News & Press

Government is failing children with special educational needs

Paula Sherriff, the MP for Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton, has spoken out this week in Parliament for her constituents facing delays in gaining the support they need for children with special educational needs.

In September 2014 reforms aiming to give children and young people with special educational needs and their parents a greater say in the support they receive came into effect in England.

 Yet two reports in the past month provide a damning indictment of how these reforms are going. Ofsted reports “significant areas of concern” in one third of local areas, whilst the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman says families are “suffering long delays in getting the right support and children ultimately failing to reach their potential”.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Miss Sherriff called on the government to explain what is being done about this. In response for the government, Education Minister Robert Goodwill said that parents welcome the changes.

 Paula Sherriff MP added:

‘Three years ago, the government told us that these reforms would result in a more joined up system that focuses on children achieving their best but the evidence suggests that the reforms are faltering.

‘Several local families have told me of the difficulties they’re facing – getting an assessment in the first place requires monumental efforts from parents and teachers alike, and on top of that there are issues with the quality of these assessments.

‘Sadly, the minister has failed to acknowledge the problems experienced by local people. Instead of brushing off the concerns highlighted by Ofsted and the Local Government Ombudsman, as well as parents in our area, I’d hoped to learn of steps being taken to address these issues.

‘It’s clear that this government needs to take the strategy for special educational needs and disabilities more seriously. I’ll continue to press for more to be done to ensure children and their parents are properly supported.’

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Police cuts are leaving our communities vulnerable

As the latest police data to be released shows that crime is rising at accelerating rates, I’ve been calling out government ministers over the inadequacy of police funding and the impact this is having on local people.

I’m sure that local people will agree, as we’ve lost more than 1,000 officers in West Yorkshire, it is alarming that Ministers continue to brief the press that there is room for more cuts.

Questioning the Home Office Minister on police funding in Parliament, I echoed the concerns of the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police who has said “our officers are exhausted” and that policing is “not sustainable” in the long term without an uplift in funding.

Heedless of the concerns of senior police, in response to my question about how more cuts can be justified, Nick Hurd MP stated that ‘…the force is sitting on £91 million of reserves, some 22% of revenue.’

But Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire has rebutted this statement: ‘The reserves form part of the force’s legal obligation to hold contingency monies. Nevertheless, some £11m is being used this year alone to fund frontline policing. By 2022 most of West Yorkshire’s reserves will have been spent or committed to existing obligations.’

The concern is that, given the severe government cuts to the budget in West Yorkshire (around £140m since 2010) and the unprecedented demand on policing, this situation is clearly unsustainable.

Locally of course, we’re seeing the impact of these cuts. One issue that is a big concern currently, is dangerous and erratic driving.  In Parliament, I’ve raised the impact of cuts to traffic police.

I’ve pressed the government on how they can expect to enforce new laws on dangerous driving, when nearly 40% of traffic police have been lost from West Yorkshire in the last five years.

These continued cuts are leaving our communities vulnerable, yet with talk of further cuts to policing, clearly the government have not got the message. When will the Tories heed the warnings of senior police across the country and recognise that these destructive cuts cannot be justified?

 

Originally published in The Press, 3 November 2017

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EU Withdrawal Bill - a Tory power grab

I will not give the Tories a blank cheque over Brexit – I’ll do all I can to ensure this process is given the proper democratic scrutiny – I’ll do all I can to get the best deal for our area. 

My letter to constituents who have contacted me about the EU Withdrawal Bill (Repeal Bill).

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Action needed if young people are to prosper

Congratulations to all the young people across Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton who’ve had their A-level and GCSE results this month.

After months of suspense, it can be a stressful time for parents, teachers and of course students themselves. I visit our local schools and colleges whenever I can and it’s always great to hear about local students’ plans for the future. Now, like hundreds of young people across our area, they will be making important decisions about what to do next.

Whether they decide to go on to do further studies, college courses, university or head out into the world of work or into an apprenticeship, thankfully help and advice is close at hand thanks to our great local schools and colleges. But much more still needs to be done to ensure there are opportunities for young people to get them into jobs and training so they can get on and do well.

After all their efforts, I hope everyone can now celebrate their achievements. Young people who have worked so hard for their exams deserve the chances to get on and do well. But like many other local people, I am worried about whether the next generation have the chances to do better than the last.

Young people have been devalued and discriminated against by this government – not least by having their entitlement to housing benefit removed and university tuition fees increased. It is time to end this discrimination, to ease the burden on young people, and show them that they are valued members of our society.

With the number of young people out of work for over a year still way too high, wages still stagnant and high rents preventing young people from leaving the family home or getting on the housing ladder, we need to make sure there are enough of the right opportunities for our young people to get the education, training, jobs and other opportunities to get on and do well.

We need a strong industrial strategy to create good jobs and training programmes and boost investment, growth and employment.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be keeping up the pressure to get young people a better deal. We need strong action now to prevent a whole generation of young people falling behind.

Originally published in the Dewsbury Reporter and The Press

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Hunt must halt race to the bottom

Last week, I spoke to concerned local people, councillors and medical professionals gathered for the meeting of the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee – a meeting that voiced overwhelming criticism of plans to demolish Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. The plan will see hundreds of jobs cut and the hospital replaced by a small centre with no emergency care unit.

It is only right that the committee used their power to throw out the downgrade plan and refer the decision to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. I truly hope he will take note of the real problems with current plans but, sadly, our experience in Dewsbury on that score has been disappointing.

It is only a fortnight ago that Mr Hunt finally admitted that 30% of patients at Dewsbury Hospital’s A&E could be transferred to Pinderfields as a result of the downgrade to services there. I’ve repeatedly invited him to come and see for himself the challenges facing local hospital services, to press him to take action to halt the downgrade to A&E services, sadly to no avail. 

What is devastatingly clear is that the decisions being made right across our region are almost solely financially driven. The government has set unrealistic targets for reducing spending on vital NHS services. Targets that can only be achieved by compromising patient care and safety.

The proposals would effectively see the whole of Kirklees, a population of 420,000 people, without full Accident & Emergency services and with absolutely no provision for acute care, including no intensive care beds. This means that anyone seeking urgent treatment for potentially life threatening conditions would be forced to travel outside the area.

These plans are ambitious to say the least. The whole proposal hinges on increasing provision at GP practices and more care closer to home, in order to reduce hospital admissions by 18% over 5 years. How do the CCG propose to achieve this given the massive cuts to budgets that are being imposed on all NHS services? Even the NHS Transformation Unit has said of these plans that, “few UK health systems have achieved this.”

Hospital admissions are rising year on year and yet these proposals seek to stem the flow with no new money and no clear plan of how this is going to be achieved. At Dewsbury & District Hospital the plan in 2013 was to reduce bed numbers by 250. Four years on and these plans have had to be shelved as it became clear that if they were implemented it would seriously impact on patient safety. Surely the commissioners should be learning from North Kirklees and Wakefield and not trying to push through plans that are so obviously unachievable?

The downgrade of our region’s health services that are being made here and now will not easily be reversed and will be felt for generations to come. It is now time for the Health Secretary to take responsibility for his government’s cuts and mismanagement of our NHS - he must put halt to this race to bottom.

Originally published in The Press 28 July 2017

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Paula slams Government over scrapping of Northern Powerhouse Rail plans

Paula Sherriff has slammed the government following a downgrade to plans to electrify rail links between Liverpool and Newcastle, leaving West Yorkshire passengers in the lurch.

In 2015, the government pledged to put better rail links for the North at the heart of its so-called Northern Powerhouse agenda, ensuring faster journey times and more capacity. However this week the Transport Secretary only offered partial electrification at best.

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Stories of the Tory record on Education in Dewsbury

The disastrous Tory record on education
PAULA SHERRIFF MP · MONDAY, 17 JULY 2017

Today the Tories have attempted a U-turn on their damaging school funding formula, following pressure from the Labour Party and the teaching profession. I welcome any extra money for our cash strapped schools, but I am concerned at the lack of detail in today’s announcement.

Last week I was approached by a local primary school teacher who set out the following on what the Tory education cuts would mean in her school. We simply can not stand by and let this happen. I will keep the pressure on the government to ensure that all of our children receive the education that they deserve:

“I rarely discuss politics, especially online and to be perfectly honest, my Facebook tends to be a string of memes and embarrassing anecdotes! You won’t ever find me on my soap box when it comes to government policy and I would struggle to talk about party manifestos. I rarely discussed the election and, aside from the fact that Theresa May enjoys a frolic in a wheat field, I couldn't really tell you much about what our current Prime Minister stands for...

However, being a teacher in school such as mine, I've found myself worrying more and more about some of the children and their futures.

Schools with the most disadvantaged pupils will likely be hit the hardest by the intended budget cuts, potentially losing out on hundreds of pounds per child.

This could be a child whose parents literally can't help them with their homework, spellings or reading, who relies on interventions from support staff.

This could be a child who has such low self-esteem that even the tiniest bit of support and success would have a monumental impact, even if that's just getting a certificate from an extra curricular activity.

This could be a child who has a special educational need such as dyslexia, ADHD or an autistic spectrum disorder and needs specific (but not always expensive) resources to reach their potential. 

Or worse, this could be a child for whom school is their only sanctuary. The only place they feel safe and relaxed. The only place they get to actually be a child and enjoy themselves. The only place they get the care, love and attention that all children desperately need and deserve.

Children who are neglected. Children who are abused. Children who have had the very worst start to life a person could possibly have. Children who are amazing just for the simple fact they actually made it to school. Children who on an average day have been through more before their breakfast, than most of us will likely ever go through.

Children whose futures, or even lives, may literally depend on the dedicated safeguarding and pastoral care teams schools are struggling to fund. Children whose mental health is hanging in the balance even with the support they are receiving from bought in counsellors and resources.

I'm not saying I have all the answers or even all the facts, but I am positive that if cuts to budgets and funding continue in the manner proposed, the gap between the most disadvantaged children will only widen further. These children will get left behind.

Children who are capable and can learn and can make progress. Currently, poverty at home is the biggest statistical indicator of how likely a child is to succeed. That's disgusting. Where you started in life should not dictate where you're going.”

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Fury at PM's A&E Evasion

Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff has slammed Prime Minister Theresa May for her response in Parliament as she skirted a question about the downgrading of Dewsbury & District Hospital’s A&E services.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Ms Sherriff asked the PM to confirm that all services at Dewsbury Hospital and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary would remain open – including full A&E provision.

The Prime Minister answered: “The honourable lady knows that, yes, I was asked about Dewsbury A&E and I can confirm Dewsbury A&E is not closing.

“The service will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the majority of patients will see no change to their service.”

In a statement yesterday Labour MP Ms Sherriff said: “I was dismayed at Theresa May’s answer to my question in Wednesday’s PMQs.

“She omitted to mention the significant downgrade that Dewsbury and District Hospital’s A&E department is facing.

“Following the downgrade, all acute cases, including those who are seriously ill or injured, will be transferred to Pinderfields Hospital as there won’t be the facilities to treat them at Dewsbury’s A&E department.

“The PM also failed to mention Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and the fact that their A&E department is facing closure plans – these plans will leave the whole of Kirklees, some 420,000 people, without full A&E provision.”

Ms Sherriff took the matter further and posed another question in the Commons yesterday (Thursday) to the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom. She said: “Could the Prime Minister come to the House and either reassure local people that services are safe, or apologise for her scaremongering comments when we were just highlighting that services were under threat?”

On a recent visit to Thornhill Cricket Club during the election campaign, Mrs May accused her opponents of “scaremongering” over the threat of the A&E services being downgraded or closed.

Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust is planning to centralise A&E care for the most seriously ill patients at Pinderfields hospital in Wakefield, with Dewsbury Hospital’s A&E becoming an urgent care centre for treating minor ailments from this September.

There are also uncertain plans to completely rebuild Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, with the new building not having any A&E provision.

Ms Sherriff added: “Not only did the Prime Minister incorrectly accuse us of ‘scaremongering’, she has also gone further this time in covering up the significant downgrade plans at Dewsbury and District hospital and the impact that these will have on local people.”

Originally published in The Press, 29 June 2017

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Paula Sherriff supports Mental Health Awareness Week

Paula Sherriff is campaigning for better mental health services this Mental Health Awareness week, having repeatedly spoken out in Parliament for local people who’ve faced a shocking lack of provision in our area.

When Theresa May announced her Government’s reforms to mental health support earlier this year, Paula outlined her take on the proposals for mental health charity, the Richmond Fellowship.

You can read Paula’s contribution here:

 

“Just like David Cameron before her, Theresa May has pledged her personal commitment to transforming mental health support. I dearly would like to see that happen, but please forgive me if I’m somewhat sceptical.

This is too big an issue to be dismissive about any initiative, but I think it would be remiss of me not to take into account the Tories record in government. Over the last six years they have systematically eroded the benefits and services that people with mental health difficulties rely upon.

Repeatedly the Tories have given speeches saying they will give mental health parity with physical health, but their record is dismal: spending on mental health fell by £600 million in the last parliament, money intended for children’s mental health goes to other priorities and, despite repeatedly promising improvement, there are now over 6,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010 - almost 15 per cent of the entire mental health workforce.

The latest comments from the Head of No 10’s Policy Unit, George Freeman, on Personal Independence Payments (PIP) – that they should go to the ‘really disabled’ rather than those ‘taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety’ – reveals a dangerously stigmatising viewpoint from someone key to informing current government policy. The reforms to PIPs will see £3.7bn cuts for claimants with psychological problems.

For me, and for many mental health organisations, this casts doubt over the Prime Minister’s commitment to improve the lives of people who need support with their mental health. This is of grave concern to me and it is an issue that I have raised repeatedly during my time as an MP.

I recently met with health professionals from around the country to discuss mental health services. They spoke about the problems they are facing, including concerns that funding intended for frontline mental health services, specifically for children and young people, is being diverted elsewhere by cash strapped Clinical Commissioning Groups.

Research conducted by the Education Policy Institute’s Independent Commission on Children and Young People's Mental Health in November 2016, found that a quarter of young people seeking mental health care are turned away by specialist services because of a lack of resources.

Locally, my constituents’ experiences have borne out these worrying reports. Toward the end of last year I met a local mum whose teenage daughter was in a mental health unit in Colchester – the closest available inpatient bed.

Meanwhile a deepening housing crisis, rising poverty, cuts to benefits and services that protect people from abuse, neglect and isolation means that the factors which contribute to mental illness are getting worse. A letter signed by hundreds of Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists, the Tory government’s austerity policies have been described as “profoundly disturbing” to the nation’s mental health

So when Theresa May announced that she will “transform mental health support” in Britain, this is to be welcomed – but then these warm words are nothing new. We have heard it all before: one year ago David Cameron pledged a similar “revolution in mental health treatment”. Indeed, it seems that, when more closely examined, much of the measures detailed are previous commitments that are yet to be delivered. Community alternatives to visiting hospital for mental health treatment were also promised last year and support for schools to tackle mental health issues has already been pledged by Nick Clegg in March 2015.

There will be no easy answers, but it’ll take more than a speech and a slogan for Theresa May to convince people that she’s serious about fixing the problems that her party has helped to create.

I will do all I can both in Parliament and here in my constituency to fight the cuts that are undermining public services that act as a lifeline for those who rely on them. Moreover, I will keep working to hold Theresa May and her government to account on the pledges they make on mental health.”

Originally published in the Spring edition of the Richmond Fellowship's Kirklees Newsletter

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I'll continue to fight for what's best for our area

Paula Sherriff puts the case why she should be re-elected as the MP for Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirburton

‘Like the rest of the country I was very surprised at the Prime Minister's decision to seek a snap general election after she had promised so many times that she had no intention of doing so. As the complex Brexit negotiation process is now under way, it is clear that the Conservatives are putting Party before Country.

I am incredibly proud of my record of standing up for the people of Dewsbury, Mirfield, Kirkburton and Denby Dale. I will go to the polls on 8 June to ask for their continued support in fighting this Government's cuts to local schools, hospitals and public services, demanding better access to broadband, NHS dentistry in this area and improved transport facilities, and to continue to be a vocal champion in Parliament for my constituents.

Above all, I’ve remained faithful to the causes that inspired me to become a voice for others. My Dad is a cancer survivor, so campaigning for our NHS is a labour of love. I am proud that when cuts were proposed to the level of beds at Dewsbury Hospital, I helped ensure that the current numbers be maintained. There are more fights yet to be won – and I’m continuing to work alongside local campaigners to protect services under threat at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

You will remember before 2015 Dewsbury had a part-time Tory MP who never spoke up for you. Not anymore. I am proud to be one of the most active, campaigning MPs in parliament, and proud of the impact I’ve had.

In me you have an MP who took on the government over NHS dentists and on the tampon tax and got results.

In me you have an MP who took on big businesses like WH Smith for their outrageous practice of charging more for items in their hospital shops than on the High Street, and forced them to bring hospital prices in line with their other shops.

I’m building a strong record working tirelessly for local people and helping them with their problems. Since 2015, I’ve helped thousands of constituents, held surgeries around the constituency and made sure I’m accessible to residents that need help.

On education – I’m working with local schools to oppose the cuts that threaten to see every single school in our area lose funding over the next three years.

The Tory government have made it clear in their £115m cuts to council funding over the past five years, and in their failure to deliver on a promised ‘Enterprise Zone’, that they have little time for Dewsbury or Kirklees. I’ve made it my duty to hold the government to account on every false promise and misleading statement they’ve made about our area.

I’ve been speaking out for our area, whether that has been in defence of our hospitals, in support of better dental services, better broadband for our rural communities, or demanding improved facilities at Mirfield train station. 

There is a clear choice at this election; a Tory MP who will have no option but to back Jeremy Hunt's plans to close essential services at Dewsbury and Huddersfield hospitals, who will rubber stamp huge funding cuts to every school in the constituency, or the proven commitment of a hardworking Labour MP who will continue to stand up for our local communities at every opportunity.

Please make sure your voice is heard by using your vote.’

Originally published in the Dewsbury Reporter 27 April 2017

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