My amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill was debated last week in the House of Commons. The amendment (NC79) sought to ensure that both women’s rights and the rights of workers and employees with caring responsibilities are no worse after Brexit than had Britain remained a member of the EU. The clause would enforce this by ensuring that Parliament is informed, after Brexit, if the EU provides any new rights that would have applied to Britons if the UK was still an EU member, and commits the Government to consider their implementation.
The EU has a strong history of developing employment and gender rights since the 1970s. There is a fear however, that Brexit could undermine four decades of progress. The Fawcett Society has previously said that while the Equality Act 2010 has achieved a great deal in terms of protecting women’s rights, it is essential that EU derived legislation and cooperation are safeguarded post-Brexit, given prevalence of gender inequality, discrimination and the gender pay gap.
New EU legislation is proposed on issues such as pay for parental & carers leave and measures to support women’s participation in labour markets leaving scope for the UK to fall behind. It is vital that we do not fall behind the EU in the years ahead. People voted to leave the EU for many varied reasons but they didn’t vote to be worse off. Our laws on this matter must be no less favourable than they would have been had the UK remained a member of the EU.
Unfortunately the Tories voted against my new clause and as such will not be included in the EU Withdrawal Bill. Nevertheless I am extremely grateful to the 295 MPs who voted for it, especially those that added their name to the clause & that helped me navigate the process.
Earlier this month I hosted a loneliness summit in the constituency as part of the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission. I brought together local parents and organisations to talk about parental loneliness and how we can tackle it. Experiencing isolation in the early months of parenthood, especially among new mothers, is an issue which has previously been often overlooked but has a huge impact on large numbers of people.
Research by Mush (a mobile app which helps connect mums) found that 50% of new parents leave their house only twice a week and 25% of parents leave only once a week and a recent survey by Action for Children found that 52% of parent’s experience loneliness. The survey of 2000 people found that the majority felt cut off from friends, colleagues and family after the birth of a child. In terms of the causes of loneliness, many cited lack of money and the inability to leave the house when caring for small children, leaving them feeling isolated.
In Parliament two weeks ago I spoke about my own experience suffering from loneliness after I became a mum. For me, the shift from having a busy job and a good social life - to being at home every day with a lot of time to suddenly fill and little structure, was quite a shock. After my maternity leave finished I started working from home and I could sometimes go for days without having a proper conversation with another adult. It became a vicious circle where the more isolated I became, the harder I found it to go out. You can se my speech in the video below.
At my loneliness summit, hearing about all the work being done to combat isolation was encouraging. From the Red Cross ‘Connecting Communities’ service to Mush - a mobile app which helps connect local mums. We also heard about the work of local children’s centres, Bromley & Lewisham Minds ‘Mindful Mums’ sessions (free groups for mums to build mental resilience) & Mummy’s Gin Fund (an online parenting community).
However, what was most clear from our discussion was the impact reduced NHS funding is having on Health Visitor and midwifery services. Health visitors and midwives play a vital role in supporting families with the physical health of their new child as well as the mental health of the parents. The mums who attended the summit told me that families rarely receive a continuous dedicated visitor and while the service is great at identifying mental health issues such as loneliness & post-natal depression, they often lack the resources to follow through and treat these issues. Mums also told me about the limited support available for breastfeeding.
Worryingly, the Health Visiting services were recently cut from Beckenham Beacon, leaving limited support for new parents in that area. I met with Bromley Council recently to raise my concerns about this and to ask for a new service to be provided locally. I am pleased to say that a new Health Advice Clinic will start at the Neighbourhood church on Cromwell Road on 30th November. I hope that this means more parents will be able to access support, as well as reducing the strain on the Health Visiting services at nearby Community Vision in Penge.
However, what is clear is that more funding is needed for these vital services to ensure that new parents get the help and support that they need – a big factor in tackling parental loneliness.
I will continue to fight for good local services and confront the challenge and stigma of loneliness. It is fantastic that awareness of parental loneliness has grown, helping parents to know it is ok to say they feel lonely and to ask for help. However, it is vital that services are properly funded so that when parents do ask for help, the services and resources are there.
Over the last few months I have had an increasing number of emails from constituents in regards to moped crime. I find the recent rise in such crime very concerning and I want to reassure the community that I am working very hard with all stakeholders to try and mitigate this problem.
Moped crime, involves the theft of a moped as well as its use in criminal activity such as assault and robbery. The Metropolitan Police Service states that, in the 12 months to May 2017, over 15,000 scooters, motorcycles and mopeds were stolen in London, and were used in the commission of over 14,000 crimes. Overall incidence of this crime has increased by more than 10 times since 2012. This is in part due to the relative ease of stealing a moped and the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) policy to prevent drivers from pursuing criminals who do not wear a helmet.
I recently met with Lewisham Councils Executive Director for Community Services and spoke with the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime on these issues. They told me that this policy has been reviewed and that trained Police are now able to chase criminals if the driver is confident that the risk to the public is low, there are special techniques the Police can use when pursuing a moped. This will help curb the problem but it still remains that scooters are easily broken into. To this end I have sent a letter to the motorbike manufacturing industry to put pressure on them to implement the use of more sophisticated technology to make it a lot harder to steal mopeds in the first place.
The Government have stated "there is no single quick fix" to this and believe it is therefore "vital that we work together - industry, law enforcement, Government and civil groups - to understand the various drivers of this crime and how they can be met head-on." Home Office ministers have held a summit bringing together motor and insurance industry leaders, law enforcement agencies, local government agencies, youth charities and motorist groups, to confront the emerging threat of motorcycle-related crime.
However, I am worried that serious crimes such as these are rising in part due to the impact of Government policies, particularly stretched police resources and significant reductions in neighbourhood policing. I hope the Government will listen carefully to the concerns that have been raised on this issue and consider how best to move forward in tackling these reckless and dangerous crimes.
I have met the Police Borough Commander for Bromley and will be meeting the Borough Commander of Lewisham shortly to discuss these issues further. I have also spoken to the Deputy Mayor for Police and Crime. This is an ongoing issue and a concern for me which I will continue to track the progress of and call for change.