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