Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

Recent speeches by Sharon Hodgson MP


Sharon speaking in the Tobacco Control Plan Westminster Hall Debate 13.10.16

Image Copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on Tobacco Control Plans. In her speech, Sharon discussed the issue of regional and socio-economic variations in smoking prevalence, along with the take-up of smoking amongst children and young people and smoking amongst pregnant women. Sharon also called on the Government to explain their delayed introduction of a new Tobacco Control Plan. 

You can read Sharon's speechin Hansard here: Sharon Hodgson MP Tobacco Control Plan Westminster Hall Debate 13.10.16

Speech pasted below:

 2.55 pm

Mrs Sharon Hodgson

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Ms Buck. I start by paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) and to the Backbench Business Committee for allowing him and others to secure this important debate. As we all know, he has done much during his time in Parliament to address the sale and use of tobacco products, not only in his own constituency just up the road from my own but across the country. That includes his excellent work with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) to bring forward the ban on smoking in cars with children. I commend him for his tireless campaigning and commitment to this hugely important area of public health policy.

I thank right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in the debate. I pay tribute in particular to the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), the Chair of the Health Committee, for the support and expertise she brings to the debate. Her predecessor plus one or two, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Kevin Barron), also has a huge wealth of expertise and knowledge across the whole health brief. In my new role, I will certainly be calling on him a fair bit—I hope that he is prepared and willing for that to happen. I also want to commend the other right hon. and hon. Members who spoke today: the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) and the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day), who spoke on behalf of the SNP.

I wish to say a few words to the public health Minister. This is our second outing together and I have had this role for only four days, so I think this will be a regular thing. I am definitely looking forward to keeping a close eye on her work at the Department of Health and to debating across the Chamber. I am sure we will do that on many important issues facing our country’s health. If the tireless work of my predecessor, the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne), is anything to go by, that will be often—surely he has his own seat in here with his name on it because he was in here so much. That is a daunting prospect.

Today we are debating the important topic of tobacco products. It is crucial that the message is put across to the Government that more can and should be done to ensure that we all lead healthier lives. The control of the sale and use of tobacco is an important public health matter not only for those individuals who use it but for all around them.

During Labour’s time in office, we recognised that fact, which is why we did a lot to address smoking in society, most famously with the introduction of the ban on smoking in public places. The ban brought in a culture change in our society. When we used to walk into any indoor public space, it was the norm to be met with a cloud of stale tobacco smoke, whereas now all of us—especially children and families—can enjoy ourselves freely without having to breathe in second-hand smoke or have the overhang of smoke in the air.

The Tory-led coalition Government came into power and brought in their own tobacco control plan, and it was welcome that it achieved so much over its lifetime, ​including the prohibition of point-of-sale displays in shops; the introduction of standardised packaging for tobacco products; and the national ambitions on reducing smoking, which were all met. However, when the plan ceased at the end of last year, it was vital that the Government published a new plan in a timely manner to build on the work of previous Governments. Sadly, nearly a year on, the Government have failed to come forth with such a plan, despite the promise and a commitment to do so last December.

Last month, the Health Minister in the House of Lords failed to commit to a final date for publication. We were expecting to have sight of that plan over the summer; we are now hopeful that we will see it during the Indian summer. Changes in Government meant the plan was put on hold. The delay is not too dissimilar in some ways to the constant delay to the childhood obesity plan—although at least that was rushed out over the summer.

A change in ministerial personnel should not be an excuse for delaying such an important intervention in the health of our society, especially when the new Prime Minister stood on the steps of No. 10 Downing Street in the summer and committed her Government to

“fighting against the burning injustice that, if you’re born poor, you will die on average 9 years earlier than others.”

We were led to assume that was going to be the driving force of the Prime Minister’s Government, and I hope it is, but the rhetoric has not yet translated into reality when it comes to this serious public health issue facing our country.

The Government have faced a vocal chorus from charities and organisations, including the British Medical Association, Action on Smoking and Health and the British Lung Foundation, which have all called on the Government to get their act together and publish the new plan. In that regard I also commend the work of Fresh, which my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North mentioned, which does such sterling work in the region with the highest smoking rates and some of the worst health outcomes.

The Minister and her officials at the Department of Health are being told loud and clear to get on with the job at hand and to answer the crucial question that has come out of today’s debate: what is the delay? I hope she will shed some light on that important question in her response and—finally—tell us when we can expect the new tobacco control plan.

I want to set the scene on why it is so important we have a new plan, on top of what has already been said today, by looking at the facts and figures on smoking, including the variation of smoking habits among certain groups of society—especially children, young people and pregnant women. The smoking rate in England is 19%, but that varies from region to region. It is highest in the north-east, where it reaches 19.9%, and lowest, at 16.6%, in the south-east. Those are regional figures. When looking at the figures borough by borough, my local authority of Sunderland does not fare well at all, with 23% of the population smoking. That is much higher than even the highest of the regional averages.

Looking at smokers based on their socioeconomic status, it is clear the less well-off in society are more likely to smoke. I am not going to go into all of the reasons for that. We just have to accept it is where we ​are—but what can we do about it? Smoking rates among those in the professional and managerial socioeconomic group are less than half the rate of those in routine and manual socioeconomic groups, at 12% and 28% respectively. When the net income of a family and their smoking expenditure are both taken into consideration across England, 1.4 million, or 27%, of the households with a smoker fall below the poverty line. If those costs were returned to the families, it is estimated that approximately 769,900 adults and 324,550 dependent children would be lifted out of poverty.

That is a striking statistic, especially given the study published only a few weeks ago that showed that 250,000 children will be pushed into poverty during the lifetime of this Parliament due to the Government’s policies. Getting it right on smoking could totally negate that impact, so it is definitely something worth looking it. The stats show we must do more to address the cycle of health inequality, which spans generations and continues the awful situation in which there are huge life expectancy gaps between the rich and poor, as we have clearly heard today. If the Government want to change that, one way would be to step up and continue the work of reducing smoking in society.

If those figures do not spur the Minister on to bring forward the new tobacco control plan, hopefully looking at the issue of smoking among our children and young people will. It is welcome that smoking among children and young people fell to an all-time low of 6% under the last tobacco control plan, as we have heard, but it remains an issue when two thirds of adult smokers report taking up the habit before the age of 18, with 80% saying it was before 20. That is compounded when children who live with parents or siblings who smoke are three times more likely to take up the habit than children from non-smoking households. It is also estimated that 23,000 young people in England and Wales start smoking by the age of 15 due to exposure to smoking in the home.

Kevin Barron

My hon. Friend uses the statistics very well. Do they not defeat the myth that smoking is an adult habit?

Mrs Hodgson

They certainly do. The situation on children smoking is quite stark. The earlier children start smoking, the more serious the consequences are for their health. Children who take up smoking are two to six times more susceptible to coughs and increased phlegm, wheeziness and shortness of breath than those who do not smoke. It can also impact their lung growth, which can impair lung function and increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in later life. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North, 25,000 people a year die from COPD. Surely we do not want any child in this country to die in that way. The prevalence of these conditions among smokers shows it is paramount that we seriously tackle smoking among our children and young people. We do not want to see the children of today being the COPD sufferers of the future, as well as having those other conditions.

Alex Cunningham

I am really pleased my hon. Friend is framing the issue specifically around children. My wife, Evaline, worked as a school nurse and used to hold classes talking to young people about this. She would ​put forward the economic argument—“If you smoke so many cigarettes over so many days over so many months it costs £2,000, which could buy you a summer holiday.” She was then told, “No, Miss, you’ve got it wrong; it is only £3.20 a packet from Mrs Bloggs down the road.” Do we not also need to ensure we tackle illicit tobacco and ensure children understand the dangers of that as well?

Mrs Hodgson

My hon. Friend raises a very good point. The danger and quality of illicit tobacco can often be far worse for health than just long-term smoking. The substances used in those cigarettes can be life threatening.

I will move on to the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, which was raised by the hon. Member for Totnes. While we know the harms of living in a household with a smoker, for some that harm starts before birth as 10.6% of women are smokers at the time of delivery. That equates to 67,000 infants born to smoking mothers each year, while up to 5,000 miscarriages, 300 perinatal deaths and around 2,200 premature births each year have been attributed to smoking during pregnancy.

Smoking during pregnancy has been identified as the No. 1 risk factor for babies to die unexpectedly. According to research by the British Medical Association, if parents stop smoking, that could reduce the number of sudden infant deaths by 30%. Those are shocking figures that show the heartache and pain a mother and the family around her will go through from the horrific events of losing a baby through, for example, miscarriage, stillbirth or sudden infant death. That is especially pertinent this week as it is baby loss awareness week, which I know some of us are wearing little pins to commemorate. There is a debate currently going on in the main Chamber —there was; it has just finished—in which many colleagues gave heartbreaking accounts of their personal experiences or those of their constituents who have suffered the loss of a baby. I was able to intervene and give a personal account of my own experience.

Baby loss due to smoking is preventable if Government action is taken as soon as possible. Important work has been implemented on smoking during pregnancy that has seen the number of pregnant women smoking fall to its lowest-ever levels, but I welcome the calls from the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group to see a commitment from the Minister today to work to reduce the percentage of women smoking during pregnancy to 6% or lower by 2020. It may be an aspirational figure, but it can be achieved as long as a comprehensive plan is put in place to control the use and sale of tobacco.

Regional variations, including those I mentioned earlier, must be addressed; other colleagues have mentioned them, too. We are seeing 16% of women in the north-east and Cumbria smoking at the point of delivery, compared with only 4.9% in London. This stark figure shows that more regional action and support must be offered by the Department of Health to ensure that regional inequalities are addressed. The regional variations and the other variations mentioned show that the slashing of the public health grants is a false economy when it comes to seriously driving forward the agenda on public health, especially in relation to smoking.

In last year’s autumn statement, the then Chancellor announced further cuts in the public health grant, which amounted to an average real-terms cut of 3.9% each ​year to 2020-21, and translates to a further cash reduction of 9.6% in addition to the £200 million worth of cuts announced in the 2015 Budget. As we know, specialist support and stop smoking services help to get people off cigarettes and to lead a far healthier lifestyle. However, cuts to public health funding have meant that it has proven far more difficult for local authorities to provide that much needed specialist support.

In a survey of local tobacco control leads conducted by Action on Smoking and Health and commissioned by Cancer Research UK, a total of 40% of local stop smoking services were being reconfigured or decommissioned in 2014-15. In Manchester, we have seen a complete decommissioning of stop smoking services. This is even more concerning when the initial results of the 2015-16 survey show that the rate of decommissioning and reconfiguring is increasing. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will be able to commit to ensuring that we have a substantial source of funding for specialist services that help to support in particular those in lower social economic groups as well as pregnant women to quit smoking. We must end the intergenerational cycle of health inequality that I have spoken about.

It is important that we have a plan and that we have it now—a plan that continues the work of previous Governments to reduce smoking in our society. We have seen inroads into creating a healthier society, but we all recognise we have a long way to go, as the facts and figures show. The Government’s delayed plan must be published now, and it must have measures in place that will address the many variations, from geographical variation to deprivation and socioeconomic background variation.

We must see further work to address the take-up of smoking by children and young people if we are to ever achieve our goal of the next generation being healthier than the last. We need to address smoking among young people head on. Achieving a smoke-free society is within our reach, but what we do not need is further delay and hesitation by the Government. What we need is bold action.

I hope that the Minister can give us that bold action today and that she does so by finally giving us the date when the new tobacco control plan will be published. The longer we wait, the more children will take up smoking, the more people will get ill and, sadly, the more people will die. The time for waiting is over. We now need bold action.


Tobacco Control Plan Westminster Hall Debate 13.10.16

Sharon speaking in the Tobacco Control Plan Westminster Hall Debate 13.10.16 Image Copyright Parliamentary Recording Unit 2016 As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon responded to a debate on Tobacco...

Sharon hosted an Arts Summit reception in Parliament, which brought together all the arts-related APPGs to network and campaign on the importance of the arts to society, our economy and children's education.

You can read Sharon's speech below: 


Firstly, I want to take a moment to thank everyone for coming along this afternoon.

It is fantastic to see so many people from across Parliament, the cultural and creative industries and the education sector coming together to show our support for the arts and be a strong voice to raise awareness of our concerns for the future of the arts and creative industries.

Human creativity is important to us as it’s what makes us who we are. When the very first caveman drew a buffalo on the first cave wall and danced around the fire singing, creativity and artistic expression have been central to our very existence as individuals and as a society.

We should not betray that fact, and should instead harness the boundless nature of human creativity.

The arts are not just vitally important to us as individuals and as a society, but also to our economy. The arts make £84.1 billion per annum here in the UK, which is rising by 6% yearly.

This translates as £9.6 million an hour for the UK, or a whopping £160,000 a minute. Once I have finished addressing you this afternoon, the arts will have contributed £800,000 to our economy.

These figures cannot go ignored.

Yet, there is a risk that these impressive figures are in jeopardy from the ramifications of the country’s decision to exit the EU, along with the Government’s controversial education policies.

On Brexit, much of this has already been discussed by others in the sector, including Dezeen magazine which created their Brexit Design manifesto, which is supported by leading luminaries from across the design, architecture and arts industries who are asking for the Government to recognise the design world’s importance to our economy, but also its close connections to the EU, as one of its major export markets for design services.

Just in the last few weeks we have seen the internationalism and innovation of the UK’s arts and creative industries, with Frieze Arts Fair last weekend, where artists, art buyers and galleries from across the world descended on London to enjoy, buy and promote art. To last month, seeing London Fashion Week and London Design Week, showcasing the creativity and design innovation of some of our best assets here in the UK, to the rest of the world.

But note, it isn’t all a London-centric story, with over 60% of creative businesses outside of the capital – with games designers, such as Ubisoft, in Gateshead in the North East, and Media City in Manchester, to name just a few.

Arts and culture unite our country and highlight the best of British to the world. We cannot allow exiting the EU to damage these industries.

It is not only Brexit which may have an impact on our arts, creative and cultural industries, but also the current Government’, and previous Coalition Government’s, educational policies.

Many of you, in fact everyone in this room I would imagine, will have heard of the EBacc and the growing evidence that has shown that this school performance measure is having serious consequences on the uptake of arts subject in our schools.

It is obvious when we saw a decrease of 11,552 students taking an art and design GCSE last year, and a 33.4% decline in AS levels in art, then we are setting ourselves up for a serious pipeline problem where we will struggle to find new artists, designers and creators to allow the arts and creative industries to flourish.

When business is booming and consumers are enjoying what UK plc has to offer, we are seeing that education policies are failing to recognise the fact that creativity will be one of the main drivers of the 21st century economy.

To make sure the next generation is as successful as it possibly can be, we need to be educating them to take up the jobs of the future. Many of which won’t have been heard of yet, but as we all will agree, creativity will play a central role in those jobs of the future.

That is why this summit is important to begin the work of closer collaboration between Parliament and the creative industries and I hope that we will have great success come out of today, so we can champion common causes which affect such an important part of our society and economy.  

Thank you. 

Sharon speaks at Arts Summit in Parliament

Sharon hosted an Arts Summit reception in Parliament, which brought together all the arts-related APPGs to network and campaign on the importance of the arts to society, our economy and...


Sharon speaking at the British Youth Council Youth Voices Convention

Photo copyright Office of Sharon Hodgson MP, 2016

Sharon was invited to address members of the British Youth Council at their Youth Voices Convention in Newcastle, where they discussed Brexit, along with other issues impacted the lives of young people. 

You can read Sharon's speech below:


Thank you so much for inviting me here to speak to you all today. I have worked with the British Youth Council for a number of years now and the work they have been doing regionally and in Parliament is phenomenal.

I would like to thank all of the young people who have come along today to take part and to talk about the issues that matter most to you. It is important that politicians, of all parties, seriously listen to what young people have to say especially in such turbulent and unpredictable times following the EU Referendum result in the summer.

The young people of our country are as engaged, as knowledgeable and as important as anybody else in our society, and I am sure the way you work together and contribute at events like these will enable many to finally understand how vital it is to listen to our next generation. I am really looking forward to answering your questions in a short while as well, to put this idea into practice!

It is important for young people to identify the issues that will affect them the most, and to have serious debates and discussions on these matters, which can then be fed to politicians who sit in Westminster, along with our devolved legislatures and local councils, to inform the work we do as politicians that effects the lives of young people.

I am also very pleased and impressed to see some of the extremely important and complicated issues that are being looked into later on today here at this convention. I have to say from the off that there will be a lot of agreement between yourselves and me. Such as votes at 16.

This is an issue which I have supported for a number of years, believing young people who contribute to our society through paying their taxes, joining the army and having the ability to get married, should have a say over who is representing them.

This move to lower the voting age would be made even stronger, if we saw real commitment from the Government on improving citizenship education in our schools so that when young people do go to the ballot box that they are as well informed as possible to make important decisions on how their lives will be affected.

One of the main issues that I hope you will be discussing today, and I am sure you will be, is what Brexit will mean for the UK and young people now that the EU Referendum vote has taken place.

Young people have the most to lose from us leaving the EU, with the unpredictability of what Brexit actually means and the impact it will have on your lives; far more than the generations who voted for us to leave the EU.

However, the votes have been cast and the decision has been made – however much many of us may not have agreed or liked the result on the 24th June. But what is important now, is young people help shape what Brexit will mean for them. As you will live with this decision for far longer than any of us who currently sit in Parliament or have taken an active interest in this issue.

From issues including, but not exclusive to: immigration and freedom of movement; access to the single market which has shown to be vital to our industries and trade; continuing the protections on our environment; seriously tackling climate change and global poverty, and; to worker’s rights. The list could go on.

What is important is that we move away from empty slogans which try to allay the concerns of many people who voted to remain or those who voted to leave but are now sceptical of the Leave campaign’s ability to deliver after their back peddling so soon after the result was known. Example, the £350 million a week on the side of the Brexit bus for the NHS.

What we need now are practical and concrete plans that will help us understand the direction our country will take once we finally invoke Article 50 and begin the process of decoupling ourselves from the EU.

Your voices must be heard, and I know that the work you do as part of the British Youth Council will be seriously listened to by Parliamentarians who will be scrutinising the Government, both from those on the backbenches, the Opposition frontbenches and the soon-to-be formed Select Committee on Exiting the European Union. But it’s not only Parliamentarians who can hold the Government to account, it is you as well.

You and your families can hold the Government to account by making your voices heard, by campaigning on issues you feel passionate about – just as you all already do as part of the British Youth Council. But also, writing to your local Member of Parliament.

Members of Parliament are there to represent their constituents, and it is important that they know the views of their constituents. As a Member of Parliament, I welcome hearing the views of all of my constituents, both young and old, and not only those who can vote.

That is why I hope you will write to your Member of Parliament after today’s convention and let them hear your views and opinions on Brexit – otherwise, your voices will not be heard as part of our daily work to represent our constituents.

The transfer of ideas and opinions, in a civilised, open and respectable manner, is exactly what our politics should be about. It is something we must cherish and protect. And I always enjoy talking to you all in such a manner. It can be incredibly refreshing from the bravado seen in the House of Commons or the vitriol seen on social media.

I look forward to hearing from you all in the Q&A shortly, and to hear what your concerns are on Brexit, but also on a whole host of issues which affect the lives of young people – from mental health services, to civil and democratic rights, and better employment opportunities. There are many I could list, but I want to hear from you and hear the concerns of young people right now.

So, once again, thank you so much for inviting me here today to be a part of this brilliant convention. I hope you all have a great day, learn a lot and have plenty of questions at the ready for me to answer!

Thank you. 

Sharon speaks at British Youth Council Youth Voices Convention in Newcastle

Sharon speaking at the British Youth Council Youth Voices Convention Photo copyright Office of Sharon Hodgson MP, 2016 Sharon was invited to address members of the British Youth Council at...


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

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