Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

Recent speeches by Sharon Hodgson MP


Sharon speaking on the last day of LACA's Main Event in Birmingham 08.07.16

Photo copyright Lindsay Graham, 2016.

As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon was invited to speak on the morning of the last day of the Lead Association in Catering in Education's (LACA) annual conference in Birmingham. Sharon spoke about the work already achieved by campaigners in school food policy, and the work still to do and what catering staff can do to help push this important agenda forward.

Sharon speaks at LACA Main Event in Birmingham 08.07.16

Sharon speaking on the last day of LACA's Main Event in Birmingham 08.07.16 Photo copyright Lindsay Graham, 2016. As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon was... Read more

Sharon_EBacc_speech.jpgSharon speaking in the EBacc: Expressive Arts Westminster Hall debate 04.07.16

Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016

Following the decision by the House of Common's Petitions Committee to debate two petitions signed regarding the EBacc and Performing arts GCSE and A level qualifications, Sharon, in her role as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education, spoke during the debate about the benefits of a well-rounded curriculum that includes high-quality, inclusive arts education.

Read Sharon's speech in Hansard here:  Sharon Hodgson MP EBacc Expressive Arts Westminster Hall Debate

Text pasted here: 

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

It is a true delight to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. I welcome this important debate. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on art, craft and design in education, I wish to make a cross-party case for promoting the creative arts in our schools. I invite other Members present to join our all-party group, if they so desire. We regularly engage with teachers, academics and cultural providers, a number of whom are in the Public Gallery—I thank them for being here. We engage with people from across the country, and most importantly, we engage with young people who wish to see a strengthened art offer in our schools.

I also welcome that a number of my constituents supported the EBacc petition—many of them will be art teachers who are concerned for the future of their subject, about which they are so passionate—and a similar number signed the petition on performing arts subjects at GCSE and A-level.

As we have heard, creativity is vital to the wellbeing of our society, and all of these subjects provide a space for young people to push boundaries, widen their horizons and explore what it means to be human. Only last week I went to the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith to watch the performance of “Treasure Island” by the Federation of Westminster Special Schools. The show was directed ​by James Rigby, and I saw all the work put in by Paul Morrow, the federation’s lead practitioner of creative arts, and by all the schools’ teachers, staff and pupils in collaboration with the staff of the Lyric theatre—I especially mention John Glancy, the producer. They all came together to put on a wonderful production that showed exactly what allowing children to flourish in the arts can do for their lives and their self-esteem.

Experiencing and engaging in the arts not only helps to nurture quantifiable positives; we can also see tangible evidence of the positive contribution that art education can make to our country. Our creative industries contributed an estimated £84.1 billion to our economy last year, and it is important to remember that our creative industries can thrive even more if we promote high-quality and inclusive art education in our schools to help feed the skills supply for the market. Sadly, the Government’s curriculum reforms, such as the EBacc, have had unintended consequences for creativity in the curriculum. The Department for Education has made the case that its reforms will not stop pupils taking additional non-EBacc subjects, and it claims that uptake in arts subjects has risen because the proportion of pupils with at least one arts GCSE has increased since 2010.

Once again, I acknowledge and thank the Minister for attending a meeting of the all-party group a few months ago. He listened to an extensive presentation on the latest National Society for Education in Art and Design survey, which highlighted the effect of the unintended consequences, and he answered questions from the gathered representatives, artists and teachers for some two hours. I know that must have had an effect on him, and I urge him again to take a closer look at the figures. The EBacc’s narrow-minded approach and prescriptive nature is sadly leaving very little space for creative subjects to flourish.

Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)

I am interested in the hon. Lady’s speech. Does she agree that part of the problem of providing our children with the opportunity to be creative is the pressure to remain inside the classroom? Pupils have to leave the safe space of the classroom to experience the creative realms in the community.

Mrs Hodgson

The hon. Lady makes a good point. Trips to theatres, cultural sites and museums are becoming increasingly difficult for various reasons, including safeguarding and cost—even though museums are free to visit, the children have to get there, which takes time and organisation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) said earlier, such trips will be lacking from some of the children’s daily lives, weekends and holidays, so it is important that that shortfall is made up for in school. For more privileged children, no matter whether they go to state or independent schools, it is just a normal part of their existence. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her intervention.

In May 2014, the Cultural Learning Alliance found that the number of hours of art teaching and of art teachers had fallen in secondary schools since 2010. Design and technology faced the greatest decline, with 11% fewer teachers and less teaching time. The number of art and design teachers had fallen by 4% and the number of teaching hours by 6%, even though the number of pupils in secondary schools has fallen by about 2%. It is clear that provision of arts subjects is declining disproportionately.​

As I mentioned earlier, the National Society for Education in Art and Design conducted a survey of teachers working across England in the academic year 2015-16 on the impact of Government policy on art, craft and design education over the past five years. The study found that 33% of art and design teachers at key stage 4, across all sectors, reported a reduction in time dedicated to their subject over the past five years. That figure rises to 44% in responses from academies. Of those teachers, 93% said that the EBacc was directly reducing opportunities to select art and design at GCSE level.

The reduction in provision for vocational creative qualifications is even more illuminating and concerning. Between 2011 and 2015, completions of art, craft and design level 2 vocational qualifications decreased by 43%. Although we are discussing the EBacc, which is only a performance measure at secondary school, it is having clear ramifications for other stages of young people’s education. Figures from the Cultural Learning Alliance show that between 2010 and 2015, dance AS-levels have declined by 24% and dance A-levels have declined by 17%.

As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on art, craft and design in education, I have heard anecdotally that primary schools are less free to dedicate time to creative education due to unprecedented pressure on the three R’s—reading, writing and arithmetic, which we all agree are extremely important. As the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) said, it should not be a case of either/or. Both are vital.

Secondary school teachers now report a fall in artistic skills and confidence when pupils arrive in year 7. Sadly, the ramifications of the curriculum changes are that secondary schools are putting less time and fewer resources into creative education in an understandable bid to climb the league tables. It is having a knock-on effect on other parts of the education pipeline. It means that pupils are being denied the opportunity to develop creative cognitive skills that are useful in other subjects, such as maths or science, and may become less confident and able to choose or pursue artistic GCSEs and A-levels.

A broad and rounded education is paramount to skilling our young people to enter the world of work in the 21st century. An art education can be vital to doing so, but if the Government insist on keeping the EBacc as a performance measure, in order not to weaken arts provision in our schools even further, the only way to maintain quality creative education is to include the creative arts in the EBacc. Excluding the arts subjects from the EBacc—

Mr Gibb

Which particular creative arts subject does the hon. Lady want to make compulsory to 16?

Mrs Hodgson

It could be left to the young person to choose, as with most subjects. We do not tell young people which language they must study, or which humanity. Let the young person choose; just put a list of creative arts there.

By excluding arts subjects from the EBacc, the Government have told our students that those subjects are not important and are a waste of their time and ​talent. The situation is simply not good enough. We need to be serious about providing a creative education that ensures that young people from ordinary backgrounds, as others have said, have opportunities to develop their skills so that they can become the next world-famous artist filling art galleries around the world, the next global superstar or actor packing out arenas or theatres or—I must declare an interest again—the next big games artist creating the next global game. The UK has world-leading companies in the games industry.

We should not limit young people’s life chances in this way. We need a forward-looking curriculum that provides a truly rounded education, remembering that subjects do not stand alone. Withdrawing opportunities from young people’s lives to express themselves creatively will not only ruin their chance to broaden their horizons and their understanding of what drives us as humans—our creativity—but affect the fledgling sectors that rely heavily on our nurture of the skills needed to make them soar.

Our human creativity is boundless, and studying creative subjects can harness it. That is why it is important that we ensure that whether or not the EBacc remains, the creative subjects have a place in our curriculum and do not face further and continual diminution by Government reforms. The arts are what we all do in our spare time, in one form or another. Why? They make our hearts soar. We are creative and artistic beings. Since the first caveman drew a buffalo on the first cave wall and danced around the fire singing, the arts have been how we express ourselves. They are intrinsic to being human. I ask the Minister: please do not make our education system a cultural desert for our children, as I fear the unintended consequences.

EBacc: Expressive Arts Debate Westminster Hall 04.07.16

Sharon speaking in the EBacc: Expressive Arts Westminster Hall debate 04.07.16 Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016 Following the decision by the House of Common's Petitions Committee to debate two...

Sharon recently spoke at a conference held by Durham County Council's Education department on child poverty, where she spoke about her work on addressing child hunger as Chair of the School Food APPG. 

You can read Sharon's speech below:


Thank you for inviting me along to speak to you today.

We’ve already had an excellent opening presentation by Lorraine, and I am also looking forward to hearing from our next speaker, Sara Bryson from Children North East on poverty proofing the school day.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to stay for the whole duration of your conference – as I need to be in Parliament later this afternoon - but I do wish you all the best with today.

There are many pressing priorities as a politician when it comes to addressing issues that affect us as a society, yet for me, it is vital that we dedicate as much time and energy as possible into addressing the issue of child poverty – which is one of the most persistent and damaging issues we face as a country.

It has been one of my many ambitions since being elected 11 years ago to do all I can to tackle this issue once and for all.

This has included campaigning against the lack of choice for parents when buying their child’s school uniform when schools restrict options to an overly priced supplier, which to me is all about the underhand selection in some schools to only have a certain ‘type’ of pupil attending their school.

One of the main areas of poverty that I am currently working to develop policy around is food poverty, especially child hunger.

Food is a vital component in all of our lives.

It is important to help sustain ourselves, keep us healthy and fuel us for the day ahead.

This is no different for children.

That is why I have been a passionate advocate and supporter of providing children and young people with the much-needed food and nutrients that can help them succeed in life, both in and out of school, but also teaching them the essentials around food and cooking, which can all help address food poverty.

This has mainly been done through my work as the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, which for the last five years has championed policy interventions around children and food in our schools from universal free school meals, improving the inspection of food in our schools by Ofsted and championing better provision of food education across all Key Stages.

More recently, the APPG has steered ahead on a pertinent aspect of child hunger, known as holiday hunger, with the setting up of the Holiday Hunger Task Group which has helped drive forward the agenda on child holiday hunger and championed the development of policy to address this growing issue.

That is why I am delighted to be speaking to you all today.

Over the next 20 minutes or so, and in the following Q&A, I will touch on the work of the APPG and what support those in the room today can give to the APPG, along with the Task Group, to achieve our goal of no child going hungry.

But first I want to discuss the wider issue of child poverty and child hunger in the UK to help set the scene of why the APPG has acted to address this issue. 

According to figures released by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) last year, absolute poverty will increase from 15.1% in 2015-16 to 18.3% in 2020-21.

This is compounded by predictions from the Resolution Foundation who fear that 200,000 more children will enter into poverty during this calendar year – the majority coming from working households.

If this trajectory was to play out, then it would be a damning indictment of the current Government, and the previous Coalition Government, who failed to address this issue meaningfully following the work in the last years of the Labour Government when we passed the Child Poverty Act in 2010.

This Act set out four legal duties on the then Government and any future Government to work towards key targets on poverty by 2020, which included less than 10 percent of children in relative poverty and less than 5% of children in absolute poverty.

These targets were important for us to work towards, and if possible exceed, and get to a place where no child was living in either relative or absolute poverty.

However, back in July of last year, we saw the then Work and Pensions Secretary make a decision that the child poverty targets set out in the Act would be replaced with a new duty to report on levels of educational attainment, worklessness and addiction, rather than relative material disadvantage.

Whilst measuring these areas is important as they are commonly experienced by those living in poverty and by children from disadvantaged backgrounds; it beggar’s belief why we should consider withdrawing the duty to report and monitor material disadvantage also.

Abolishing these legal targets will not see poverty disappear from our society and will not solve the growing crisis that we are watching unfold in this country, instead poverty will just go unmonitored, unchecked and unrestrained .

These changes will make poverty an issue which is unchallenged and will fail to allow us, as Parliamentarians and civil society, to react with the right kind of policy to help tackle poverty before it becomes worse.

By failing to address poverty in a meaningful way, Parliamentarians and the Government are failing those very children that we are elected to help protect by creating a society that enables them to become well-rounded and successful adults.

Poverty is an issue which affects the life chances of children as they grow-up, through negative impacts on their health, education, and social and emotional wellbeing.

By sitting back and doing nothing, we are consigning those disadvantaged children to the same future as their parents by failing to break the cycle that traps generation after generation in poverty.

A report published back in 2013 found that child poverty costs the UK at least £29billion each year, and this doesn’t include the unmeasurable lost opportunities of every child who continues to be trapped in poverty.

The findings are stark and should act as a reminder of how important it is to continue the push to end child poverty. Not only for every individual child, but for society as a whole.

Research has also found that children from poorer backgrounds lag behind their more affluent peers at every stage of education.

By the age of 3, poorer children are estimated to be nine months behind those children from wealthier backgrounds.

And by the Department for Education’s own figures, by the end of primary school, pupils who are in receipt of a free school meal are estimated to be almost three terms behind their peers, rising to five terms at age 14, and by 16, this amounts to being 1.7 GCSE grades lower than their peers from more affluent backgrounds.

In regards to health, poverty is highly associated with a high risk of both illness and premature death.

Children from some of the poorest areas of the UK weigh 200 grams less at birth than those from the richest areas.

And poorer health over the course of those children’s lifetime will impact their life expectancy, with children who go on to have a career in a professional environment living 8 years longer than those who have an unskilled job.

Poverty also plays a part in the breakdown of communities and social cohesion, which are important to healthy and flourishing local communities.

For children from low-income families, they are often the ones who miss out on what many of us take for granted, such as school trips, not being able to invite their school friends round for tea, or families not being able to afford a one-week holiday away from home – regardless of if it is abroad or here in Britain.

Figures show that 1 in 3 families with young children in the UK are unable to afford a week’s holiday, with more than a million families not able to afford a day out during the summer.

These figures are deeply concerning, and are, reflected in my experiences as a local Member of Parliament.

Not long after being elected in 2005, I visited one of my local schools, in one of the more disadvantaged parts of my constituency, where I sat and had a conversation with the Headteacher about the experiences of the children at his school.

It really hit home when he told me that the children wouldn’t even leave the estate over the summer holidays, not even venturing to the Metrocentre or to the seaside at South Shields or Sunderland.

This failure to allow children to experience what other children may take as the accepted norm can cause tensions in school environments, from bullying from their peers or social isolation because they are seen as different or poor – when you are poor as a child you never want to admit it.

Not only does it cause social tensions, but it can have a lasting impact on a child’s educational attainment.

Providing children with experiences outside of what they are used to is only ever going to be beneficial to their life through broadening their horizons and allowing them to experience culture, history, and art to help make them realise that there is more to life outside of their estate – which becomes their entire world 

Now turning to child hunger, which has always been a persistent issue in this country, and schools have always played a vital role in addressing this issue.

Child hunger and the intervention that schools can make goes as far back as 1906 when the then Member of Parliament for Bradford West, Fred Jowlett, used his maiden speech in the House of Commons to launch a campaign that would introduce school meals, not just that they should be free for the poor, but that there should be some form of provision in school in the first place.

Jowlett used his maiden speech to highlight his work on the Bradford’s School Board where he witnessed malnourished children falling behind their peers and argued that with the introduction of compulsory education, it was down to the Government to provide those children with the food necessary to sustain themselves throughout the school day.

Ironic how things have failed to change more than 100 years on.

Jowlett’s intervention led to the passing of the Provision of School Meals Act in 1906, which established a national strategy for local authorities to provide school meals for the very first time – and especially to the most disadvantaged children in our society.

Since then we have seen countless moments where school food has taken a step forward, and helped us address the issue of child hunger.

And I put myself in that camp right now as someone who is determined to drive forward the provision of food in our schools to help address child hunger, as I understand just how important food is to a child’s development.

Two of the most recent interventions into this century-old campaign have been: the publication of the School Food Plan by John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby and the Feeding Britain report by my Parliamentary colleague, Frank Field, in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Firstly, turning to John and Henry, after their tour of England to understand and see first-hand the food provision on offer in our children’s schools and after much research and fact-finding missions, they set out to write their report.

In their findings, they found:

-     57% of children were not eating school lunches at all

-     Only 1% of packed lunches met nutritional standards of hot dinners, and;

-     Studies have shown that hunger affects concentration and well-nourished children fared better at school.

And after all the lobbying I had done to get the universal free school meal pilots in Durham and Newham – which were sadly scrapped by the incoming Coalition Government in 2011 - I was delighted when I picked up the report on the day of its publication and saw it say:

“Recommendation 17 – the government should embark upon a phased roll out of free school meals for all primary school children, beginning with the local authorities with the highest percentage of children already eligible for free school meals.”

And to this very day, I will never understand how they got Michael Gove, the then Education Secretary, to agree to that recommendation.  I was even more surprised when the Government then agreed to actually roll-out universal free school meals in 2014 albeit to just infant classes – all thanks to a deal between Cameron and Clegg over the Conservative’s pet project of a marriage tax allowance.

I have been a long-time advocate of universal free school meals, understanding the social, health, educational and behavioural benefits this policy can bring but also how vital it is to address child hunger.

As the pilots in Durham and Newham showed, healthy food was consumed more often.

Vegetable intake at lunchtime increased by 23 percent, whilst consumption of soft drinks fell by 16 percent and crisps by 18 percent.

Though the research is still proving the health benefits of this policy, it is undeniable that feeding a child a healthy school meal at lunch will have a knock-on effect on their health – helping to reverse health inequality trends connected with poverty.

Even in education terms, the children in the two pilot areas were two months ahead of their peers in other areas, whilst 4% more children achieved their expected grades at Key Stage 2.

Yet, with schools open for 190 days of the year, the other 175 days are just as important to help maintain the positive intervention seen through universal infant free school meals and healthier school food, and not allow holiday hunger to reverse this important work.

This is an area which needs a lot of policy development to ensure that children don’t fall back during the school holidays and return to school behind their peers in terms of their education and their health.

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

Yet, the evidence is clear, there is a growing problem and we cannot and should not allow it to continue.

This was referenced in Frank Field’s report from 2014 – which I mentioned earlier – which cited evidence provided to them that showed children from low-income families were often going hungry before school, which was exacerbated by a lack of routine and organisation at home.

Frank’s report recommended that Local Authorities should automatically register children of eligible parents for free school meals, as this also helps with maximising pupil premium funding – something which Frank has subsequently championed with his 10 Minute Rule Bill in Parliament.

Other recommendations called for the Government to cost the extension of free school meal provision during the school holidays – something that I very much welcome and believe the Government should look at further to understand the costings of how this could be achieved in the future.

There have also been countless studies and surveys which have highlighted the growing concern of holiday hunger.

A Kellogg’s survey from last year found that:

-     39 percent of teachers said pupils in their schools did not get enough food over the school holidays, and;

-     A third of parents had skipped a meal so that their kids could eat during the school holidays.

Pair this with the huge increase in the use of food banks over the summer holidays, where food bank usage by children is nearly 30,000 for the financial year 2015-16 here in the North East, compared to 23,000 in 2013-14.

That’s a 30% increase in just two years.

That is why, just like with addressing issues that I mentioned earlier about the impact of poverty on a child’s life chances, we cannot allow the hard work gone into a child’s attainment during school terms to be reversed during school holidays, just because some people think it is a step to far.

Those children won’t think that. All they think about is having a meal in their tummy that will sustain them and perhaps something to do other than roam the streets of their estate for 13 weeks every year.

That is why, as I mentioned at the beginning, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School, which I chair, set up the Holiday Hunger Task Group after writing a position paper in 2013 which highlighted our concerns.

It was our belief that we must understand this issue further and develop practical policy for Parliamentarians to consider implementing.

The expert panel which makes up the Task Group and is led by Lindsay Graham has gone from strength to strength.

In June 2015, the Holiday Hunger Task Group held its first conference with academics, charities, local authorities and specialists all coming together to launch the Filling the Holiday Gap guidelines.

These voluntary guidelines were published to be used by any organisation, local authority or school who wish to provide food during their holiday provision, such as summer camps, holiday clubs or educational fun days, and use the guide to provide the healthiest and most nutritious food possible to ensure those children received that vital healthy meal they need.

The guidance was met with great support, and following its publication the Task Group published their Update Report in November which provided a snapshot of holiday provision – which included food – and current on-going research across the UK.

This included activities provided here in Durham by 17 churches through the Communities Together scheme, which included activities such as drama, crafts, sports and cooking and as part of the programme, they fed over 3000 children and adults with healthy picnics, BBQs and full two course homemade meals.

The report also called on the Government to do more to help develop holiday food provision and carry out research into the scale of child hunger in the UK and the effects it has on learning.

Currently the APPG’s Task Group, with the support of Northumbria University, is undergoing a mapping exercise to help understand the scale of holiday provision in England.

This will allow us the chance to fully understand where there is provision and where there is not.

It will also help us highlight best practice across the country so that it can be shared amongst local authorities, organisations and schools to ensure that the best possible provision is in place to help those children who need our support during the school holidays.

This will be an important step forward in our work on child holiday hunger and will give us evidence that can be used to push ahead on this agenda, especially lobbying the Government; and I hope that everyone in the room today can help with this.

Poverty is not inevitable.

Poverty is a symptom of lack of action, lack of innovative thinking and lack of political will by government to tackle the issue.

If the Government cannot harness action in these three areas to help address child poverty, and child hunger, then we will continue to see swathes of the next generation and the generation after that continue to be trapped in this perpetual cycle of poverty which is not only bad for them and their families but us as a society.

Instead of allowing people to languish and become despondent members of society, we should be reaching out a hand to them and supporting them to reach their true potential.

No child, no matter their circumstances, background or need, should be allowed to wallow in poverty and miss out on the opportunities that life in this great country of ours can bring.

Children deserve the best childhood possible, and we owe them just that.

That is why I hope following today’s conference that we all go out there and lobby this Government to do the right thing and make sure that no child is left hungry or in poverty.

Thank you.

Sharon speaks at Child Poverty Conference in Durham 06.06.16

Sharon recently spoke at a conference held by Durham County Council's Education department on child poverty, where she spoke about her work on addressing child hunger as Chair of the...


Sharon speaking at the Annual Nissan Supply Chain Reception in Parliament - 25.05.16

Copyright Office of Sharon Hodgson MP

Sharon recently hosted and spoke at a reception in Parliament which was aimed around celebrating the supply chain to Nissan UK, which employs 6,700 people at the Sunderland factory based in Sharon's constituency of Washington and Sunderland West and nearly 40,000 within its supply chain across the country. Sharon spoke about the important milestones in Nissan's history and the importance of the supply chain and Nissan to our economy.

You can read Sharon's speech here:


Thank you to everyone for coming along to Parliament today.

It’s great to see so many people here in the room to show their support for the supply chain of one of the most important companies in our country – even if I am a little bias – Nissan.

As some of you may know, I am Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, which is home to the world-renowned Nissan Factory based in Sunderland.

Nissan is such an important employer to not only my constituency, but also the wider City of Sunderland, the North East, as well as the country as a whole.

That is why it is always important to celebrate the achievements of such an important employer and also to the many supply chain companies who work closely with Nissan.

Nissan has gone from strength to strength since it was built and started production on the Bluebird in 1986. At the time Nissan’s production was covered by 430 staff, but now employs over 8,000 people directly with a workforce of 40,000 in the supply chain.

This is an absolute testament to the hard work of both the workforces at Nissan, as well as the supply chain’s workforce in Sunderland and across the country, and shows the continued confidence to invest in such a vital industry to our economy.

Long may it continue.

There have been so many important highlights in the history of Nissan in the UK.

Two highlights include, back in in 1991 – now 25 years ago – when a second production line was launched, along with a production workshop and body shop, which saw car manufacturing jump from 100,000 to 300,000 and the second was in 2014, when the second generation Nissan Qashqai was launched at the Sunderland plant which then saw car manufacturing hit 500,000.

The Nissan Qashqai is a very special car to us here in the UK. The car is: designed in Paddington; engineered in Cranfield, and; manufactured in Sunderland.

It is a powerful testament to the innovation, production and level of skills of our car manufacturing workforce here in the UK and rivals those around the world.

It was incredible when in 2014 Nissan announced that 2 million Qashqais had rolled off the production line at Nissan in less than 10 years – an achievement which has never been seen before in the entirety of the UK’s car manufacturing history.

None of this would have happened without the strong working relationship between Nissan and its supply chain, and that is why we are all here today, to celebrate and recognise the importance of Nissan’s supply chain.

From Newport to Northampton, from Leeds to Lichfield and Bosworth to Bishop Auckland, Nissan’s supply chain spans the length and breadth of our country.

From Unipress and Gestamp – both who have factories in my constituency – to Bosch and Sony, Nissan has wide ranging involvement from across various British industrial sectors through its supply chain.

That is why it is important that we celebrate and show our support as Parliamentarians to this work. And I am glad to see so many of my fellow Parliamentary colleagues in the room this afternoon to show their support to such an important industry.

So, before I hand over to our next speaker, I want to say another thank you to everyone for coming along and I hope that you enjoy your afternoon out here on the Terrace.

Please do take advantage of the lovely weather and the views across the Thames, and please do mingle and speak to some of the MPs. If your local MP is here, do grab them and have a chat, I’m sure they would love to hear more about the work you are doing and even convince them to come and visit you sometime! MPs do love a good constituency visit and photo opportunity.

Now, I will hand over to a someone who needs no introduction to a lot of you here in the room today but for those who don’t know our next speaker, I will tell you a little bit about her, and I am of course talking about, Judith Richardson, Purchasing Vice President for Nissan Europe.

Judith oversees a team of 205 employees and plays a key role in managing the cost effective delivery of current and new vehicles being produced by Nissan she works closely with more than 4000 suppliers, a number of whom are in the room today. A feat in itself.

Again, thank you for coming along and we will now hear from Judith. 

Sharon speaks at Annual Nissan Supply Chain Reception in Parliament

Sharon speaking at the Annual Nissan Supply Chain Reception in Parliament - 25.05.16 Copyright Office of Sharon Hodgson MP Sharon recently hosted and spoke at a reception in Parliament which...


Sharon speaking in the 3rd Day of Queen's Speech Debates on Defending Public Services

Image copyright Parliamentary Recording unit 2016

During the third allotted day for MPs to debate the legislative programme set out in the Queen's Speech, Sharon spoke about defending two of our country's most important public services: the NHS and the BBC. 

You can read Sharon's speech in Hansard here: Sharon Hodgson MP Third Day of Queen's Speech Debates on Defending Public Services 23.05.16

Text of speech pasted below:

 6.42 pm

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

I was hoping for a lot more from this Queen’s Speech. I hoped that there would be something to address the ever-growing housing crisis in this country. I also hoped that there would be something on the environment or on the long-awaited and much-promised Bill on wild animals in circuses. But mainly, I hoped that there would be some hope for my region and my constituency. Yet again, however, we heard only scant warm words with the brief mention of the northern powerhouse—the Chancellor’s pet project—which does not even seem to reach the north-east.

I do not think the Chancellor heeded my words on the lack of measures for the north-east in his ultra-shambolic Budget back in April, when I warned him that, despite his ambition to be king of the north, he needed to recognise that there was a lot more of the north beyond Manchester before he got to the wall. Mercifully, his time as Chancellor is almost up. Who knows where ​he will be when winter comes, post-referendum: in No. 10 or in the wilderness on the Back Benches? His legacy for the north-east is, sadly, only more pain and hurt.

Today’s debate is all about our public services, and I want to highlight the damage that is being inflicted on them by this Conservative Government, who are continuing to starve them of proper investment while forcing through damaging and unnecessary legislation. The Tories are now trying to dismantle and ruin two of our country’s greatest and most precious institutions: the NHS and the BBC. These are two public services that we probably all use almost every day and both are central to our national way of life. This Government are hellbent on completely changing the culture and ethos of the two institutions. They have already started the process, but we must not let them complete it.

Since the Conservatives came into office in 2010, the NHS has faced crisis after crisis, all of which could have been avoided if it had been given proper investment and support. Instead, we saw an unnecessary top-down reorganisation of the NHS that disjointed funding streams and placed unnecessary burdens on services through cuts that have been detrimental to our constituents’ experiences of using the NHS. This abysmal mismanagement of the NHS by the Health Secretary and his equally appalling predecessor is compounded by the fact that 3.7 million people are currently on waiting lists, by the understaffing of our hospitals and by patients’ struggles to see their GP. The mismanagement has been acutely felt in the north-east, with the prime example being the underperformance of the North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust. That was the subject of a Westminster Hall debate about two weeks ago in which I and a dozen other north-east colleagues raised our numerous concerns. I hope that the Government have listened to those concerns and will act as soon as possible.

Instead of addressing the issues that the NHS is facing on a day-to-day basis, the Health Secretary took it upon himself to enter into a protracted fight with our junior doctors. They do an amazing job of treating patients in difficult circumstances, yet he has battled with them remorselessly over their pay and conditions. It is welcome that a deal has now been struck between the Department of Health and the junior doctors after everyone was at last brought back around the negotiating table. However, this all could have been avoided, including the recent strike action, if only the Health Secretary had meaningfully listened to the junior doctors’ concerns about the impact the proposed changes to their contracts would have on the NHS.

The Health Secretary must rethink his entire strategy for the national health service and ensure that it does what it was created to do. I want to quote from the leaflet that every home received when the NHS was launched in 1948:

“It will provide you with all medical, dental and nursing care. Everyone—rich or poor, man, woman or child—can use it or any part of it.”

It was Nye Bevan who said:

“Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community”.​

We should have seen something like that in this Queen’s Speech. But wait—no, that only happens in a Labour Queen’s Speech. That is how we got our NHS in the first place.

The BBC is another of our treasured public services that the Government are trying to undermine. The Culture Secretary is using tactics that can only be described as bullying and intimidation to make the BBC accept a new charter—which is in no one’s interests other than those of commercial media moguls—and he has shown his true colours by going on record as saying that the disappearance of the BBC is a “tempting prospect”. Those are the words of the man who is supposed to be in charge of nurturing and championing British culture and talent.

The Government’s proposals aim to hobble the BBC, and they will put its position as an independent public broadcaster in jeopardy by introducing Government appointees to oversee the organisation. That is a clear attack on the BBC’s independence and its ability to hold the Government to account. Putting Government-approved people on the board would threaten the very existence of the BBC as we know it. Peter Kosminsky, the director of “Wolf Hall” and winner of the BAFTA Best Drama award, has said that

“the BBC’s main job is to speak truth to power—to report to the British public without fear or favour, no matter how unpalatable that might be to those in government.”

Those words remind us exactly why the Government must maintain the integrity that the BBC has come to be respected for, not just in the UK but right across the world.

The BBC is not only one of our main sources of news and information; it also acts as a beacon for British culture and talent and is a true cornerstone of UK plc. From giving that much-needed break to up-and-coming artists on BBC radio stations to the many TV programmes that showcase the greatest aspects of British life—commercially successful shows such as “Strictly Come Dancing” and “The Great British Bake-Off”, informative and incredible documentaries such as “South Pacific”, “Frozen Planet” and the many other David Attenborough documentaries that have taken us into some of the most remote and exotic places in the world—the BBC is the very best of British in everything it does, and we get to enjoy all that for the remarkably good-value price of just 40p a day while sitting in the comfort of our own home. However, the Culture Secretary has persistently put the future of commercial BBC programming in jeopardy by saying that the BBC should focus on broadcasting for the public good. He clearly forgets that all shows broadcast by the BBC, whether commercial or informative, are for the public good. The two cannot be separated because commercially successful programmes help to fund world-class documentaries that are viewed across the globe. My Opposition colleagues and I will do everything in our power to ensure that one of our most treasured institutions is protected, continues to drive creativity in the 21st century, and is accessible to all.

Going back to Peter Kosminsky, he also said in his acceptance speech at the BAFTAs:

“It’s not their BBC, it’s your BBC.”

Never have truer words been said about our BBC. We need to defend it at all costs from the damage that this Government wish to inflict upon it. Our NHS and BBC ​make us proud to be British. When it comes to damaging those two precious public services, the Government will not get an easy ride either from Opposition Members or from the wider public watching today.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwin) (Con)

Does the hon. Lady agree that the BBC is uniquely able to tackle difficult issues such as controlling abuse? She may have been following the recent story in “The Archers” relating to Helen Titchener, which showcases the BBC at its best. If the hon. Lady goes on to the “Free Helen Titchener” JustGiving page, she will see that the BBC has been involved in helping to raise £130,000 to support women’s refuges across the country.

Mrs Hodgson

I am so pleased that I allowed that intervention, because it was excellent. I thank the hon. Gentleman for that, and I do agree with him.

The NHS and the BBC are cherished institutions, providing an essential public good. They are the very best of British. The proposals are a damning indictment of this Government’s attitude towards our country and those two great institutions, of which I believe the whole country is immensely proud. That is why we cannot allow them to be dismantled or diminished in stature or performance. On the day that the NHS was founded, Nye Bevan said:

“The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”

His words apply equally to the BBC in this context, as much as he intended them for the NHS. We need to have faith now, and we need to fight for both of them before it is too late. Otherwise, the NHS and the BBC, which our grandparents’ generation so proudly created, will no longer be there for our grandchildren, who will never forgive us.


Third Day of Queen's Speech Debates: Defending Public Services 23.05.16

  Sharon speaking in the 3rd Day of Queen's Speech Debates on Defending Public Services Image copyright Parliamentary Recording unit 2016 During the third allotted day for MPs to debate...


Sharon speaking in the Performance of North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) Westminster Hall Debate 04.05.16

Image Copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016

As Chair of the Northern Group of Labour MPs, Sharon secured a debate for North East MPs, who after dealing with many constituent cases and reading even more reports in local press over the last few years, were able to raise their concerns directly with the Government about the Performance of the North East Ambulance Service. 

Read Sharon's speech in Hansard here: Sharon Hodgson MP Performance of North East Ambulance Service Westminster Hall Debate

Text pasted below:

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

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the performance of the North East Ambulance Service.

We as a country pride ourselves on our world-class NHS services, which are the envy of the world. It is therefore always important that we highlight failures and shortcomings to ensure that our services do not fail our constituents when they need them most.

Strains on services are part and parcel of life in the NHS, but in recent years the pressures have been exacerbated by the Government’s policies. Ever since the Conservatives were elected to office in 2010, the NHS has struggled due to their mismanagement. In particular, the Health and Social Care Act 2012 implemented a costly, top-down reorganisation, which was neither needed nor wanted. It led to a disjointed funding model and resulted in my local ambulance trust, the North East Ambulance Service, running an expected budget deficit of £3.5 million for 2015-16. It comes as no surprise that I have received a growing number of complaints and concerns about the NHS in recent years, which is why this northern group of MPs decided that we had to call for the debate.

All the services that the NHS provides are important, but when someone suddenly falls ill in an emergency such as a stroke or a heart attack, or has a fall or an accident, it is understandable that they have high expectations of our ambulance service. The important work that paramedics do in our region day in, day out is undeniable, but, as the cases that my constituents have brought to my attention and those that have been reported in the press show, patient safety is in jeopardy. That is mainly due to waiting times, which, as the cases I will outline illustrate, have increased and are causing distress to many of my constituents.

For red 1 and red 2 cases—potentially life-threatening incidents—the trust remains below the national standard. Although that is reflected across the country—only two ambulance trusts in England met red 1 standards—it is concerning that, in our region, that failure has continued for the past three years, despite the fact that our response time of eight minutes is higher than the national average. That is exacerbated by the fact that red demand calls have increased by 21.3% in the past 12 months. The performance targets for the fourth quarter of 2015-16 were breached, leading to the trust’s third consecutive quarter breach.

I called this debate to give myself and my fellow north-eastern colleagues the opportunity to raise cases and concerns directly with the Government to ensure that our constituents receive the very best standard of service, which they rightly expect. It is right that we raise concerns with the Government, who are ultimately responsible for the service and can ensure that something is done about the problems we raise. I will touch on some of the many cases ranging from 2012 to 2016 that my constituents have brought to my attention, and I know that other Members will do the same.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab)

​I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for securing this extremely important debate. I am very concerned about the management. That was highlighted to me when I wrote a letter to the North East Ambulance Service about ambulance services in Teesdale. I got a letter back headed, “Ambulance services in Weardale”. The worst thing that happened was to Violet Alliston, whose partner rang three times in an hour. No ambulance came, and she died. That is obviously totally unacceptable.

Mrs Hodgson

I thank my hon. Friend for that very sad example, which I fear and predict will be one of many—perhaps not all with such a tragic ending—that we will hear this afternoon.

The correspondence I have received about ambulance waiting times in my constituency makes it clear this has been a persistent problem since 2012. I was first told about the problem with waiting times by the league chairman of the Wearside football league after he raised concerns with the North East Ambulance Service directly about numerous incidents. In his correspondence, he said that waiting times for football players who had broken their leg had continually gone over 70 minutes. In one case, after a player broke their leg, the league chairman called 999 at 11.40 am, but he was called back and informed that no ambulance was available and that he should take the player by car. He rang 999 back and complained that that went against what trained first aiders were told about not moving people with broken bones. An ambulance then arrived at 1 pm—80 minutes after the initial call—and the young man was taken to hospital.

Ever since that case, I have received a range of correspondence from other constituents highlighting failures and shortcomings in ambulances going out to emergencies. An issue particular to my local area—I do not think it is replicated in other parts of the region, although we may hear differently when other colleagues speak—is that ambulances struggle to get to certain parts of my constituency due to confusion in finding the address. That has been repeatedly brought to my attention by my constituent, Mr Walker, who for the past two years has highlighted the difficulty that ambulance crews have getting to the Usworth Hall estate in Washington. When a shocking murder took place in the area in 2014, the ambulance did not arrive for more than an hour and the man died.

An example of that failure happened when a woman was in labour and her sister-in-law had to deliver the baby because the ambulance went to the wrong street. The children of the woman in labour had to search the streets for the ambulance. When they found it, they guided it by foot, as they were not allowed on board, for more than a mile to where it should have been.

I could give many other examples. It has been a persistent issue for the residents of Usworth Hall, who, through Mr Walker, have highlighted their concerns and their exasperation at those problems. On each occasion, I forwarded their concerns to the North East Ambulance Service, which looked into each issue. To its credit, it has tried to address them. That was highlighted in a letter to me in July 2014, in which it explained that it had set up an electronic flag system for all residents in Usworth Hall and had a duty manager from its control room go out and survey the area for problems. However,  ​Mr Walker contacted me again at the beginning of April and informed me that an ambulance was parked outside his house one evening. When he went out to speak to the staff, he found that they were lost and supposed to be in another street.

Paramedics understandably do not have the local knowledge that residents have, but sat-nav equipment is provided to help ambulances get to the right destination at the right time.

Mary Glendon (North Tyneside) (Lab)

Does my hon. Friend think that those delays could be because of the shortage of paramedics and the fact that, as the service has admitted, it uses volunteers and private contractors to provide ambulances? That exacerbates the problem of people not knowing how to get to where they need to be.

Mrs Hodgson

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I will come on to the shortage, which is running at about 15%, and the stress on paramedics, to which she alluded.

If the sat-nav equipment continues to fail, and if my interventions on behalf of my constituents and the ambulance trust’s action do not rectify the situation, there needs to be a serious investigation into what is going wrong. We cannot have our ambulances driving round lost on estates looking for the right street.

My most recent piece of casework is from February and is deeply concerning. It concerns my constituent, Mrs Ellen Sherriff. I feel that using the words emailed to me by my constituent’s husband, Mr David Sherriff, can help to highlight the situation and the distress that can come from having to wait hours and hours for an ambulance to arrive. I hope that you will allow me a moment to read out Mr Sherriff’s words, Mr Bailey. He said:

“Ellen became unwell at 10.35am yesterday morning with severe head pain on the right-hand side. She felt like she was going to pass out. I checked her blood pressure which was very high, so phoned 111 at 11am and spoke to a call handler who told me he was sending an emergency ambulance and not to be worried if it arrived with blue lights.

Two and a half hours later no one had come. Ellen remained unwell and could not stand any light.

I phoned 999 and was told the ambulance that was coming had been diverted to Cramlington but that we would be next unless a more urgent call came in.

At 2.40pm, a patient transportation ambulance arrived with two ambulance men. I asked why it had taken so long. They said given the circumstances Ellen should have been seen earlier. They had no equipment, not even a blood pressure machine. They said they couldn’t risk moving Ellen in case they caused the bleed in her brain to become life threatening and they would send for a paramedic. They would also remain here till he arrived. They also complained to the control room regarding the wait.

They sat outside until 5.30pm, 6 and a half hours after I first phoned. When the paramedic first arrived he examined Ellen and said she should have been in hospital 5 hours earlier.”

It was not until 6 pm, more than eight hours after the initial phone call, that my constituent, Mrs Sherriff, was admitted to hospital, where it was discovered that she did indeed have a bleed in the brain and that she should have been there much sooner.​

Until Friday, Mr Sherriff was still awaiting a response to his complaint, which was sent in February. Perhaps the prospect of this debate ensured that he eventually got it. The trust has admitted errors in the handling and categorising of Mrs Sherriff’s condition, meaning that it was continually not treated with the urgency required. The trust has apologised and said that a “reflection and learning session” has been given to the original call handler, but this case could easily have had a tragic ending.

Pat Glass (North West Durham) (Lab)

I thank my hon. Friend for securing the debate, which is important to all of us. Does she agree that the issue is not only with the ambulance service? Last summer, in the middle of the night, I took a relative to the university hospital in Durham. In the morning, when I came outside, I counted 12 ambulances stood outside the hospital and unable to discharge their passengers and get patients admitted. The whole system in the north-east is now simply not working.

Mrs Hodgson

My hon. Friend makes a valid point—we often hear about the queues of ambulances at accident and emergency. Patients have waited hours and hours for the ambulance to come, but when they get to the hospital, they sit in a queue outside. I have raised that with my local hospital. There is a huge breakdown in the system. Something is going seriously wrong, and it is completely unacceptable. Mrs Sherriff, a patient who had a suspected bleed in the brain, had to wait for more than eight hours before getting to A&E. That is truly shocking, and all those cases mentioned highlight concerns that the Government and the North East Ambulance Service must address.

I have one more issue to discuss before concluding, and that is to do with the numbers of qualified paramedics, which my hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon) mentioned in her intervention. When waiting times are going up and demand is rising, we clearly need to look at workforce retention and recruitment. Our paramedics do an amazing job, but they cannot be in two places at the same time.

At this point, I want to place clearly on the record that I am not apportioning any blame or criticism at all to any paramedic or ambulance crew. They do an amazing job, under very difficult and trying circumstances, day in, day out, and they should not be placed in situations whereby, once allocated, they race through traffic to a call, within the appropriate time allowed, only to be faced with stressed and sometimes angry people, who say, “Where’ve you been? I’ve been waiting four, five, six or seven hours.”

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. I have an example from my constituency. A young lad, a teenager, had a road traffic accident, getting a compound fracture of the leg, but it took three hours for an ambulance to get to him.

When I met the ambulance chief executive, she told me that the problem is that the organisations that do employment and support allowance assessments are poaching qualified paramedics from the ambulance  ​service, creating a great hole. There is a role there for Government, perhaps, to talk to the whole organisation, to see what can be done to put a stop to that.

Mrs Hodgson

My hon. Friend makes a valid point, which I will touch on, although he made the case well. We have to look at the slippage, to where in the rest of the health service the paramedics are haemorrhaging, and why. I will say more about that in a moment.

Paramedics are there to treat people and give them emergency—perhaps life-saving—healthcare, but before they can even start to treat them, they might first have to calm the patient and relatives down, because of something that was completely out of their hands. It is therefore no surprise that, nationally, there is a shortage of qualified paramedics, and all trusts are struggling to fill vacancies so that they can operate at full capacity. The North East Ambulance Service has a 15% shortage, and is plugging the gap with private and voluntary organisations, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside mentioned. The service has said, however, that it will be up to full establishment in a year, but how many more people will wait for hours and hours before we get to that stage?

Something therefore needs to be done about the recruitment and retention of paramedics, especially since evidence has shown that more staff are leaving the profession than ever. Also, mental health charity Mind reported that 62% of blue-light emergency service workers have experienced a mental health problem and, worryingly, one in four has considered ending their own life. It is shocking to think about the stress that those people are working under.

It is no surprise that research conducted jointly by Unite, Unison and the GMB revealed at the end of last year that more than 1,500 paramedics had left the service in 2014-15, compared with 845 in 2010-11—still a high number, but a little more than half the later figure. Of paramedics surveyed as part of other research by the three unions, 75% had considered leaving the profession due to stress and pay.

Action therefore needs to be taken on recruitment, which is why I welcome the work of my local university, the University of Sunderland, which in partnership with the North East Ambulance Service has launched a diploma programme in paramedic practice. It will pair theoretical study with practical training over two years, and it will help to address the shortages faced by not only our regional trust, but other trusts around the country. That innovative work by my local university, alongside that of the outstanding paramedic practice degree at Teesside University, which is seen as a beacon of best practice in our region, if not the country, is important and will help.

It is, however, unsustainable not to address strategically the staffing shortages and the increasing demoralisation of a workforce who are haemorrhaging away, because that is clearly having an impact on waiting and call-out times for emergencies. That is why I hope that the Minister will address those concerns, and outline what the Government are doing to deal with recruitment and retention. How will she work with my local ambulance service trust to ensure that it reaches the target of being fully operational by this time next year? How will the ambulance trust ensure that those who are recruited  ​into the field are retained and do not slip off to work for other parts of the health service, so that we do not see further shortages down the line?

It is important that our emergency ambulance services are up to the standard that we all expect. That means working collaboratively among ourselves, as the local Members of Parliament who represent our constituents and their concerns, and with the Department of Health, NHS England and the North East Ambulance Service Trust. Our constituents deserve the best standards in our NHS, and it is up to the Government seriously to address pressures on our NHS services, especially the case of the workforce in the ambulance service.

I hope that the Minister has listened carefully to my concerns, and will listen to those that my colleagues from the north-east who have attended the debate today express. I look forward to hearing what she has to say at the end of the debate.

Performance of North East Ambulance Service Westminster Hall Debate 04.05.16

Sharon speaking in the Performance of North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) Westminster Hall Debate 04.05.16 Image Copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016 As Chair of the Northern Group of Labour MPs,...


Sharon speaking at a business event on apprenticeships and social value 29.04.16

Image copyright Henk Geertsema ACIM, 2016

Sharon was invited to speak at a business event in Sedgefield titled 'Competing for Social Value in Procurement Contracts', along with Labour MEP, Jude Kirton-Darling, about stretching social value by businesses and companies when recruiting apprentices. Sharon spoke about the need to address the issue of young people being left in a constant cycle of check-list training courses or short-term apprenticeships with no prospects of a job at the end of it, and the despondency both can have on the life chances of young people and the need for businesses and training providers to recognise the social value they can have in creating a diverse and skilled workforce. 

You can read Sharon's speech below:

Firstly, I want to thank Stephanie and Rachel for inviting me to come and speak to you today.

Social value has become a much more important part of public procurement in recent years, with businesses and organisations who bid for public contracts now needing to consider how they can improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of their local area.

This is something I have worked on in recent months with Rachel Lumsden, Stephanie Smith and other experts and organisations within my local authority area in Sunderland, especially when it comes to the social impact of apprenticeships for young people.

In latest guidance by the Government to authorities and businesses on procurement of contracts, it stated that contracts worth £10 million or more, and last for 12 months or longer, should support the upskilling of their workforce and the wider community, along with working towards the Government’s ambitious, but noble, target of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020.

Organisations here in the room today may never be competing for contracts worth £10 million or more, but this doesn’t mean that the principles of ensuring that we work towards upskilling our workforce - a value held across the board within the business community – is not still worth pursuing and I know that many here today, will agree and already champion this belief.

However, there is always more that can be done and this is what I wish to talk to you all about today.

Apprenticeships unlock success

It is undeniable the impact that a high-quality apprenticeship can have on the lives of young people in providing them with skills for life, along with the chance to earn whilst they learn and move on in life with a sustainable career path – something we all wish for our children.

As a region, we pride ourselves on our strong manufacturing and industrial heritage and the entwined appreciation for just how important an apprenticeship can be to getting on in life.

It is important that when a business provides an apprenticeship to a young person, that we don’t, after six months, see them tossed out on to the street with no job to go into and that they have just been making up the numbers to ensure targets set out by the Government are met.

This is something I know all too well from personal experience, when during the 1980s, I saw my two brothers go through a turnstile of training programmes, they were called YOPs and YTSs back then, but when it came to the end of the six-month period, they were told: ‘There’s no job here for you’ and they would end up on yet another scheme, and see this repeated time and time again.

My youngest brother did four YTS’s and went from an eager 16-year-old dreaming of being a mechanic to an angry disillusioned 18-year-old on the dole with no prospects. It took a number of years to recover from that and he eventually got his chance when thankfully his best friend’s dad, who laid marble floor tiles as a sub-contractor in airports and shopping malls, gave him a job labouring for him.

This was just the break my brother, probably aged 20 or 21 by then, needed. He went from strength to strength, learnt the trade, became a floorer himself and is now a director of the company. Now, that’s the difference giving a young person a chance makes to their life. If only those 4 companies which let him go after 6 months had given him a chance! Their loss!

This is why I am passionate about the recognition of the social value and impact that businesses can have on the lives of young people.

If we take the message that came out of National Apprenticeship Week last month, of: the positive impact apprenticeships can have on our economy, but also on a more personal level with the social mobility that can come with undertaking an apprenticeship, it is understandable just how far we have come since the 1980s.

We can’t just celebrate apprenticeships for one week alone though, we need to do this day in, day out, by actively working towards improving the quality and access to apprenticeships on offer to our young people. 

That is why there is still more to do, and this is a message that I hope will come out of today.

For many young people in our region there is no hope of them securing an apprenticeship, with the Government’s requirements that young people must have a Grade C in English and Maths.

Whilst it is important that we continue to aspire to pushing the outcomes of young people achieving an A* to C in the core subjects, we have to realise that this is not always possible for all young people, especially some with SEND.

There are many skilled apprenticeships which understandably need to have the grades in order to complete the work needed of them to a high-standard, such as using high level thinking, maths skills such as algebra etc, or complex concepts.

But should a young person aspiring to do an apprenticeship working in an office, with the functional mathematical and literacy skills to do the job, be excluded from this life changing apprenticeship that is open to their peers.

Or excluding a young person who is good with their hands from an apprenticeship as a construction worker or a welder, because they didn’t get their C in Maths and English, although may have plenty other GCSE A – C, I think this is wrong when they can learn all the functional skills needed to do this job whilst working on site.

For many young people applying what they are trying to learn in the classroom to the actual life scenarios they are now in can make the penny drop to help them develop skills they never thought they would have, with some then reaching the magic C in English and Maths during their apprenticeship. Others will bring their Maths and English up to the functional level. They just need the chance, their break.

Recent figures I obtained through a Parliamentary Question to the Department for Education found that 42% of young people in the North East by the age of 16 were not achieving at least a Grade C in English and Maths.

Many of those young people may get the required grades the following year, or the year after that, yet what is deeply concerning is that because of this block imposed on the entry requirements for an apprenticeship we are seeing some young people being placed onto remedial course after remedial course, so that training providers can tick a box to say they are supporting young people to achieve their needed qualifications – and in some cases, no real progress is ever made. With the young person becoming increasingly disillusioned and losing all hope of ever getting the chance to get on, get a break, to start their life as an adult.

This harks back to what I mentioned earlier with my brother’s experiences in the 1980s, and the danger of creating a despondent and disengaged generation of young people who are being locked out of achieving their true potential because they have not been given the opportunities to do so. Not able to even get over the first hurdle.

What can businesses do

That is why it is up to businesses, such as yourselves here today, to tap into this idea of social value and ensure that young people are given the opportunities they need in life to change their lives for the better.

To do this, there needs to be scrutiny and creativity driving forward how we look at the way we recruit apprentices and always keeping in mind the idea of: ‘what am I giving back to my local community?’

One way of doing this is by looking at the processes undertaken by training companies and holding them to account on how they are recruiting and training the apprenticeship workforce in our region, and who better to do this than those who use their services – that is all of you.

Secondly, speak to them and find out more about their recruitment procedures and have the important discussions about how making social value a central ethos to your apprenticeship recruitment is important to you and your organisation and challenging them to do more.

These are two important ways of taking this issue further.


There is so much more we can do to ensure we unlock the doors of opportunity to the widest possible cross-section of society, and allow those young people in our local area to have the best chances in life through the social mobility an apprenticeship can have on their life.

Thank you for listening. 

Sharon speaks at business event on apprenticeships and social value

Sharon speaking at a business event on apprenticeships and social value 29.04.16 Image copyright Henk Geertsema ACIM, 2016 Sharon was invited to speak at a business event in Sedgefield titled... Read more


Sharon speaking in the Backbench Business Debate on Record copies of Acts 20.04.16

Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016

Over the past few months, Sharon has campaigned on protecting the Parliamentary practice of printing the Acts passed in the Houses of Parliament on vellum. This came about after her work as Chair of the Art, Craft and Design in Education APPG and was approached by Patricia Lovett, a calligrapher and user of vellum, about the possibility of Parliament ending the use of vellum. This debate was the chance for Members of Parliament to officially record their opposition and concern with the decision which was taken by the House of Lords earlier this year. 

You can read Sharon's speech in Hansard here: Sharon Hodgson MP Backbench Business Debate on Record Copies of Acts 20.04.16

Text of speech pasted below:

5.41 pm

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

I congratulate the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray) on securing this afternoon’s debate, and on spearheading the opportunity for this House to voice its concerns about the decision taken by the House of Lords and the House of Commons Administration Committee to end the centuries-old practice of printing Acts of Parliament on vellum.

My involvement came about after the issue was brought to my attention by Patricia Lovett—calligrapher, illuminator, vellum-user, and vice-chair of the Heritage Crafts Association. She was concerned about the impact on an important heritage craft in this country. It was our shared hope to see this decision reversed when the matter was first considered back in October, when the Administration Committee recommended that the Commons agree to the renewed request by the Chairman of Committees in the Lords that we print record copies of public Acts not on vellum, but on archival paper. This House, however, was never consulted on this, and neither was the sector on which the change would have the greatest impact—nor indeed were the wider public, who might have an interest in the future of this heritage craft.

It was with great dismay that, two months ago, we were informed that the printers had been given a 30-day notice to cease printing on vellum, with no public announcement or dissemination of this decision to parliamentarians; I found out from Patricia Lovett, as I said. That led to my point of order on 9 February, in which I raised my concerns about this shady back-room deal between the Commons authorities and those in the Lords.

After the points of order raised by the hon. Member for North Wiltshire and me, the Minister for the Cabinet Office intervened with the welcome news that the money necessary to continue printing on vellum would be found from Government coffers. Although I genuinely thank the Minister for his support for our campaign, I really think that printing, preserving and protecting our own archival history through our own budgets is a matter for Parliament.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Matthew Hancock)

Let me make it clear at this stage of the debate that this is very much a matter for the House. Although we on the Treasury Bench offer our support, it remains a matter for the House.

Mrs Hodgson

That saving grace is very welcome.​

Many of us from different parties might be described as strange bedfellows in this debate, but we have come together on this issue because we agree that the continued use of vellum is part of recognising our heritage and traditions. The Palace of Westminster is to undergo a potential £7 billion refurbishment to conserve this place for future generations to use, visit and admire; how can anyone argue for a saving that is so small by comparison, without considering what we would lose?

Our most important documents have been printed or written on vellum, from the Magna Carta to the Domesday Book and a piece of important north-east English history, the Lindisfarne gospels. All these historical manuscripts have been preserved for posterity because they were printed on vellum. They have lasted through the ages due to vellum’s durable qualities, which have ensured that future generations can appreciate and respect our shared history. Surely the legislation that we make here is worthy of this small additional cost. These are the laws of our land, and they should have the status and respect that is implied when they are printed on vellum. As Paul Wright from William Cowley said on the Jeremy Vine show last year, “If it is precious, put it on vellum.”

The crux of my concern about the change is the debate about the costs of printing on vellum. Both the Administration Committee and the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords have claimed that ending the use of vellum would save Parliament, and the taxpayer, an average of £80,000 per year, but that figure has been disputed. William Cowley has said that, according to its books, the sale of vellum to Parliament is worth £47,000 per year. My question is: where does the proposed saving of £33,000 come from?

There is also concern about the use of archival paper. As we have heard, vellum manuscripts have lasted for centuries, and archival paper has not been proved to have that kind of longevity. There is talk of 250 years and of 500 years, but it must be borne in mind that those are estimates, not facts. It is a fact, however, that vellum lasts longer, and I therefore cannot support a switch to the inferior medium of archival paper.

Parliament is an important beacon of our history and heritage, and the fact that Members of either House can so easily dismiss a centuries-old practice is deeply worrying. We should remember that William Cowley is our last remaining vellum maker here in the UK. If it were to lose its contract with Parliament, that could be detrimental to the future of this heritage craft, and those who wished to buy vellum would have to look to other countries. It would not be just our medals that we would be buying from France. That is why I hope that today we can finally save vellum for good.

Record copies of Acts (Vellum) Debate 20.04.16

Sharon speaking in the Backbench Business Debate on Record copies of Acts 20.04.16 Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016 Over the past few months, Sharon has campaigned on protecting the...


Sharon speaking in the teenage pregnancy Westminster Hall Debate 19.04.16

Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016

As Shadow Minister for Children, Sharon responded to a debate on teenage pregnancy in Westminster Hall, highlighting the important work done to reduce the under-18 conception rate, the multi-agency and co-operative work seen under the last Labour Government with their Teenage Pregnancy strategy between central and local government, and the need to improve sex and relationship education in our schools as part of statutory PSHE Education.

You can read Sharon's speech in Hansard here: Sharon Hodgson MP Teenage Pregnancy Westminster Hall Debate 19.04.16

Speech pasted below:

5.29 pm

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

It is an honour, as ever, to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope. I thank the hon. Member for Telford (Lucy Allan) for securing this debate, which allows us to acknowledge the achievements made in addressing teenage pregnancy rates and to recognise that there is still a lot more to do, as she did so eloquently in her speech. I also want to acknowledge the excellent contributions of the hon. Members for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss), who brought important perspectives from Northern Ireland and Scotland respectively.​

Research shows that 61% of children born to teenage mothers are at a higher risk of infant mortality and that, by the age of 30, teenage mothers are 22% more likely to be living in poverty than those who gave birth at the age of 24 or over. I know that that is not universal, but those are the statistics. The fact that 21% of women aged between 16 and 18 who are not in education, employment or training are teenage mothers shows that teenage pregnancy is not only a cause but a consequence of the educational and health inequalities in our society. That is why we cannot sit by and ignore this situation, especially given that we still lag behind western Europe on our teenage pregnancy rate. Although it was welcome news that England last month achieved the long-held target of a 50% reduction—it actually achieved 51%—in the under-18 conception rate between 1998 and 2014, this is no time to be complacent. We must ensure that the positive work that has been done does not go to waste and that the trends do not flatline or worsen.

Although the overall rate has gone down for England, there are still wide-ranging variations—not just between regions but within them. For example, my own local authority, Sunderland City Council, has seen a 45% drop in the conception rate. However, just down the road, Stockton-on-Tees, in the same region, has seen only a 29% decrease between 1998 and 2014. That trend is replicated in all regions, with varying gaps and differences in the conception rate. A lot of that can be put down to local variations and the way in which the 10-year strategy, which was introduced by the previous Labour Government in 1999, was implemented by local authorities.

The strategy was informed by international evidence. A 30-point plan was launched to halve the under-18 conception rate and to improve the life chances not only of the teenagers who fall pregnant but of their children. The plan laid solid foundations for reducing teenage pregnancy by ensuring effective multi-agency work. In 2005, the plan was reviewed when it became apparent that the initial measures were not being implemented across the board. Instead, more prescriptive guidance was introduced. That review of the strategy’s actions was best described by Alison Hadley in a recent article in the Journal of Family Health. She said that the review was an understanding “that high rates were not inevitable—even in deprived areas—if the right actions were put in place.”

That is the crux of the way that we should and must approach the issue of teenage pregnancy. It is not an inevitability of modern society, but it can be down to the inaction of those with the levers of power and their failure to implement the right interventions.

Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) (Lab)

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Telford (Lucy Allan) on securing this debate. I do not know how many in the House have the experience that I had, but I was a mum at the age of 16. I come from a deprived background. Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most important things we can do is to ensure that people have the opportunity to break that cycle and enable them to go back to education or to bring their child up? That is one of the things that I found really depressing when I watched the ITV programme “Long Lost Family”. It is one of the heartfelt things that made me burst into tears. My son is with me; ​I was able to raise him as a teenage mum because of the intervention and support that I got as a mum. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vitally important that we do that?

Mrs Hodgson

I do, and I commend my hon. Friend for raising that matter. She talked about it in her maiden speech so movingly for those who were in the Chamber or who listened to it afterwards. It brings important insight into this House in debates such as this to hear someone speak from experience. She is right that we need to support teenage mums. This is not about stigmatising them. Obviously, sometimes it is about helping them to make different choices if they do not want to make a particular choice. We must support them and ensure that the statistics I just mentioned, which we are all aware of, do not become the reality for young mums and their children. My hon. Friend has obviously broken that cycle: she is here as a Member of Parliament. The cycle of deprivation does not have to be inevitable. As I said, it is not universal, but the statistics are not where we would like them to be. There are obviously exceptions that prove the rule.

In 2010, the Department for Education set out a bonfire of policies that saw specific budgets directed at local councils, such as for addressing teenage pregnancy, rolled into the early intervention grant, which has sadly been repeatedly cut year on year and is a shell of what it used to be. The Government have failed to build on the work set out by the last Labour Government, thereby threatening the success seen to date with their short-sighted strategy on early intervention.

Instead of the Government seeing local authorities as a problem, rather than a solution, we need a renewal of the thinking that we had between 1997 and 2010, which harnessed the co-operative relationship between local and central Government to address issues such as teenage pregnancy effectively. For instance, one of the key measures that followed through in both the initial strategy and the updated version, as the hon. Member for Telford discussed in her opening speech, was the necessity to improve sex and relationship education in our schools.

No one will be surprised to hear that I am a passionate advocate of age-appropriate sex and relationship education. I understand the real benefits that equipping children with the right knowledge and tools will have on their futures as they become adults. However, it is not just me who believes that; it is the young people themselves. As the Sex Education Forum found in a survey of more than 2,000 young people earlier this year on the sex and relationship education that they receive, one in five was reported as saying that it was bad or very bad, which is deeply concerning when young people still say that they are embarrassed to seek advice about sex or relationship issues and half of 15-year-olds do not know about the existence of local contraception and sexual health services in their area.

Many opponents of age-appropriate sex and relationship education say that it is the job of parents, not teachers, to teach their children about sex and relationships, which shows just how out of touch many people are with the lives of children and young people. The Sex Education Forum reports that 7% of 15-year-old boys and 9% of 15-year-old girls have no trusted adult in their life to whom they can go when they need advice on sex and relationships. Some of them are children in ​care, about whom hon. Members spoke in the earlier debate. It is for that very reason that I and other Labour Members support the introduction of age-appropriate SRE as part of statutory personal, social, health and economic education, and many Government Members are slowly coming round to that idea, too. The lack of sex and relationship education in our schools is a ticking time bomb that the Government must address, especially with their impending forced academisation of all schools, which will bring into question the survival of SRE in any form in our schools.

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)

I am interested to hear some of the points that the hon. Lady has made so far. Does she agree that it is important that schools buy into any duties? It is important that we have SRE and that its delivery does not become like the requirement to hold an act of religious worship in the morning. It is nice that that is statutory, but it is far more honoured in its breach than in its observance.

Mrs Hodgson

That is a very good point, because where sex and relationship education is compulsory in maintained schools, unlike in academies and free schools, there tend to be two elements: the biology and HIV/AIDS awareness, and then the relationship side. That is exactly the hon. Gentleman’s point. It has to be good-quality sex and relationship education, rather than just ticking some boxes.

The ticking time bomb is paired with the increasing sexualisation of young people, with recent freedom of information requests to local police forces showing that reported incidents of children sexting has skyrocketed by more than 1,200% in the past two years due to increased access to social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and even to dating apps such as Tinder, which is why it is welcome that the Women and Equalities Committee has announced today an investigation into sexting as part of its inquiry on sexual harassment among pupils in schools. I look forward to seeing what comes out of that inquiry.

It is high time that the Government took action and issued an update of the sex and relationship education guidance, which was published before the smartphone generation was even born. I hope the Minister can update Members on the DFE’s plans. I will not hold my breath, however, as when the opportunity came for the Government to take bold steps in introducing statutory PSHE and age-appropriate SRE following the most recent report of the Select Committee on Education on this area, it was blocked by no less than the Prime Minister. That was despite it being reported that many women Cabinet Ministers, including the Education Secretary herself, were strongly in favour of introducing this measure and were dismayed at the Prime Minister’s inaction.

Not only disgruntled Cabinet Ministers but the Children’s Commissioner, the Chief Medical Officer, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 88% of teachers, 90% of parents and 92% of young people themselves are in favour of introducing both subjects to the curriculum as statutory subjects. Yet again, the Prime Minister is putting himself on the wrong side of the issue when it comes to teaching our young people about life and the resilience to deal with what is thrown at them.​

In conclusion, it is undeniable that we have made great strides forward on teenage pregnancy and those achievements must be celebrated, but there is still a long way to go. The Government must make clear their vision about how they will build on the important multi-agency, co-operative intervention work of the last Labour Government, and about how they will finally bring forward plans for PSHE and SRE that will make them effective tools in the young person’s arsenal and enable them to make informed choices in their lives.

Teenage Pregnancy Westminster Hall Debate 19.04.16

Sharon speaking in the teenage pregnancy Westminster Hall Debate 19.04.16 Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016 As Shadow Minister for Children, Sharon responded to a debate on teenage pregnancy in...


Sharon speaking in the Westminster Hall Debate on Children's Homes 19.04.16

Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016

As Shadow Minister for Children, Sharon spoke in a Westminster Hall debate focused around the pending Sir Martin Narey review into looked-after children's residential care, and highlighted concerns with out-of-area placements and the criminalisation of looked-after children. 

You can read Sharon's speech in Hansard here: Sharon Hodgson MP Children's Homes Westminster Hall Debate 19.04.16

Speech pasted below:

3.12 pm

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

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Gillan. First, I want to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey) for securing this important debate this afternoon. She is probably the most knowledgeable MP in the House on this issue. As she said, she spoke on this issue in the House more than 21 years ago, and it could be quite frustrating for her that 21 years later she is still raising some of those same issues. It shows her tenacity that she has not given up and, hopefully, we might see some movement this afternoon. We live in hope.

We have heard thoughtful contributions this afternoon from the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), from my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Simon Danczuk), and from the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald) who is a Front-Bench spokesperson for the Scottish National party. We have had very thoughtful contributions. Debates are sometimes disappointing. I was in the debate on brain tumours yesterday and there was standing room only. I would not like to think that this debate is any less important than one that needs to have large numbers of people contributing, but let us hope that in our contributions today the quality will outweigh the quantity. I also thank the hon. Member for Telford (Lucy Allan) for her interventions.

What comes across very clearly is that we are sending a message to Sir Martin Narey—the hon. Member for Telford mentioned him—before the publication of his review that we hope to see reforms that will support and improve the lives of looked-after children in residential care. This debate has been on the wider aspects of the ​Narey review, but there are two areas that I wish to touch on this afternoon: out-of-area placements, as described by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, and the criminalisation of looked-after children.

Ever since the passing of the Children Act 1989, there has been a strong statutory duty on local authorities to place a child who enters the care system in the local authority area and ensure that their needs are met. However, guidance released by the Department last summer stated: “There will be circumstances where a distant placement will be the most suitable for a child”.

Since then, there has been a clear trajectory in Government thinking that has raised the many concerns eloquently highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport. It is important that children receive the best care possible and, in certain circumstances, that may mean that an out-of-area placement is necessary to meet their needs. However, there is no conclusive evidence to support that strategy becoming wider practice. That is why the evidence that was used to come to the Government’s conclusion must be clarified.

Until out-of-area placements’ effectiveness is made clearer, it is important that they do not become the norm, yet when we see more and more children living more than 20 miles away from what they define as their home—their local area—it is not hard to believe that this is now becoming common practice. Recent Department for Education figures show that since 2010 we have seen an increase of over 20% in the number of children placed out of area, which now totals 17.9% of looked-after children. We need to unpick why that is happening, and I hope that the Minister will clarify what is going on in his response to this debate.

We know it is not the case that all local authorities have a children’s home within their boundaries. Many are based, as we have heard, in the west midlands, the south-east and north-west. This is an issue of infrastructure, and I hope that that will be addressed in Sir Martin Narey’s review.

One example of how care homes work, which I believe should be considered by the Government, is the Scandinavian and Germanic model of residential care, with smaller children’s homes with highly educated social pedagogues in charge. This idea of social pedagogy was backed by the “Care Matters” White Paper in 2007, which finally took it out of the confines of academic discourse and brought it into practical policy development. It included a recommendation to pilot a model in England to gather more evidence. A pilot was commissioned by the Social Education Trust and managed by the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care, a specialist unit under the watchful eye of the National Children’s Bureau.

Reviews of the pilots found that residential care staff welcomed the holistic and child-centred approach that social pedagogy could have on real change to the lives of children in residential care. The idea was backed as a valuable way to work in our residential care homes by the then Department for Children, Schools and Families in its looked-after children report in 2009. However, we have unfortunately seen this important step forward put on the back burner since the Government came to office in 2010. I am therefore interested to hear what assessment the DFE has made of how much this would cost and ​whether it is feasible for the UK. It is clear that the model is working in other countries, and it was welcomed here during the pilots, so an assurance by the Minister to look into this further, as the previous Labour Government had done, would be welcome.

For some children, residential care is the best option to meet their needs, but what is best for children is being in an environment that they know. To rip them away from some of the only constants in their life, including their school place and links to positive support from family—let us remember that not all family members of a looked-after child are irresponsible—can be damaging. In addition, reduced access to social workers and other support services that they have grown accustomed to can be damaging.

It is also concerning when the private sector gets involved and fails to market the services correctly. In a recent case, a looked-after child was moved from Oxfordshire to an expensive placement in Wales, and sadly committed suicide shortly after arriving. The serious case review investigation identified the fact that the quality of the provision on offer was not what had been marketed at all.

Although removing a child from influences such as gang violence or sexual exploitation are honourable and necessary, there is a need to support a child to manage risks and build personal resilience in their home area, especially when many of them return there once they have left a children’s home. Can we blame them? It is the place they know best, where friends and family are, and we all have that homing instinct within us, after all. The Challenging Behaviour Foundation recently came out strongly against out-of-area placements, and it has lobbied for more investment in local communities and areas. That included making the case for renting a home in a child’s local area and supplying staff for children on a one-to-one basis, which is not dissimilar to the Scandinavian model that I mentioned earlier.

Many serious questions about out-of-area placements arise, including the involvement of private companies in the system, which must be addressed urgently by the Government. There is no better time, especially with the review pending, for the Government to take the bull by the horns and make significant strides in reforming the provision on offer to looked-after children. I hope that the Government anticipate that all the issues I have mentioned will be addressed in Sir Martin’s review. However, I hope that another area, which has recently been brought into the public debate, will be considered: the criminalisation of children in residential care.

Recently, the Howard League for Penal Reform released data that showed there had been more than 10,000 police call-outs to residential settings. That is more than two for every child in residential care, and many of the call-outs concerned the most minor of incidents. An excellent report from the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, by Claire Sands, entitled “Growing Up, Moving On”, deals with the long-term effect of even minor offences becoming a criminal record that is never wiped clean. The criminalising of children in residential care is deeply concerning for children who are negatively labelled in many ways before they reach adulthood. If we add “criminal” to that list, we are burdening them further ​with a label that will impede any life chances that may come their way as they move into adulthood. There are some pertinent examples in “Growing Up, Moving On”, which I encourage hon. Members and the Minister to refer to. I hope that the Government are considering that issue seriously and that they will provide strong guidance to residential care homes to prevent further damage to the lives of children and young people by the very system that is trying to help and care for them.

We all want children, no matter what their background, to have the best start in life. That belief should be central to any reforms that affect the lives of children, and I hope that the Government will not squander the opportunity presented by Sir Martin’s review to take significant steps towards achieving that. I look forward to reading the review when it is published, and will continue to press the Government to keep the improvement of looked-after children’s lives at the heart of everything they do, ensuring that they are protected and nurtured and live a happy childhood, just like their peers.

Children's Homes Westminster Hall Debate 19.04.16

Sharon speaking in the Westminster Hall Debate on Children's Homes 19.04.16 Image copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016 As Shadow Minister for Children, Sharon spoke in a Westminster Hall debate focused...

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