Recently Sharon was nominated for a Grassroots Diplomat Award for Social Policy Changer to recognise her work on holiday hunger as Chair of the APPG for School Food which she founded and last night was honoured by winning the Grassroots Diplomat Award at the high profile event in London.
Since 2008, Sharon has campaigned for better food provision in England’s schools, including championing the education, behavioural, social and health benefits of universal free school meals to children and young people. This meant lobbying and then working closely with the authors of the School Food Plan, and its subsequent Office, which was responsible for the roll out of universal infant free school meals. Sharon was instrumental in saving this policy from the scrapheap in the lead-up to the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) when it was rumoured to be at risk. Sharon, at the 11th hour, secured a commitment from the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s Questions the week before the CSR that the policy would continue.
Alongside this, Sharon has also campaigned for policy-makers to seriously address the issue of child holiday hunger by setting up the Holiday Hunger Task Group under the umbrella of the School Food APPG. This comes as concerns have grown that some children especially those who get free school meals are not being fed properly, or much at all, during the holidays - especially the long summer holidays - due to extremely strained family budgets forcing more and more families to visit food banks than ever before during the school holidays - even those who may manage ordinarily during term time. She also highlights the educational attainment gap between the most disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers and how this gap is widening and holiday hunger makes this even worse.
Speaking after receiving her award, Sharon said:
"It was a total honour to be nominated in the first place and I was not expecting to win against such a strong field of nine other worthy campaigning politicians who have all done some amazing work to address social issues in our society.
"It is humbling to be recognised for the work I have done on child hunger, both during term-time and in the holidays as I champion this cause not for any accolade or recognition, but to ensure all children get the best chances in life - no matter what their background or circumstance.
"There is still such a long way to go to achieve my ambition of no child going hungry during the school holidays. However, with the work of the School Food APPG and its Holiday Hunger Task Group, I will continue to lobby to try and influence the Government in order that strategies and actions are put in place to tackle children going hungry during the holidays so that their health and education are not effected which would negatively impact their lives and opportunities."
To find out more about the Grassroots Diplomat Awards, visit their website here.
Recently Sharon was nominated for a Grassroots Diplomat Award for Social Policy Changer to recognise her work on holiday hunger as Chair of the APPG for School Food which she...
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon presented certificates to primary school cooks from London and the South-East who had completed a Lead Catering Association in Education (LACA) training course.
After the certificate presentations ceremony, Sharon said:
“It was lovely to go along and present certificates to all the school cooks who had completed the LACA training course. It is always important to recognise the dedicated work of school cooks who do amazing jobs to feed our children and young people during the school day.
“With transformative changes to school food provision since the publication of the School Food Plan in 2013, school cooks have continued in their diligent way to ensure all children benefit from healthier food in our schools, especially with the roll-out of universal infant free school meals in September 2014, which has so many educational, behavioural, social and health benefits to a child’s life.
“That is why we must continue to support and recognise our school kitchen workforce with access to training courses that allow them to develop as professionals and have the respect as professionals that they rightly deserve as integral members of staff in our schools.”
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon presented certificates to primary school cooks from London and the South-East who had completed a Lead Catering Association in...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen the Government limp from one crisis to another which all comes against the backdrop of the Tories ripping themselves apart over our continued membership of the European Union and who will eventually succeed David Cameron when he steps down as Prime Minister.
Firstly, we had the ultra-shambolic Budget which saw the resignation of the then Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith because of the divisive measures in the Budget and the Government’s failure to support the most vulnerable in society.
This was then followed by the decision by TATA Steel to sell off their entire UK Steel business, which sent shock waves right through the steel industry and its supply chain, and connected industries, all whilst the Business Secretary was away in Australia on a business trip knowing full well that crunch talks in Mumbai would be happening at the same time.
With nearly 40,000 people employed in our steel industry, it was deeply shameful of the Government to look complacent in the wake of such a devastating blow to one of our most important industries – especially after their failure to save Redcar steel works last year.
There have been countless opportunities for the Government to step in and save our steel industry including supporting, rather than blocking, reforms in the EU that would have alleviated the problem of cheap Chinese steel swamping the market and could have helped save this vital industry.
Instead of putting their heads in the sand, government ministers must publish a full industrial strategy that includes procurement measures to support British steel wherever possible with publically funded infrastructure projects.
To top it all off, we then had the release of the Panama Papers – which showed the Prime Minister’s father’s company was linked to the revelations which showed what we all knew was the case, tax avoidance is rife in British Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies, and after four days of misleading statements, the Prime Minister finally admitted to benefitting financially from his father’s company’s tax avoidance.
The Government has continually failed to deliver on collecting the missed income that would come from closing tax havens and loopholes, which could help our vital public services which we all rely upon. With an estimated £34billion tax gap in HMRC, more action must be taken to address this gap, however there are concerns that measures proposed in the Finance Bill will not go far enough.
It is a damning indictment of this Government when they are far more interested in their own Party’s internal division, instead of addressing some of the most pressing issues of the day. That is why Labour will continue to hold the Government to account and remind them of their duty as the Government to improve the lives of ordinary working people, rather than saving their own skins and egos.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. Over the past few weeks, we have seen the Government limp from one... Read more
As Labour's Shadow Minister for Children, Sharon visited Challengers, a registered children's charity since 1979 which provides play and leisure opportunities to disabled children and young people in Guildford, to see first hand the services on offer and speak with parent ambassadors about what more can be done by Parliamentarians to support families of children with disabilities.
Challengers provides families of children and young people up to the age of 25 with short breaks during high pressure times, such as at the weekend and during the school holidays, which allows them to do 'ordinary' activities and bond as a family and gives them the freedom to choose how they fulfil these activities, as a way of improving their future life chances.
Following the visit, Sharon said:
"It was wonderful to visit Challengers in Guildford and see first hand some of the work they are doing to support families of children with disabilities and also meet with some of their parent ambassadors to hear more about their experiences.
"Children and young people, regardless of their background or circumstances, should have the chance of a childhood which sees them living an active life just like their peers, whilst also accessing enriching environments that allows them to expand their horizons and reach their full potential.
"In the coming weeks and months ahead, services for children and young people with additional needs will be something I be looking at in more detail and will raise these issues in Parliament at the earliest opportunity."
As Labour's Shadow Minister for Children, Sharon visited Challengers, a registered children's charity since 1979 which provides play and leisure opportunities to disabled children and young people in Guildford, to...
Sharon has shown her support to the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) ‘Too Much Information’ campaign, which aims to improve the public’s understanding of autism.
As part of the campaign, NAS has released a report which reveals that poor public understanding of autism is pushing autistic people and their families into isolation.
According to a survey of over 7,000 people, their families and friends, and professionals:
- 84% of autistic people say people judge them as strange.
- 79% of autistic people and 70% of family members feel socially isolated.
- 50% of both autistic people and family members sometimes or often don’t go out because they’re worried about how people.
A recent YouGov poll in 2015 found that over 99.5% of people in the UK had heard of autism, however only 16% of autistic people and their families said that members of the public had a meaningful understanding of autism.
At the launch of the campaign in Parliament, Sharon met Alex Marshall, a ten-year-old autistic boy, who features in a short campaign film which shows an autistic child experiencing ‘too much information’ as he walks through a shopping centre. The film ends with the words: ‘I’m not naughty: I’m autistic’.
Following the launch, Sharon said:
“It is wonderful to see the National Autistic Society continuing to raise awareness and understanding of autism here in the UK and to see so many of my Parliamentary colleagues supporting their ‘Too Much Information’ campaign.
“When a person with autism is judged or looked down on because of the general public’s lack of understanding, it shows just how much further we have to go to ensure everyone feels included in society.
“No-one should ever feel so misunderstood that they don’t leave their homes because of it and I am encouraging my constituents to learn more about autism and understand this condition better.”
You can find out more about the NAS campaign and autism in general by going to their website here.
You can also watch the short campaign video below:
Sharon has shown her support to the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) ‘Too Much Information’ campaign, which aims to improve the public’s understanding of autism. As part of the campaign, NAS...
Following today's Budget (16.03.16), Sharon reacted by saying:
“For the eighth time in six years the Chancellor has presented a Budget which fails to balance the books, fails to grow our economy and fails to improve the lives of hardworking people across the country, especially here in the North-East.
“Instead of the Government’s empty rhetoric about supporting the next generation, what we have seen in this Budget is the Chancellor create an economy on fragile foundations which will see growth and business investment revised down year on year during this Parliament.
“As always the North-East will bear the brunt of these announcements with a lack of investment directed to our region, whilst more money goes to London and the South-East with the go-ahead for Crossrail 2 not even HS3 is planned to reach us only going as far as Leeds, meaning little or no infrastructure investment in our region for our road and rail network.
“This Budget should have been about creating a 21st century economy which allows high-tech industries to flourish with a highly-skilled workforce earning in a high-wage economy. Yet, the Chancellor has continued down his path of failure and ignored the many important issues which would ensure regions like ours can deliver the employment and investment we desperately need to prosper.”
Following today's Budget (16.03.16), Sharon reacted by saying: “For the eighth time in six years the Chancellor has presented a Budget which fails to balance the books, fails to grow...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo's website.
Last Sunday, mothers across the country would have woken up to breakfast in bed, cards, gifts and flowers from their families, thanking them for caring for loved ones and nurturing their children all year round.
We all know mothers care can go unrecognised – but we do it nonetheless.
Then on Tuesday we celebrated International Women’s Day. I was delighted to welcome Katie from St Robert's Sixth Form to shadow me and take part in International Women’s Day celebrations here in Parliament.
Katie was one of nine selected out of 75 young women from across the UK, who were also shadowing their MP, to swap places with MPs on the Women & Equalities Select Committee and question them on what more we can do to address inequality.
Some argue that celebrating a woman’s place in society can be counter-productive to our struggle for equality.
Yet, with the gender pay gap still persistent in many areas of the workforce and women still greatly under-represented in top positions in business and public life, it is clear we still need to continue our fight for gender equality.
Unfortunately, this Tory Government is exacerbating women’s inequality.
Women face the brunt of public sector cuts; one in nine pregnant women are forced out of their jobs each year, and by 2020 women will have paid for 81% of the Government’s tax and benefit changes implemented since 2010.
Pair all of this with the 763 fewer Sure Start Centres, which provided vital support to families, then it is obvious this Government’s strategy for women is not working.
Labour understands if our country is to succeed, then women must be a part of that success, too.
That is why we pushed further than any other Party on women’s representation with All-Women Short Lists. We also introduced rafts of equality legislation, reduced the gender pay gap by a third over our time in office and we were the first administration since the Second World War to develop a childcare policy and flagship programmes, such as tax credits, to help women into work.
Instead of this Government rolling back women’s hard-fought rights and support, what we need is a strategy to support women, as both equal members of society and as drivers for the economic growth we need.
Labour recognises this and will do all we can to achieve this when holding the Government to account in Parliament.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo's website. Last Sunday, mothers across the country would have woken up to breakfast in... Read more
Sharon is supporting musicians and film-makers from her constituency by calling for local artists to enter Parliament’s two largest creative competitions, Rock the House and Film the House.
Image copyright to Rock the House
The competition, now in its fifth year, was set up by former Member of Parliament, Mike Weatherley during the last Parliament and offers the opportunity to put local musicians and film-makers in direct contact with the movers and shakers of the two industries and to have the best of Washington and Sunderland West’s talent take front and centre stage.
The competition is judged by the leading lights of industry, with prizes ranging from festival slots, studio time and top-notch equipment, the Rock the House and Film the House competitions are a pioneering opportunity to showcase what Washington and Sunderland has to offer, raising awareness about the importance of Intellectual property (IP) to our creative industries and country.
In the lead up to the competition, Sharon said:
“It is wonderful to see two of Parliament’s most-hotly contested competitions grow from strength to strength and now entering their fifth year.
“It can be hard to break into the music and film scene and that is why I welcome both Rock the House and Film the House in helping raise the profile of budding talent right across the country.
“There is plenty of local talent across the constituency and it is only right that often unrecognised talent receives some recognition and is celebrated at the heart of British democracy. I hope as many artists, bands and film-makers from our area pick up their guitars or cameras and enter this fantastic competition to gain the important exposure which could transform their lives.”
Important dates for the 2016 competitions are:
- 1st May, closing date for entries to MPs
- 31st May, closing date for MPs to announce their constituency nominations
- 20th June, final battle of the bands
- 4th July, awards ceremony
Further information on how to apply for each competition can be found at:
Sharon is supporting musicians and film-makers from her constituency by calling for local artists to enter Parliament’s two largest creative competitions, Rock the House and Film the House. Image copyright...
Sharon has supported the findings of a report by the national deafblind charity, Sense, which has revealed restrictions faced by disabled children and families when accessing play schemes.
Sharon photographed with Anna Turley, Member of Parliament for Redcar, and Ted - a young boy who attended the reception.
The report followed a three month public inquiry, chaired by Lord Blunkett and Lesley Rogers, a parent of a deafblind child with multiple needs, into the provision of play for disabled children aged 0 – 5 with multiple needs in England and Wales.
The report identified failings at every level which has resulted in disabled children missing out on play opportunities, this included highlighting a lack of attention by government, insufficient funds at a local level and a negative attitude towards disabled children and their families as barriers to access to schemes.
It is estimated that out of 570,000 disabled children in England, there are approximately 100,000 0 – 19 year-olds living with multiple needs.
The report was launched at a packed-out Parliamentary reception in the Churchill Room last week with children and families all gathering to show their support for the report. Sharon spoke at the reception about the light this important report has shone into this area of policy and welcomed the chance of working together with Sense, play providers and families of disabled children to improve the access to play settings for those children. You can read Sharon’s speech here.
Following the reception and launch of the report, Sharon said:
“It was wonderful to see so many children and their families come to Parliament and make their case for better play provision for disabled children, whilst also having a lot of fun.
“The afternoon made it clear just how important play is to a child’s life, especially disabled children who can often be locked out of access to these kinds of schemes. That is why it was welcome to see those MPs and Peers who came along were given the chance to fully understand the disparity seen in access to play schemes.
“This is a timely report by Sense which includes a clear wake-up call for policy-makers and Government to act, and I hope that following the report’s launch it will create the much-needed public debate to improve the schemes and settings on offer to disabled children and their families.”
Sense is a national charity that has been supporting and campaigning for children and adults who are deafblind and have complex needs for over 60 years. These are currently around 250,000 deafblind in the UK. Sense provides specialist information, advice and services to deafblind people, their families, carers and the professionals who work with them. Sense runs services across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and employ 2,000 people who work in services directly with deafblind people. Further information can be found on the Sense website – www.sense.org.uk
Sharon has supported the findings of a report by the national deafblind charity, Sense, which has revealed restrictions faced by disabled children and families when accessing play schemes. Sharon photographed...
Following the Prime Minister's renegotiations with other European Union (EU) leaders and his statement to the House of Commons today (22.02.16), Sharon has released a statement on why she is supporting the UK remains in the EU.
Over recent months, Britain’s future in the European Union has been a constant feature of public discourse with various groups and individuals coming out as wanting to remain or wanting to leave the European Union whilst the Prime Minister has renegotiated Britain’s position within the EU.
Now that the Prime Minister has achieved his intended goals for renegotiation, it is now time for the country as a whole to make a decision about our future membership of the European Union in the lead up to the referendum on Thursday 23rd June 2016.
David Cameron’s renegotiation talks with other European leaders were a long and drawn out affair which never delivered the reforms that would have made the EU work better for working families.
Whilst the Prime Minister could have made more of a case for better working conditions and democratic accountability, this does not mean we should vote to leave the EU based on Cameron’s botched renegotiations and instead remember that the reform is not a flash-in-the-pan venture but an on-going process that must always ensure the British public are at the heart of decisions made by the EU.
As a proud trading nation, almost half of our exports go to EU countries – worth an estimated £337 billion last year to the UK economy. Not only do we benefit from trade but also from the direct investment from other EU countries, which is on average worth £26.5 billion. To lose access to the single market by leaving the European Union would have a direct impact on our future economic prosperity and the estimated 790,000 more jobs to be created by 2030 by opening up markets in digital services, energy and tourism within Europe.
As a region, the North-East benefits greatly from our membership of the EU with our region being the only regional net exporter in the UK to Europe, receiving significant investment from EU budgets to address social issues and invest into our economic future but also the large companies from all over the world who choose to base their companies in our region, such as Nissan here in Sunderland, and recruit and train a local workforce and bring much-needed growth.
Labour understands the importance of our continued EU membership and the good that this can bring to ordinary working people’s lives. It was Labour who worked within the European Union to push for better rights for British workers, including minimum paid leave, rights for agency workers, paid maternity and paternity leave, equal pay, anti-discrimination laws, and protection for the workforce when companies change ownership. To exit the EU would put this all in jeopardy.
Britain has a proud tradition as an outward-looking country whilst working collaboratively with the international community on issues that not only affect our national security, but that of the rest of the world, including matters relating to climate change, terrorism and cross-border crime. Instead of becoming an isolationist nation, we must use all the avenues possible to us to ensure our nation remains protected. This includes our continued membership of the EU.
Britain is far better off remaining a member of a reformed European Union fighting for further reforms, rather than standing on the side-lines as spectators throwing stones.
The next few months will be important in deciding the future of the UK, and may be one we never see again in our lifetime. That is why I will be campaigning to remain a member of the European Union so that we can protect Britain’s best interests, both in terms of the lives of ordinary people, our future economic prosperity and national security.
Following the Prime Minister's statement to the House of Commons after his renegotiation talks at the EU Summit, Nissan's Chairman and CEO, Mr Carlos Ghosn, released this statement:
"We are a global business with a strong presence in Europe. We have a rich heritage in the UK with 30 years of manufacturing and engineering presence, and remain committed to building and engineering cars in the country. Last year we produced more than 475,000 vehicles in the UK – 80 percent of which are exported.
"Our preference as a business is, of course, that the UK stays within Europe - it makes the most sense for jobs, trade and costs. For us, a position of stability is more positive than a collection of unknowns.
"However, this is ultimately a matter for the British people to decide.
"While we remain committed to our existing investment decisions, we will not speculate on the outcome nor what would happen in either scenario."
"We obviously want the Nissan UK plant and engineering centre to remain as competitive as possible when compared with other global entities, and each future investment opportunity will be taken on a case by case basis, just as it is now."
Following the Prime Minister's renegotiations with other European Union (EU) leaders and his statement to the House of Commons today (22.02.16), Sharon has released a statement on why she is...