Conversation and post bag issues September and October 2018

Every month I hear from constituents about issues close to their hearts. Here I will try to summarise the issues that have generated a high volume of correspondence from constituents and my response so that you can keep up to date with my work in the constituency, as well as in Parliament. I hope you find this information helpful, and if you would like to get in touch about a particular matter, please send me an email.

The Bootle constituency community is committed, involved and passionate about issues that affect us in our “neck of the woods”, and more broadly, the country.

Palliative Care (end of life care)

Each year around 500,000 people die in England and Wales and half of those deaths occur in hospitals. The palliative care workforce works extremely hard to provide good care for people nearing the end of their life. We owe a debt of gratitude to our hospices, palliative care staff in hospitals and Macmillan and Marie Curie nurses.

I believe we must ensure that end of life care is fit for purpose in all settings. Marie Curie has highlighted its concerns about the current 'postcode lottery' in palliative care. It points out that, while the majority of people would prefer to die at home, a lack of investment in community care and the Government's failure to act on social care has resulted in more older and vulnerable people being admitted to hospital.

It is clear that offering better support in the community would mean fewer hospital admissions. Too many people approaching death are forced to spend long periods of time in hospital owing to a lack of social care or alternative support options. £6.3 billion has been cut from adult social care budgets since 2010 and there are now 400,000 fewer people receiving publicly-funded social care. I believe these reductions have resulted in overworked staff, poorer quality care and people failing to get the care they need to live with dignity.

As you know, NHS England is developing a new 10-year plan. It has established a series of working groups across many policy areas and a final report is expected by the end of autumn. I understand your concerns that palliative care may not be receiving the attention it deserves. I agree that investment in community care and the provision of free end of life care could help to reduce inequalities in this area. I will press Ministers to take this into account as it works with NHS England on any future long-term plan.

At the 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto with a commitment to invest an extra £37 billion into the NHS and £8 billion into social care, provide free end of life care, and to pay care staff the national living wage and end 15-minute care visits. The manifesto also pledged to move towards developing a new National Care Service which would provide dignity and care in older age.

Fracking

Lots of concerned residents contacted me about planning permission for shale gas exploration (Fracking). I oppose fracking. I believe that instead of encouraging the use of fossil fuels by making the planning process easier for their development, we should be boosting renewable energy projects.

In 2016, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published a report on shale gas and our climate change targets. It found that fracking was not compatible with these targets unless it met several conditions, including that gas consumption remains in line with our carbon budgets. Yet these budgets require our gas consumption to decrease sharply after 2030. Fracking would therefore commit us to fossil fuels long after we need to have moved to clean energy. It was for this reason that at the 2017 general election I stood on a manifesto that included a commitment to ban fracking.

I also agree with the many points raised with me about local democracy in planning decisions. The Government has side-lined democratic planning authorities in the planning system. Its decision to allow fracking in Lancashire, for example, overrode both Lancashire council's rejection of a proposed fracking site and the opposition of local people. Too often, developers' profits take priority over community priorities. Rather than making changes that will undermine local decision-making, we should give planning authorities greater powers to put people and communities at the heart of planning.

In light of the above, I can assure you that I will oppose the Government's current proposals on this issue at every opportunity. The Government should be banning fracking, not promoting it.

Pensions Dashboard

Many very concerned residents contacted me about the Pensions Dashboard.

As you know, in 2016 the Government committed to launch a Pensions Dashboard by 2019. The dashboard was designed to be a one-stop-shop digital platform, where any individual could view their various pension pots and see how much they have saved for their retirement.

The Opposition has long supported the creation of a Pensions Dashboard, as it would make pensions guidance more effective and give people a better insight into their future earnings after they retire.

Many people across the country and in our area currently have very little idea of the value of their pension schemes - they may be in multiple schemes and as a result they may have no idea what their returns might be. In addition, I am aware that the Government has estimated that 50 million pension pots with £3 billion in savings would be lost without a dashboard. Indeed, one in five adults admit that they have already lost a pension pot.

Unfortunately, on 4 September 2018 the Government issued a statement outlining its decision to back the Pensions Dashboard, provided it is run by industry. I believe that this is a cop-out.

I firmly believe that the Pensions Dashboard should be publicly-run for the benefit of workers across the UK. Passing it on to the private sector means there is no guarantee of compliance from all pension providers. Furthermore, there has been no indication of whether the State Pension will be included in the dashboard.

In addition, I understand that the data of millions of people will be accessible through the dashboard, which is why I believe that it must be accompanied by high standards, tough regulations and sound governance. I am concerned that a privately-run dashboard could put savers' data at risk.

I can assure you that I am committed to ensuring that older people have dignity and security in retirement and I will continue to press the Government on this issue at every opportunity.

Civil Liberties – Work Based Accidents

Another area that my constituents were concerned about was the increase the small claims limit for personal injury claims and the impact this will have on victims of workplace accidents.

As you are aware, this is part of the package of measures the Government intends to introduce alongside the Civil Liability Bill. Current proposals would see an increase from £1,000 to £5,000 for road traffic accident-related personal injury claims and from £1,000 to £2,000 for other personal injury claims.

I oppose this move as I am concerned it will remove legal help from many people with genuine claims. The Government says this is a Bill to deal with whiplash, but changes to the limits are unrelated to whiplash or fraud and will also affect employment injury claims. I believe people who are injured should be able to get compensation and they need proper legal advice to do so.

More widely, I believe that all workers should have a safe work environment. The manifesto I stood on at the general election last year pledged to crack down on unscrupulous employers, including by strengthening safety-at-work inspections.

I can assure you that I will continue to press the Government to reconsider these changes which I believe will leave many working people priced out of justice.


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