As Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children's Centres, or more commonly known as Sure Start Centres, Sharon has supported a report written by the APPG which sets out a vision for the future of these centres.
The report, Family Hubs: The Future of Children's Centres, argues that Children’s Centres have had a crucial role to play in providing support to young children and their parents, intervening early to address problems that prevent children reaching their potential, and tackling poverty and disadvantage.
It sets out a series of recommendations for how Children’s Centres would be even better placed to improve life chances if they operated as Family Hubs – reaching more families and offering support across a broader range of issues - especially with the publication of the expected Government Life Chances strategy in the coming months.
Having heard evidence from a range of Children’s Centres, local authorities and charities over the last 12 months, the report, Family Hubs: The Future of Children’s Centres recommends:
- Augmenting Children’s Centres into Family Hubs as part of the Government’s Life Chances agenda. This would mean renaming and rebranding them as Family Hubs, broadening the range of services available to make them universally recognised one-stop-shops for sourcing support for families – at all stages and ages – in their local communities, linked with national online support.
- Placing Family Hubs at the heart of local Health and Wellbeing strategies, requiring strong leadership at local and national government levels
- An emphasis on mental health support, including looking at how support available from other partners such as schools can be integrated into Family Hubs support
- Delivering employment support, particularly for the long term jobless. This will involve strengthening links between Family Hubs, local employers and Jobcentre Plus
- Relationship support should be delivered in Family Hubs, or signposted from them, to include statutory, voluntary and self-help provision, and be extended beyond parenting support to include couples counselling; pre-marriage courses; post separation support and help with parenting teenagers.
Following the publication of the report, Sharon said:
“For over the last 15 years, Children’s Centres have been a vital means of support to families who need support in the early stages of family life. These centres have done so much good in that time and it is sad to see so many closing down across the country. Now more than ever, it is important that those families who are struggling do not miss out on the much needed support offered by these centres and that is why we must protect and build on those achievements.
“By expanding the support on offer and opening the doors to more families, Children’s Centres can be a central hub in our communities for all families to use and do what they do best which is identifying problems and intervening early to ensure those problems do not escalate further and irreversibly damage children’s futures.”
You can read the full report here.
As Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children's Centres, or more commonly known as Sure Start Centres, Sharon has supported a report written by the APPG which sets out...
On Monday 18th July, the House of Commons will be asked to vote on the renewal of our nuclear deterrent, Trident.
Unfortunately, as we were given very short notice of this vote and due to attending my son’s graduation today, I am unable to be in Parliament to vote on this matter. If I was able to be in Parliament for the vote I would have voted for renewal. Therefore, I want to outline my position on the future of our nuclear deterrent for constituents in the spirit of openness and transparency as your elected representative.
Like the overwhelming majority of people, both here in the UK and worldwide, I fully support international efforts toward multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and I believe our efforts on the international stage must be directed towards this goal of a world with far fewer nuclear weapons, leading to one day whereby they are not a part of any country’s defence strategy.
The UK has taken significant steps to reduce our nuclear arsenal, estimated at nearly a 75% reduction since the end of the Cold War and it is important we continue down this road. Much of the work done on this was by the previous Labour Government which took important steps, through international frameworks, to reduce our nuclear deterrent programme - including, halving the number of operationally available warheads and a reduction in the number of deployed warheads on each of our submarines.
I believe it is vital that we continue to build on the work of the last Labour Government and push for greater global disarmament. Sadly, this has not been seen by this current Government.
This is an important vote on our national security and position in the world, that is why the manner of this vote brought before Parliament by the Government is deeply disappointing. The debate is planned to be rushed through Parliament today without any chance of full scrutiny of the plans presented to us as elected representatives for our local areas, especially on policy which will have such financial implications with the spending of billions of taxpayer’s money. It is imperative that on a matter of national security and defence, and one on which people hold very strong feelings, that Parliament has the chance to fully scrutinise Government plans.
In an insecure and uncertain world, Britain must retain the minimum credible independent nuclear deterrent possible, which is best delivered through a continuous-at-sea deterrent. This is why I feel there must be further debate in Parliament to ensure scrutiny on the costs of our current deterrent and its renewal, and what a minimum deterrent, which is still considered operational and effective as a deterrent would look like.
When other countries possess nuclear weapons and technology that cannot be un-invented, and talks have stalled on the moves to disarmament, it is important that we have a full and frank debate on this matter that includes renewed efforts to multilaterally disarm but also ensures a cost-effective deterrent until that moment comes.
It is paramount that multilateral disarmament is our continued policy position, and not unilateral disarmament. If Britain was to unilaterally disarm, this could not only jeopardise the defence of our country but could also weaken our position on the international stage where we continually stand up for our values of freedom, human rights and peace around the world. We should not be isolating ourselves from our international partners, especially in such uncertain times.
There is also concerns raised about the jobs of those who work closely with Trident and within the supply chain, including two companies here in Washington and Sunderland West. This aspect of the debate around disarmament can often be forgotten, and if we are to disarm, then we need to have plans in place that support those who would lose their jobs if we were to disarm. The Government estimates that 30,000 jobs rely upon our continued nuclear deterrent programme.
It is absolutely clear that nobody likes nuclear weapons and we would all prefer a nuclear-free world, however, in such uncertain times we need to make sure that we are protected, and also our allies, including NATO, and this must be taken into account when making any decision to renew Trident.
That is why I hope during the debate that consideration is taken on this matter and clear plans are put in place to achieve our goal of multilateral disarmament.
On Monday 18th July, the House of Commons will be asked to vote on the renewal of our nuclear deterrent, Trident. Unfortunately, as we were given very short notice of...
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, joined over 80 organisations in signing a letter to David Davis, the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, to stress the importance on food and farming in the UK following the Brexit vote.
In the letter, concerns are expressed on the post-EU Referendum strategy for food and farming in the UK and argues that good food, farming and fishing policies must be central to any post-EU Referendum strategy; one of the key themes focuses on promoting healthier diets to combat heart disease, cancers, diabetes and obesity – especially amongst children – which can save the NHS millions in spending costs.
Further, the UK could prioritise ethical and sustainable production methods, improved animal welfare, more farmland and marine wildlife, a healthy future for bees and other pollinators, as well as enhancing the beauty of the countryside and protecting the environment, whilst also providing a safe and traceable food supply.
Following the signing of the letter, Sharon Hodgson MP said:
“It is important that during the EU exit negotiations over the coming months and years, that the benefits we have seen in improved farming and food practices are protected and not rolled back by leaving the EU.
“That is why I hope that during the negotiations that the Government makes sure our agricultural policy is central to any talks and issues around food, poverty, animal welfare, and food-related health matters continue to be worked on to create a better society.”
You can read the letter here.
Sharon signs letter to Brexit Minister to take control of food, farming and fisheries for public good
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, joined over 80 organisations in signing a letter to David Davis, the...
Sharon is backing a listening consultation with the people of the North East by Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen, Labour Members of the European Parliament for the North East on the upcoming negotiations for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.
The North East has the most to lose from leaving the EU, and it is up to the elected representatives in the region to be a strong voice during the negotiations to get the best deal possible for the North East.
Over the coming months, Labour’s two MEPs will be organising a consultation with the region’s political leaders, businesses, universities and trade unions as well as residents from across the North East before putting a regional view to the negotiators at European and UK level and it is paramount that the people of Sunderland have their voices heard.
This move follows concerns that other places such as Scotland, Wales and Cornwall have made their views clear potentially leaving the North East and its interests behind.
The consultation process will begin with an open survey to gauge opinion followed by a series of meetings and discussions with interest groups. These meetings will involve business leaders in the region, universities, cultural leaders, faith groups, the voluntary community sector, the unions, rural communities and schools. There will be a focus on reaching out to ordinary people, especially those who voted to leave, to hear what their priorities are for the next stage of the exit process.
The consultation will seek to find out how important access to the Single Market is for the North East and explore the question of how European regional and social funding could be replaced from other sources. There will also be a focus on what shape rights for workers and consumers would be and whether environmental standards should be maintained at the current level.
The consultation may also consider how well represented the North East is within the structure of the United Kingdom and whether we need a greater emphasis on reforming our own institutions, once we no longer have a European tier of governance.
“The result of the EU referendum was clear, and it is now time that the people of our region, both those who voted to remain and those who voted to leave, have their voices heard and are not left behind as the negotiations begin. That is why I welcome the consultation by our two Labour MEPs to ensure that our region’s voice is heard during these negotiations.
“I hope as many people in our region as possible, especially here in Sunderland, will engage with this consultation and have a measured and respectful debate about our future outside of the European Union and what guarantees we can get for our region to ensure our fragile economic prosperity is not weakened.”
Jude Kirton Darling MEP said:
“The decision to leave the EU brings an unprecedented array of challenges for the region, but possibly new opportunities, too. We believe it is important that the region has a voice in these times of great change. We intend to carry out far-reaching research to try and identify the region’s key priorities and to understand what the North East needs from an exit negotiation from the EU. Ultimately we intend to present our findings to the European negotiators as well as to negotiators in Westminster and Whitehall."
Paul Brannen MEP said:
“We believe that this referendum was an expression of frustration and disillusionment with politics and society in this country, and that we must listen to all voices, in order to try and get the most beneficial deal for all. We want to hear from everyone. This vote will affect every single person in this region and every person’s voice counts. So if leaving the EU will affect you, your business, your studies, or your household bills, please get in touch.”
You can find the link to the initial survey and further updates on the consultation here.
Sharon is backing a listening consultation with the people of the North East by Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen, Labour Members of the European Parliament for the North East on...
In her capacity as Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ticket Abuse, Sharon has come out in support of the launch of FanFair Alliance.
FanFair Alliance is a campaign group which unites music businesses, artists and fans against abuses in the secondary ticketing market.
At a launch in Central London, FanFair Alliance brought together interested parties, including managers of bands such as Arctic Monkeys, One Direction and Mumford and Sons, along with music trade bodies including Music Managers Forum, to urge the Government to take four pragmatic steps that would ensure the fraudulent activity of touts is stopped and face value tickets are put into the hands of fans.
These four steps include:
- Enforcement - especially of legislation such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
- Transparency - where fans know who they are buying from.
- Responsibility – where secondary platforms are showing corporate responsibility towards consumer protection legislation.
- Supply – to address the abuse of technology, such as ‘bots’, which harvests tickets and stops fans from getting tickets.
Fans can sign up to the campaign by visiting the website here: www.fanfairalliance.org to share their experiences and stories and follow them on social media at @FanFairAlliance or www.facebook.com/FanFairAlliance
Following the launch of FanFair Alliance, Sharon said:
“For too long fans have been ripped off by ticket touts and the Government have continually failed to offer support to fans to put them first, through ensuring legislation is properly implemented and has the teeth to protect fans from the abuses seen in the secondary market.
“The launch of FanFair Alliance so soon after the publication of the Waterson Review which called on the Government to do more in this area, is welcome news and will provide fans with a way to voice their concerns with the secondary market. I hope many fans will sign up to this campaign by visiting their website.
“I look forward to working closely with FanFair Alliance to ensure Parliament can help voice the concerns of fans with Government and in order that fans are put first once and for all.”
Sign the Government petition here >
In her capacity as Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ticket Abuse, Sharon has come out in support of the launch of FanFair Alliance. FanFair Alliance is a campaign...
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon visited the Young Marketeers Summer Market in Borough Market, London.
The market was made up of children from 12 schools from across London who set up market stalls in Borough Market to sell their school-grown fruit and veg and help raise funds for FareShare – a charity that helps tackle hunger and food waste in the UK. The scheme is a joint venture between School Food Matters, FareShare and Borough Market.
As part of the scheme, the children learn about the experience of growing and harvesting food and then selling it to the general public. This scheme allows children to develop important knowledge about where the food they eat comes from, and also learn vital skills on growing, marketing and selling produce; all important skills that can be used in adult life.
After the visit, Sharon said:
“It was absolutely wonderful to see so many children getting stuck into the whole process of growing fresh food and then proudly selling the food they have lovingly grown at school. It was clear when I visited the market that we had some budding Alan Sugars on the stalls that morning.
“Allowing children the ability to learn about where food comes from and the process of selling food will put them in good stead for their futures where they can apply these skills to their adult life by making healthier eating choices, grow their own food and also having an appreciation of how food making its way from field to table.
“Congratulations must go to the children for their commitment to growing their fresh food and selling it to raise funds for FareShare, and to School Food Matters, Borough Market and FareShare for putting on such an excellent market. I wish them every success with the markets planned for the Autumn and for next year’s markets too.”
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon visited the Young Marketeers Summer Market in Borough Market, London. The market was made up of children from 12... Read more
Sharon has supported the call by the APPG on Cancer – of which she is a member – to address cancer survival rates in the UK, which are amongst the worst in Europe.
It is estimated that by 2020, almost half of the UK population will receive a cancer diagnosis during their lifetime.
Over the past year the percentage of people in England surviving at least one year from their initial cancer diagnosis has risen from 69.3% to 70.2%. However, this is still well behind comparable international rates – in Sweden, for example, one-year cancer survival is around 82%.
At the event, Sharon was presented with the cancer survival rates for Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group which showed that 69% of local people with cancer will live for a year after diagnosis. This is lower than the national one-year survival rate for England of 70%.
Speaking at the event, Sharon said:
“During my time as a local Member of Parliament, I have worked hard on addressing cancer-related issues. This has included being chair of the Ovarian Cancer APPG and Co-Chair of the Breast Cancer APPG.
“One-year cancer survival rates have increased in Sunderland over the past few years, however, they still remain slightly below the national average. I have worked closely with Sunderland’s Clinical Commissioning Group on this matter, and will continue to do so in the coming years.
“All cancer patients deserve to be diagnosed as soon as possible to help address the costs to our NHS but also the cost to human life when diagnosis is too late to save a person’s life, that is why I will continue to work hard on this matter for my local constituents.”
Sharon has supported the call by the APPG on Cancer – of which she is a member – to address cancer survival rates in the UK, which are amongst the...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
Last Thursday, saw months of campaigning culminate in the result of the EU Referendum being declared for the UK to leave the EU.
This was one of the most important decisions our country has had to make in recent decades, and it was welcome to see so many people in our City take part and vote; many for the very first time.
The vote across the country was close, showing just how divided we are on the issue of the membership of the EU.
However, here in Sunderland, voters turned out in unprecedented numbers and came to the decision that we should leave the EU.
As politicians we must listen, learn and move forward accordingly. Though many voters are facing leavers remorse, we must accept that the vote has now been cast and our focus must be on negotiations.
I am not in favour of invoking Article 50 immediately - which will begin the official negotiations of our divorce from the EU - instead believing that economic stability must be ensured by having a blueprint of what our plans going into these negotiations will be. Our economy, especially here in the North-East, is already fragile and we cannot risk weakening it any further.
That is why it is time for leadership which sees us getting the best deal possible out of the EU exit negotiations, which will detrimentally hit our communities and businesses who relied upon support from the EU and access to the single market.
We also need leadership that addresses the reported increases in hate crime towards ethnic minorities and migrants over the weekend and into this week. I appeal to the better judgements of the people of Sunderland to not allow such a divisive campaign and outcome to rip our communities apart.
In the coming months ahead, I will be keeping a close eye on the developments of the negotiations and will ensure that after listening clearly to the decision of our City that I will work to get the best outcome for us here in Sunderland and those people up and down the country who need it most.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. Last Thursday, saw months of campaigning culminate in the result of the EU...
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon has published a cross-party supported position paper on packed lunches in schools which comes ahead of the publication of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy.
The position paper sets out the need for the Government to consider the introduction of a holistic, non-mandatory packed lunch standards framework as part of the ‘whole school approach’ to food in schools and to help address childhood obesity by consulting with children, parents, teachers, unions and the catering sector.
The APPG also recommends that providing parents and schools with new resources, or raising awareness of existing resources, on a healthy and affordable packed lunch – such as example menus and recipes – would be beneficial to the ‘whole school approach’ to food in schools and will go some way to help address family tensions and conflicts.
The APPG has identified that though hot and healthy school meals should be the way forward, there are still many children who go to school with a packed lunch. Analysis of data by the APPG shows that packed lunches are eaten by nearly 56.5% of pupils in Key Stage 2; however, as identified in the School Food Plan from 2013, only 1% of packed lunches meet nutritional standards.
The APPG believes that non-mandatory guidelines should be in place that ensure children are eating healthy food which allows parents and teachers to buy into this ethos to address this disparity. The APPG’s position paper also supports the House of Common’s Health Select Committee’s Childhood Obesity; Brave and Bold Action report which called for standards for packed lunches.
The introduction of a standards framework has been welcomed by head teachers, with 90% of head teachers surveyed in a study by Taylor Shaw in 2015 showing that head teachers welcomed support to encourage parents to send their children to school with a healthy packed lunch.
A case study from Leeds showed evidence of family tension due to unclear guidance on what kinds of food should and should not be included in a packed lunch with one child on free school meals quoted as saying: “It’s unfair they [children on packed lunches] can eat chocolate in their packed lunches [and] I have to have my free school meal.”
The support for packed lunch standards comes as part of the wider debate around the burgeoning crisis of childhood obesity and the Government’s pending Childhood Obesity Strategy which seeks to address the issue of 1 in 5 children in reception class being classed as overweight which then rises to 1 in 3 by the time they reach Year 6.
Following the publication of the position paper, Sharon said:
"Though we have made great strides forward in recent years to improve the quality of healthy food on offer in our schools, there is still a disparity between those children on healthy school meals and those who bring in a packed lunch.
"As a parent myself, I know all too well the on-going battle most mornings between a parent and a child to negotiate what food goes into a packed lunch and what constitutes healthy food. That is why the Government should help parents and teachers who want to support the ‘whole school approach’ on healthier eating by offering a clear standards framework for them to buy into so that children are eating healthy food, regardless of whether on school meals or packed lunches. This will not only benefit a child's education, but also their behaviour, wellbeing and health.
“There is no better moment than now, with the upcoming Childhood Obesity Strategy’s publication in the coming weeks ahead, to ensure that packed lunches are considered by the Government as part of the wider, holistic package developed to help reverse the worrying trends of childhood obesity in this country.”
You can view the APPG's position paper here.
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, Sharon has published a cross-party supported position paper on packed lunches in schools which comes ahead of the publication of...
Following unsavoury comments made on social media by Baker Small law firm in regards to tribunal cases between local authorities and parents of children with SEND and in her capacity as Shadow Minister for Children and Families, Sharon has written to the Minister for Children and Families, Edward Timpson MP, to highlight her concerns and called for further investigation into this matter and for the Government to recommit to end the adversarial nature of the SEND support system.
Sharon has also written to Edina Rowland, the Chair of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and all chief executives of local authorities with children's services regarding her concerns and those raised with her by parents of children with SEND.
An extract of Sharon’s letter to Edward Timpson reads:
“For a law firm, which has been contracted with public money to help mitigate disputes on behalf of a local authority, to gloat on social media about their victories is not helpful in ensuring a less adversarial atmosphere regarding SEND support for children; something that we both called for and welcomed during the passing of the Children and Families Act back in 2014 when the reforms to the system were legislated on.”
Sharon then went on to say in her letter:
“These actions clearly show a complete disregard and lack of respect for professional standards in the legal profession, which must be upheld to the highest standard to ensure that our legal profession is never brought into disrepute.”
Sharon asked the Minister for Children and Families to investigate this matter further along with his colleague, the Solicitor General, and ensure that children are put at the centre of the system and to recommit to ending the adversarial nature seen in the SEND support system.
In her letter to the Chair of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Sharon called on them to investigate this issue further and to take seriously any complaints received by parents who face adversarial actions by opposing counsel during tribunal hearings and to respect the culture change that Parliament called for during the passing of the Children and Families Act 2014.
Sharon also called on local authorities to evaluate their contracts with outside legal counsel to ensure they are not being vindictive towards families of children with SEND and to recommit to supporting children and young people with SEND.
This all comes as part of Sharon’s review into special educational needs and disabilities for children and young people. More information on the review can be found at this link.
UPDATE (12.08.16): You can read the Minister of State for Education's response to Sharon's letter here.
Sharon writes to Education Minister, Solicitors Regulation Association and Local Authorities about actions of law firm, Baker Small
Following unsavoury comments made on social media by Baker Small law firm in regards to tribunal cases between local authorities and parents of children with SEND and in her capacity...