This letter was to be read out in full at the public meeting at the Alhambra this evening.
Unfortunately I am not able to be present at the meeting today, as I have to be in Parliament to vote on the Finance Bill this evening. Whenever there is a vote on Government legislation I need to be there to scrutinise and vote on it, as this is my main role as your Member of Parliament.
I am delighted that voluntary body’s, officials and Members of public, are getting together this evening to co-ordinate what has been an overwhelming response to the Granada reports last week. I am so proud to see the community coming together in a kind and generous way to help their neighbours.
I believe on social media there has been some misconception regarding the role of a Member of Parliament when such issues come to light and the nature of the powers I have at my disposal. All I am able to do is ask Officials to compile reports into what is going on and then if any failings or issues are identified ask Government to Intervene. Living in this community, I am as upset and concerned about this issue as you all are.
I visited West End Primary School on Thursday afternoon, as soon as I returned from Westminster, and met with the Head, and whilst we talked about the children and parents who he believes have fallen through the net, he was not able to identify a pattern to which I could go back to Government and ask them to intervene. I have left this with him and indeed his successor when he retires this week, but the outcome of the meeting was just that he wanted me to be aware of the issues he was raising. I explained that I can only raise issues with Government if I can identify these issues with reported cases and statistics, but if in the meantime there were any individuals who were struggling I would be happy to speak to them individually to see if there is any advice I can give, or action I can take on a case by case basis.
I am deeply concerned about the reports that appeared on Granada news, and this is why I have asked the Head of Social Services at Lancashire County Council to conduct an urgent investigation into these reports. I understand that some have been worried as they see Social services as just being there to interfere with people’s lives and take away children but this is not the case. Social Services are there to safeguard children and if there are incidences of child poverty ensure that the parents are supported to access both Government and the Charity sector to ensure a sustainable solution to the issues are reached and the children are protected. Social Services must ensure that the Rights of the Child are upheld.
The text of the document, as published by the International Save the Children Union in Geneva on 23 February 1923, is as follows:
- The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.
- The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succoured.
- The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.
- The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.
- The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.
I am extremely concerned by these reports and this is the reason I have asked for an urgent report by Social services. Any common themes or issues identified by this Official report will then be reported back to Government and if any further action needs to be taken I will instruct Government to take this action.
I believe that there may be a representative from the Citizens Advice at the meeting this evening and the CAB can often best place to help those who are the most vulnerable. They can assist by offering assistance such as benefits checks, debt advice and money management advice. The Citizens Advice work with the most vulnerable clients in our community and this is why I hold regular meetings with the Chief Executive at their Morecambe Office. This allows for any loopholes or issues with legislation to be highlighted and I can then feed things back to Government for them to make changes. Examples of where this partnership has worked locally has been changed in the recent budget to Universal Credit ,the advance payments back time from 6 to 12 months, and changes to allow direct rent payments to be paid to Landlords. These are just two areas where these meetings have directly positively impacted the lives of those living in Morecambe and Lunesdale.
As part of this outreach work I also hold regular meetings with the DWP in Morecambe at Morecambe Job Centre. This allows me to see the official data on a local level and I am pleased to report that the number of jobs in Morecambe and Lunesdale that are stable and sustainable jobs are 87% as opposed to Lancaster’s 71%. This shows that Morecambe is now the powerhouse for the area and the vast majority of Universal Credit customers are experiencing positive changes to their situations and are getting into sustainable work. The Job Centre Manager is working with me to assist anyone whose claims are not being processed correctly, and if you would like an appointment because of an issue with your claim please contact me and I will arrange one for you. The Job Centre Manager has contacted me this morning to say that no individuals have contacted the DWP as a result of the programme last week but he will keep me updated of any incidences coming forward and will identify with me any issues which are highlighted.
Also in the programme there were claims made regarding the health and wellbeing of the children and a mention of a rickets like conditions and rickets itself. This is deeply concerning especially as this has not been raised with me by either Ash Tree’s surgery or indeed the CCG who commission health services in the area based on the need of the population.
In response to this I have asked Simon Stevens of NHS England to look into these incidences urgently and if needed to ensure that this area has all the relevant resources from NHS England to deal with this issue. I have also made Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt aware of these issues and he will be receiving a report from NHS England in due course. I was contacted by Dr Andy Knox as part of his role with the CCG on Friday and I have requested a meeting with him, the Chair of the CCG Dr Alex Gaw and their Chief Officer Andrew Bennet to discuss not only those issues emanating from Carnforth but to discuss data from the whole area and the steps that the CCG are taking to help children who are suffering from these illnesses.
Finally I will also be receiving some figures on rickets and malnutrition for children in the area from the Health team at Lancashire County Council and from Central Government.
If you are someone who is experiencing any of the issues raised in the ITV report last week please contact me with all of your details on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to assist you both through my role in Government and by signposting you to the relevant body locally to enable you to access direct assistance.