Left gasping by the cost of childcare

childcareMany parents will be left gasping this summer, not by the hot weather, but by the price tag that comes with securing decent childcare.

Arranging and affording holiday childcare can be a nightmare for families. It’s a big issue for parents locally. Parents shouldn’t be having to choose between working and caring over the summer because of the cost and availability of summer childcare.

The cost of summer childcare has risen four times faster than wages under this Tory led government – that’s an additional £100 per child compared to 2010, when this government came to office.

Here in the North West, holiday childcare costs have risen six times faster than wages.

Under Labour, between 2003 and 2010 the number of holiday clubs in England more than doubled, increasing from 2,800 to 7,700. Over the same period, the number of registered places at holiday clubs more than tripled, increasing from 121,700 to 368,100.

But the Tories are making life harder for families. Ministers are pulling the rug out from under families when they need help. They simply don’t get the problems facing parents. Costs are up. Places are down and we’ve seen a reduction in the help families can access to make childcare affordable

Labour would ease the cost-of-living crisis and help make work pay, boosting family incomes and the economy over the summer and all year round.

For instance, we will offer 25 hours of free childcare to working parents of three and four-year-olds and we will bring in a price freeze on gas and electricity prices. This will ease the immediate cost-of living crisis and help parents earn while making sure their children have access to care.


Giving young people the skills to succeed

Labour will open up new routes to success for young people, including new technical degrees that recognise the value of practical skills in the workplace.

For a 14 year old following the traditional academic path there is a clear route through GCSEs to ‘A’ levels and on to university. But half of our youngsters do not go on to university.

For this ‘forgotten 50 per cent’ the options can be confusing and, in too many cases, poor quality. A fifth of all apprentices receive no training at all and some college courses are seen as second rate by employers.

Young people are being failed and businesses are being held back.

If Labour is elected in 2015, we will create a clear route for young people not choosing post-school academic education to access high quality training and a successful career.

This is an important part of our reforms to build a higher skill, higher wage economy.

The Technical Baccalaureate for 16-18 year olds will become a new gold standard qualification – and instil real vocational excellence in our Further Education colleges.

We will radically improve the quality and quantity of apprenticeships by introducing new training standards. We will require all firms that bid for a major government contract to offer apprenticeships.

Technical Degrees will stand at the pinnacle of this gold-standard vocational route. Designed and delivered by employers and universities, these degrees will give young people the chance to earn a wage while doing high-level training that sets them up for a high skilled career.

The Tory-led government is committed to a race to the bottom built on low pay, low skills, low prospects and low productivity.

I know from meeting young people and employers across Liverpool Wavertree that we need a real choice between the vocational and academic routes to ensure that both lead towards successful careers.

I am convinced that Labour’s gold-standard vocational route will ensure that all our young people get the training and education they deserve.

Getting excited about the Giants Spectacular

Giant-grandmother-1I’m getting so excited about the Giants coming to the constituency. I’ve had a sneak preview as Grandmother prepared in St George’s Hall for her journey around our city this weekend.

The queues outside the hall yesterday for the first day of two days of previews were testimony to the Giants’ popularity. Grandmother is amazing and I predict that the streets will be filled when she joins up with the Little Girl Giant and her dog Xolo.

The Little Girl Giant, her pet dog Xolo and Grandmother will roam through Liverpool, telling the story of Memories of 1914 -1918, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The route takes in sights including William Brown Street, the Town Hall, World Heritage waterfront, Chinese Arch, both cathedrals, Canning Dock and an overnight stay in Newsham Park.

Tomorrow, from around 5.30pm, the Giants will walk through Kensington, along Sheil Road and Gardner’s Drive and then in to Newsham Park for 8pm, where they will spend the night.

They wake up on Saturday morning from 10am before heading back in to town through Kensington.

Along the way, they will be telling the story of how so many people from Liverpool – the Liverpool Pals – joined up for the First World War and the sacrifices that were made. It promises to be a truly spectacular weekend. I hope you’ll be part of it.

Huge potential to cut cancer death toll

Luciana Berger MP cancer ukThere have been major advances in the fight against cancer over the last 40 years. Two in four people diagnosed with cancer today in the UK will survive their disease for at least 10 years, compared to just one in four in the early 1970s.

In the North West, this means that around 19,000 people each year can now expect to survive the disease for at least 10 years.

Figures produced by Cancer Research UK show that Liverpool is doing well in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers compared to the rest of England, but England lags behind the best in Europe.

Official NHS figures released last week for May 2014 show 18,664 patients across the country waiting longer than the recommended six-week limit for tests – the highest number for six years and more than twice the figure this time last year and five times the figure at the time of the last election.

Delays in tests cause stress and anguish and can lead to delays in treatment. The government missed its own treatment target earlier this year.

The charity says much more can be done to help more people in the North West and across the UK beat cancer sooner. It believes that within 20 years, advances in care and treatment could mean that three out of every four people diagnosed will survive for at least 10 years.

Early diagnosis and ensuring ready access to the best treatments will be key.

Recently, I was able to meet with cancer researchers supported by the charity and hear about the cutting-edge work they are doing to help prevent the 1,300 deaths from cancer that take place in Liverpool Wavertree alone each year.

Research matters – as does prevention, raising people’s awareness of symptoms and early diagnosis and speedy treatment.

The possibilities are really exciting but the government mustn’t be allowed to let the advances of past years be reversed.

Join in a day of action for young women

Youth for changeA day of inspiring talks, interactive sessions and a sharing of ideas is promised for tomorrow when girls and young women aged 14-21 come together to debate rights and empowerment and showcase positive examples for change.

Youth for Change is hosted by the United Nations. Girls and young women can get involved through live streaming of the event. Just click here, follow the instructions and you, your friends, school friends, youth club can join in the event.

A key moment will be when young people talk about how to join a movement to end the horrific experiences of female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage.

In the UK, over 20,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation each year and thousands are exposed to forced marriage.

Female genital mutilation is a form of violence against girls which can result in a lifetime of pain, psychological problems and difficulty in childbirth. Around 125 million girls have been cut worldwide.

Child and forced marriage occurs in every part of the world. One in three girls in developing countries is married by the age of 18, and one in nine by the age of 15. Some are as young as eight.

The #YouthforChange event feeds into the Girl Summit 2014 on July 22, designed to get the UK government to commit to action and enable people to pledge their support to take action.

The first ever Girl Summit, bringing together governments, activists and community leaders will put the spotlight on girls’ rights and push the potential of girls to help stop poverty before it even starts, across the world.

Young people make up half the world’s population. They are a powerful force for change. Please join in, if you can.


Vote Labour to get rid of the bedroom tax

Luciana Berger with Rachel Reeves and Bedroom tax posterSometimes the unbelievable hypocrisy of the Lib Dems has to be seen and heard to be believed.

They claimed today to be shocked and disturbed about the human cost of the bedroom tax. The Lib Dems are part of this government. Lib Dems voted for the bedroom tax. There wouldn’t be a bedroom tax if it wasn’t for the Lib Dems. Downing Street has confirmed that no Lib Dem Cabinet minister ever raised a private concern about the bedroom tax.

Only last week, on my latest Down Your Street event, a constituent said that she was being charged the bedroom tax because she and her young child had an extra bedroom. She had tried to down size, got to the top of the waiting list for a smaller property and was then told she couldn’t have it. Instead, through no fault of her own and despite doing her very best to get a smaller house, she is being charged the extra – just as the government and the Lib Dems planned.

The Lib Dems should join Labour now in voting down the bedroom tax.

Yet, in February when Labour tabled a Bill to scrap the bedroom tax, the Lib Dems were nowhere to be seen.

You can’t trust a word the Lib Dems say – it is clear the only way to cancel the bedroom tax is to elect a Labour government next year.

Highlighting the digital divide

I was able to visit two TUC digital hubs on Lodge Lane, L8 recently to see the great work they are doing to help people use technology to gain more control over their own health.Luciana Berger with digital divide

The hubs are funded through the Mi – the ‘more independent health initiative’ and facilitated by the TUC to help people get to grips with the basics of using computers and digital aids.

I was able to see the work people from Granby Toxteth Development Trust, a long established voluntary organisation in L8, Personal Success based in the Tiber Enterprise offices and the Somali Women’s Centre, also on Lodge Lane are doing.

The TUC has set up or resourced over 50 hubs in the city over the past six months and trained more than 200 Digital Champions to spread learning to over 2,000 learners.

The Department for Work and Pensions and Jobcentres sometimes use the threat of sanctions against people who are not searching for jobs online, even when they don’t have the skills to do so. I heard some shocking examples during my visits and will be raising the growing digital poverty gap in Parliament.

We can’t afford to have people excluded from the technologies and skills they need in the 21st century to make the most of the opportunities on offer online.

Planning to support the arts

Arts are fundamental to what it is to be human; for how each individual develops, sees themselves and the world around them. The arts must be for everyone not just for some. Giants

Liverpool is alive with art and culture this summer. The Biennial is open, we’ve had Africa Oye and Brouhaha over the past few weekends and there are great shows at Tate Liverpool, the Walker, Metal and the Giants are heading for town. These are just a few of the great events on offer.

The Labour Party has always recognised that the arts and creative industries are an intrinsic part of life and our economy. In Liverpool, we know that art and culture can enrich lives and help to regenerate communities.

The last Labour government supported the arts, not least by providing free admission to all our national museums and galleries, like the Walker and our World Museum and International Slavery Museum, and supporting the building of new museums and galleries, like the Museum of Liverpool.

The next Labour government will be a friend of the arts too.

That is why Labour Arts Alliance is being formed to make again the case for the arts as we campaign for the return of a Labour government.

The Labour Arts Alliance wants a local and national dialogue so that a One Nation vision for the arts and creative industries can be created for the second decade of the 21st Century, and beyond.

The alliance is encouraging supporters to help devise a strategy for the growth of the sector and contribute policy ideas for the 2015 Labour manifesto and beyond.

If you are interested, you can sign up here or follow the alliance on Twitter @LabourArts

We can stand together to protect our arts and creative industries.

Celebrating the birth of the NHS

When the National Health Service was born in 1948 under the Labour government some of the first to benefit were new mums and their babies. Before the NHS, the slightest birth complications could saddle a family with a bill of a week’s wages or more.NHS birth

After the birth of the NHS, that fear was lifted.

The story of the NHS is one of Labour’s proudest and we are telling it now, because we now that we are in danger of slipping back, with GPs under pressure, longer waits in A&E and delays in treatment.

If you click here and enter you date of birth and postcode you can find out your NHS birth number – where you come in the long line of babies born on the NHS – and share it with family and friends.

It really brings home just what a difference the NHS has made. People tell their stories of being born and growing up under the NHS.

The website also tells you about the fantastic work the NHS is doing today, supporting people with long-term conditions, people in need of emergency care and visiting GPs.

The NHS is too important to leave in this government’s hands. Its top-down reorganisation has cost £3 billion that could have gone to deal with the crisis in child and adolescent mental health, helped keep more GP surgeries open longer and reduced waits at A&E.

Labour has the history and the values to protect and reinvigorate our National Health Service.

Royal Mail rip-off sale exposed

Royal Mail staffThe government’s unnecessary and unwanted sale of Royal Mail has cost us £1 billion. The cross-party business select committee of MPs found that Royal Mail was sold on the cheap. It was a rip-off.

Ministers pressed ahead with their botched fire sale of Royal Mail, despite widespread opposition and warnings.

As a result, taxpayers have been short changed by hundreds of millions of pounds while the government’s ‘priority’ City investors made a killing at the public’s expense.

The damning report from a committee that includes MPs from all parties reinforces the significant criticisms which have already been made by the National Audit Office and others.

Ministers have now been forced by Labour pressure to order an inquiry into the sale. They have at last admitted what everyone else has known for months on the huge failings there have been. David Cameron’s government still has serious questions to answer.