over 42 million tons a year with less than 16% of that astronomical figure being diverted to recycling or reuse.
This is all alarming news when it is reported that the electrical items we throw away each year contributes up to 4,400 tons of ozone depleting chemicals being let off into our environment.
We all talk about “going green” or “doing more for the environment”, but sometimes we easily forget the effect of throwing away an old camera or mobile phone can have on our environment.
However, a new initiative aims to change all of that. It’s called Restart, and it aims to help empower consumers to address the growing issue of waste and learn life skills to recycle, repair and reuse old electricals which may still have some life left in them – if only they were given some TLC.
The project is currently only based in London, but hopes to expand out across the country.
To do that they held a Restart party in Parliament, where MPs were able to take their old electronics and repair them themselves.
I, for one, was delighted to personally repair an old clock of mine that I had been tempted to throw away but now can put up again in the house with no need to buy a new one or add to the yearly levels of e-waste we are producing.
Restart hopes to set up local Restart parties across the country where local people can come together and learn more about how they can recycle and repair their old electrical items so we can all take positive steps towards reducing harmful e-waste in the UK whilst also learning valuable life skills we can use in the future. You can find out more about Restart by visiting their website: https://therestartproject.org/
The initiative is only in its infancy, but it is set to grow in popularity where more and more people will learn about repairing or recycling their old electrical items, and can finally empty out that cupboard full of old electrical items and give them a restart to a new life.
You can see some photos of Sharon below at the RESTART reception in Parliament:
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. The age-old proverb: “out of sight, out of mind” always springs to mind...