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
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
I’ve been disgusted lately by the lack of Government support for our public services.
With the NHS in crisis, a meltdown in social care funding, councils being forced to take extreme measures to protect residents from vicious cuts to funding and now this fresh attack on education.
Across Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton the Government’s so-called ‘fairer funding formula’ will see 50 out of 50 schools lose funding and not one will gain.
This is the second-highest number of schools facing cuts in any Parliamentary constituency.
Thornhill Academy, for example, is set to lose over £500,000 which equates to nearly £700 per pupil.
In Parliament last week I pressed the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, on this.
When the Tories were asking local people for votes, parents were promised that funding would be protected for every child - these cuts are an appalling betrayal of local children.
Schools are, rightly, one of the most important issues for people living in our area.
Sadly, as happened with the Tory governments of the 1980s and early 90s, once again funding for schools is being cut back.
The Government say they are addressing unfairness in school funding between different parts of the country.
But the result will be to take funds from areas which have the greatest need.
Research by an independent think-tank has found that Kirklees will be on the receiving end of the largest cuts outside the major urban centres of London, Manchester and the West Midlands.
Across the local area, 169 schools will see their budgets reduced by a total of nearly £6.5m a year, amounting to over £100 per pupil.
Schools in this constituency shoulder over £2m of the total cuts across Kirklees.
The council and our schools need more support from central government.
We should be enabling all children to learn and fulfil their potential.
That requires investment.
I will be fighting alongside local parents, pupils and teachers to hold the government to the commitment they made and make sure our children do not pay the price for broken Tory promises.
The Government promised a fairer funding formula but it’s not fairer and it’s not funded. Local schools are threatened with cuts to staff, subjects or school days, or passing the begging bowl around parents.
Local children deserve better.
Originally featured in the Dewsbury Reporter & The Press
MPs Tracy Brabin and Paula Sherriff met with the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, this week to discuss concerns surrounding Dewsbury Hospital.
The MPs, representing Batley & Spen and Dewsbury constituencies, met with Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday to discuss local health care and in particular their concerns over the planned downgrades to Dewsbury District Hospital.
Issuing a joint response, the Labour MPs said, "The meeting with Jeremy Hunt couldn't have come at a more pertinent time. Our NHS is currently in the midst of a national winter crisis that has been described by the Red Cross as a “humanitarian crisis”.
We know that locally our hospitals are struggling to cope with the added pressures. We have both received a high level of complaints from patients and their families who have raised very serious concerns with regard to their treatment at both Dewsbury District Hospital and Pinderfields General Infirmary in recent weeks.
We were very clear with Jeremy Hunt regarding our concern about the future of our local services as the NHS comes under increasing financial pressure from central government.
In a full and frank discussion with Mr Hunt topics ranged from the treatment of individual constituents to national policy regarding retaining bed numbers across the service.
Although Mr Hunt appeared to sympathise with our situation it was very clear that the Government are not prepared to offer any immediate solutions to our concerns and that no more money would be made available for our cash starved services.
Dewsbury District Hospital is due to see further reductions in services over the coming months and our concern remains for the safety of our constituents once these changes have been implemented. We are incredibly disappointed that the Government continues to turn a blind eye to this national crisis in our NHS.”
Figures compiled by the BBC show that in Kirklees there has been a real terms funding reduction of £54 less per pupil in 2016/17 than 2015/16, whilst the teaching unions have forecast that this will amount to cuts of £534 per pupil by 2020 in the Dewsbury constituency alone.
The Government is imposing real terms funding cuts on schools by freezing per-pupil funding while inflation and the cost of employer pension and national insurance contributions increase. Figures from the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers & Lecturers, using government statistics, reveal that every single constituency in England will be adversely affected by the government’s latest funding proposals.
Commenting, Paula Sherriff MP said:
‘Against the backdrop of a national crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, funding cuts are impacting on pupils in my area. I’ve already met with two local schools that are really struggling to balance the books.
Schools are feeling the strain of 7 years of Tory led government. I will be fighting hard against further funding shortfalls which will see ever greater pressure on our school staff and class sizes.’
Very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to all readers!
It’s been lovely to join the Christmas celebrations around the constituency over the last couple of weeks, from Santa’s special canal trips with the Safe Anchor Trust in Mirfield, to Dewsbury Young Diabetic’s Christmas Party, to popping in to the Royal Mail sorting office in Dewsbury to thank them for all their hard work throughout the year, as well as in the busy festive season.
As we all relax into the family traditions of Christmas, a time for getting together, enjoying each other’s company, exchanging presents and having a good time, we all know that unfortunately this can also be the most stressful time of year for people - for all manner of reasons.
Christmas is often a time when money is tight. There are presents to buy for the kids and meals to plan for family and friends. It’s not surprising that it’s a challenging time for our stress levels, particularly for those with mental ill health.
In addition to these familiar seasonal pressures, we are seeing a rise in the number of people suffering from mental health issues. So mental health provision is more important than ever.
Sadly, I’ve heard from several patients and families who tell me of the problems they’re facing. Only this weekend I met a local mum, whose teenage daughter is in a mental health unit in Colchester – the closest available inpatient bed.
It is disgraceful that vital services are stretched so thin and it is imperative that this issue is addressed urgently.
Unfortunately, mental health is yet to be given parity of esteem with other NHS services. This is of grave concern to me and is an issue that I have raised repeatedly during my time as an MP. Mental health services are definitely the poor relation of the NHS and the government must do more to address this.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve 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 (CCGs).
Worryingly, information gathered by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows that spending per child across Kirklees is in the bottom 20% in the country. I’ve written to our local CCGs with regard to this unacceptable underfunding of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in our area.
I’ll be visiting some services that exemplify good practice in mental health provision in the coming weeks, but mental health spending should absolutely not be a postcode lottery. We need to ensure that the mental health of young people in our area is given the priority it deserves.
We desperately need to see some action from the Government to support those who are struggling. As we head into the New Year, I’ll continue to hammer home the reality to the Government. I do hope they will listen.
Originally published in The Dewsbury Reporter 15 December 2016.
I am delighted to have accepted a new role as part of Labour’s frontbench team. As Shadow Women and Equalities Minister, I will be working with the Shadow Secretary of State, Sarah Champion, on issues of pay inequality, violence against women and girls, maternity, disability and LGBT discrimination, and the erosion of equality and human rights.
I am proud of Labour’s history in fighting for equality and empowering some of our most vulnerable communities. Much has been achieved, but there is plenty in this role to get to grips with.
Often the lowest earners as well as the main carers of children and elderly or disabled relatives – a mammoth 85 percent of all the government’s austerity cuts have been at the expense of women, according to calculations by the House of Commons Library.
Women in this constituency are no exception. Here, women have been hit hard by Tory austerity – we have seen cuts to local maternity services, and slashed local authority budgets has meant cuts to children’s centres, as well as mounting pressure on social services.
Local women have been contacting my office in desperation, having had tax credits stopped without reason. They report being forced to pay for access to child maintenance services or risk unstable private arrangements, with children being the ones who stand to lose out on vital support.
Carer’s Allowance recipients – some 72% of whom are women – have told me that they are being hit by Tory benefit reforms. These cases seem to be at odds with previous government pledges to increase support for carers, and the considerable financial savings to the Exchequer associated with their role.
On top of this local women tell of ballooning costs of childcare and high rents. Half of housing benefit recipients are single women, while women occupy two thirds of low-paid and insecure jobs.
This might all sound just a bit depressing, but sometimes these things need to be laid bare.
Please rest assured that here, in the communities of Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton, I will support those local women, and men, who continue to contact me having been unfairly hit by government austerity cuts and, nationally I will campaign for greater opportunity and greater equality for all.
Originally published in the Dewsbury Reporter 27/10/16
The government is keen to cut the benefits bill, but employing a company that insists the dead are cohabiting with tax credits claimants in order to deprive working people of money they rely on to feed their kids is, to say the least, an unreasonable solution.
It might sound laughable, but to many local people that have contacted me in recent weeks about their tax credits claims which have been referred to Concentrix, the company contracted to do investigations on behalf of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, this is no joke.
Concentrix appears to have cut tax credits from hundreds of people because they believe someone else who previously lived at their address is still living there. The problem is that most commonly, the person has never even met the alleged resident, and in at least one case reported nationally, the alleged resident is in fact deceased.
I’ve personally received a great many complaints from local people who have been wrongly accused of living with a partner or who have not received a letter requesting evidence of their circumstances and have had their tax credits stopped as a result. Although I’ve been supporting those people, tax credits are not paid until the lengthy appeals process is completed, leaving people out of pocket for weeks or months.
The problem is widespread. My Labour colleague Louise Haigh MP was told in response to her parliamentary questions that there were nearly 6,000 mistaken reductions to claims in the ten months from October to August.
Sadly, the relentless pursuit of parents who are trying their best to work hard and raise a family is not the only example of companies employed by the government that again and again have put private profit before the legitimate needs of ordinary working people.
Atos and their assessments for fitness for work is another high profile example of the poor performance and the devastating impact of a private company operating in the public sector. Another I have witnessed first-hand as a former employee of the NHS, is the impact of the privatisation of frontline NHS services, which proved to be damaging for patients, staff and the taxpayer alike.
The government say they are seeking value for money – what frequently transpires is a costly shambles for the taxpayer, an immense amount of stress and hardship for patients, vulnerable disabled people and families, often pushing them into poverty and resulting in services that appear to be accountable to no-one including the UK government.
Please be assured that I will not be letting the government off the hook on this issue. If any local people are experiencing difficulties with Concentrix, or there’s any other matter I may be of assistance with, please let me have the details and I will be happy to help. You can contact my constituency office on 01924 565450 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Originally published in The Press, Friday 30 September 2016)
Earlier this week, I chaired a public meeting on the reconfiguration of services at Dewsbury Hospital at Dewsbury Town Hall. Both Mid Yorkshire Trust and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group were invited - I hope that they were available to attend this meeting to discuss both these and future changes as it is vitally important that the public are kept fully informed about their local health services.
With final approval now granted by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust and North Kirklees CCG, the initial changes to maternity, children’s services and acute surgery will take place over the weekend of 16 September.
I remain incredibly concerned about patient safety across the Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust. Having held numerous meetings and taken part in debates in Parliament to bring these issues to the attention of the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, I am extremely disappointed that no action has been taken and that these downgrades are still going ahead.
Already, the changes from next month at Dewsbury District Hospital will leave the whole of Kirklees without consultant-led maternity services and expectant mothers will have to travel outside the borough if they want the reassurance of knowing that a consultant will be available if required during childbirth. A midwife-led unit does not even offer the option for an epidural, which is often vital pain relief for mothers to be. With parallel proposals to downgrade services at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, the Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group is due to report on this on October 20.
I will continue to scrutinise and monitor the Trust and the CCGs and also to press for more joint working across the Kirklees footprint. It is important to note that this is all happening against a backdrop of budget cuts and pressures from central government.
The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust faces budget cuts of £26m this financial year – its hospitals are facing well-documented staffing problems. Yet the Government seems to be blind to the problems faced by our NHS.
Nationally, Jeremy Hunt is pressing on with his push for a ‘truly seven day NHS’. Yet, as we’ve seen from leaked documents this week, the Government’s own civil servants have been warning of the dangers of putting increasing responsibilities on an overstretched service without realistic resources and staffing to meet these demands.
Responding to the news of the leaked papers this week, one former Tory Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter MP, who is also an NHS doctor described this as, “a warning of the dangers of putting soundbites ahead of properly funded and resourced plans for our NHS.” The key elements of this certainly appear to echo the local picture – reduced funding and a shortage of staffing.
When even his colleagues are voicing public concerns, perhaps Mr Hunt might finally take note?
Originally published in the Dewsbury Reporter 25/8/16
Summer’s finally here – and we’ve been enjoying some sunshine in Dewsbury! It was a busy last few weeks in Parliament, and amidst the turbulence and unrest following the EU Referendum result, with leadership changes and challenges; my role has been more important than ever in pressing the Government on issues that matter to local people.
Responding to local concerns, I called on the Prime Minister to convene an urgent meeting of a cross-party commission to look into the rise in race hate crimes. In a statement I wrote, signed by West Yorkshire MPs from all parties, we appealed for unity. It is vital that we come together to condemn all incidents of racism and xenophobia in our communities and I will keep up the pressure on the Government to improve the way that hate crime is tackled.
Now is not the time either, to let the Government off the hook on challenges faced by our local NHS services. Speaking in the final adjournment debate before summer recess, tabled last week by Labour’s Yvette Cooper MP, I raised the concerns of patients I met on a recent visit to Dewsbury Hospital. Sadly, the same problems prevail – namely, a serious shortage of staff. Again, pressing the message I raised only a few months ago, I urged the Minister Philip Dunne to ensure tangible progress is made for the sake of patient safety.
Looking forward, it is essential that changes to hospital trust services are not taken in isolation. I formally objected to the proposals to downgrade Huddersfield Royal Infirmary largely because of the impact they will have on Kirklees as a whole. I look forward to an upcoming meeting with the regulators—NHS Improvement, the CQC and the NHS providers and commissioners, where I will continue to press for the co-ordination of crucial support and strengthening of our local NHS services.
With the House of Commons now in recess I’m using this opportunity to get involved in even more events and activities across the constituency. I love meeting people and this is the time of year that I get to go to events that I wouldn’t normally be able to.
And there have been some truly fabulous local events lately. Amongst the many, more than I can list, it’s been a real privilege to join groups like Kumon Y’all, who do some excellent work promoting community integration. Their recent family fun day brought people to the Savile Town Playing Fields to enjoy a fun day together, regardless of their differences. Over at Kick Off Dewsbury, I caught up with the fantastic team there, who are also doing great things toward breaking down barriers and building community cohesion.
Meanwhile in Mirfield, the Arts Festival showcased some great local music, art and culture, whilst the Safe Anchor Trust’s pirate’s day gave me the chance to hear about their fantastic work providing free access to the waterways for special needs groups.
We really do have some excellent local groups and volunteers who make these things possible, and I’m very much looking forward to joining more terrific events over summer and working with these groups to ensure they’re able to keep up the good work. Hope to see you there!