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CONTENTS
Jo Cox MP
EU Referendum
Immigration Roadshow Visits Oldham
Oldham's Future - Reflections 15 Years on from the Riots
Queen's Speech - My Response
Devo Manc and Health and Social Care
Working for Your Community Summer School 2016

Shadow Minister Responsibilities
Constituency Update
Parliamentary Business
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News from
Debbie Abrahams MP

For Oldham East and Saddleworth

June 2016

Dear Sabah Kanwal

This is a special edition of my e-newsletter. 

The death of my colleague and friend Jo Cox last Thursday shocked the country.  She was in politics for the best of reasons because she wanted to make the world a better place.  My thoughts are with her husband, Brendan, and their two young children at what must be the darkest of times for them.  My full tribute is below.


This special e-newsletter edition also contains information on the EU Referendum later this week, Labour's Immigration Roadshow event in Oldham, my report on Devo Manc and Health and Social Care, details of how to apply for my Summer School next month; and constituency and parliamentary updates. 

For more regular news you can like my page on Facebook, follow me on twitter @Debbie_abrahams or visit my website at www.debbieabrahams.org.uk

Debbie Abrahams MP
Jo Cox MP

Jo was a dear friend and colleague who always lit the room up with the sheer force of her personality. She had a real love for life and a wonderful sense of fun.

She was in politics because she wanted to make the world a better place having worked in many countries across the world where conflict and injustice are rife.

She was already proving to be a formidable parliamentarian and constituency MP.  We were about to embark on an Inquiry into Human Rights abuses in Kashmir.

My thoughts are with her husband, Brendan, and their two young children at what must be the darkest of times for them.

One in five MPs have had concerns for their safety at some time or another including me. However we must remember that it’s the accessibility of MPs to their constituents that is such an important part of our democratic process and that’s not something we should lose sight of.

Ninety nine point nine per cent of people are throughly decent and respectful; even if they don't agree with you politically. So it’s important we don’t change how we interact with the very people we represent whilst we take the time to reconsider our approach to the safety and well being of MPs and our staff.


As Jo said in her maiden speech, which was quoted in the tributes in Parliament yesterday, “While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel ​around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

And as Brendan said, in Jo’s memory, we will unite in love and peace, not hate.  Thank you, Jo, for all you did for so many people and inspiring us all.

EU Referendum

Over the last few months I’ve been out and about talking with my constituents about the EU Referendum. With a few days to go, there are still many people who are undecided about how to vote on Thursday 23rd June in what is the most important political decision that they, and this country, will take in a generation: whether we should remain in or leave the EU.
 
So that’s why I wanted to tell you why I am campaigning to remain in the EU. The key reason for me is the trade UK businesses do with the EU, and the jobs associated with this trade. Over 3.5m jobs, 14,000 in Oldham alone. And this trade contributes in excess of £220bn to the economy every year. The taxes raised from these businesses and workers pays for our public services, including our NHS and care services, the Police, our schools as well as our pensions and other social security support. As a member of the EU, UK businesses can access the largest single market in the world without having to pay any tariffs (taxes) to the country importing UK goods.
 
As Roger Shepley, a local businessman who exports to Europe said:
 
“We’re in real danger of going from cool Britannia to fool Britannia in the eyes of other countries across the world if we vote to leave the EU. I travel around the globe for business reasons and I can tell you that the UK is greatly respected as part of the EU and being part of it significantly reduces the amount of administration I need to go through to do business.
 
“If we leave, the burden of having to negotiate new contracts with other countries will increase businesses’ administration costs and make our products less attractive. I can’t understand why we would want to leave when we know it would make doing business with the rest of the world more difficult. The bottom line is we’re better off as part of the EU.”
 
Through recent EU Structural Funds we have seen 20,000 new business start-ups, 50,000 new jobs and 1,300 Research & Development projects. And by 2020, EU Structural Funds will contribute £9.5bn to the UK’s economic development, including £356m across Greater Manchester. On top of that, on average EU countries invest £24bn a year in the UK. According to the Bank of England, we are already seeing concerns about whether we will remain in the EU affecting this investment, with £65bn withdrawn from the UK in March and April compared with just £2bn six months earlier.
 
But it’s not just about trade and investment. Infectious diseases like Zika and Ebola don’t recognise borders! Nor do criminal gangs, or tax evaders. Or air pollutants that affect climate change and our health. All of these issues require us to work closely with the EU and more widely. Since 2009, the EU arrest warrant has been used to return 1,100 suspected criminals to the UK to face justice while we have deported 7,400 people who were suspected of crimes. We’ve also been able to refuse entry to the UK to over 6,000 EU nationals by sharing intelligence data across the EU.
 
It would be fair to say that many people have raised concerns about immigration when I have chatted with them. This is particularly so where there are housing pressures and when other public services, such as the NHS and, increasingly, education, are in crisis. But immigration was also raised as an issue in areas where there is little diversity or problems with services. This probably says more about the daily pressures people are facing and how politicians on the centre left and centre right have failed to have any meaningful debate about immigration until now. Prior to that it was discussed only under duress from certain political parties, always inflammatory and always negative.
 
I am proud that in the wake of the Second World War, the UK helped to draft and was one of the first signatories to the UN Convention for Refugees so that anyone, anywhere could claim refuge from persecution. We believe most people feel that way too. But for some, superimposed on top of this, are feelings of fear about jobs, public services but also about difference. What about my job? Will employers want to pay me less, or even replace me? What about my kids’ education? Will there be enough school places? Where will they live? What about housing supply? Will it push rents and housing prices up? Will they be good neighbours? 
 
And many of these questions relate to economic migrants from the EU as well. Politicians must respond to these issues by engaging with communities to understand the local impacts of migration.  We must make sure that communities with migrant populations are appropriately resourced and supported so that pressure on services are mitigated, migrant and indigenous communities get to know each other, and employers are prohibited from undercutting local wages by recruiting solely from the EU. We have been pushing hard for this and Keir Starmer, the Shadow Minister for Immigration, has visited Oldham a number of times to discuss local people’s concerns.
 
But we must also understand the huge role that migrants have and continue to play in our economy, for example, with approximately 1 in 4 doctors coming from abroad, 1 in 5 care workers coming from the EU, as well as 130,000 NHS workers. Although there are year on year variations according to the IFS, it’s estimated that all migration contributes about 1% GDP to the economy (about £20bn), with EU migrants contributing the most.
 
There are many challenges that we face as individuals and families; sometimes we can solve them on our own. But problems such as how to make sure we have cheap, sustainable food or energy supplies or combat climate change or develop and trial new medicines require co-operation and collaboration not isolation. Although we recognise the EU isn’t perfect, we believe the best way to address these challenges is by being part of Europe, leading not leaving. Working together, we are stronger.

 

Immigration Roadshow Visits Oldham

Shadow immigration minister Sir Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, in London, visited Oldham late last month as part of his UK-wide tour to speak to voters about immigration at a public meeting held at University Campus Oldham.

The Labour Party and I have been pushing hard for this dialogue with local people and that is why I arranged for Sir Keir to attend this public meeting. It was great to hear so many frank conversations taking place and these discussions were extremely useful as they will help Labour form its immigration policy.

Many people in the room expressed concerns about integration and rights of asylum seekers, as well as cuts to English language courses and regulating employers who are taking advantage of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers living in Oldham shared their stories, explaining how they have been waiting anywhere from two years to 14 years, for the Home Office to make a decision on their case.

Sir Keir said  “I’m so encouraged to see so many people to a public meeting on a Friday afternoon, and being prepared to express their views around the table. There’s a very honest and engaged community in Oldham, many of whom have strong views one way or another.

“We have got to have a real conversation about immigration. We’re going to have to be blunt, frank and open. Nothing is off limits. We’re not coming to sell a policy, we’re coming to listen before we look again at this policy.”

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham was able to join shortly before the meeting came to an end and said “people want an honest debate about immigration. It’s a real concern people have. We need to have a balanced debate, without it being done in a sensationalist way.” You can read a full report on the event
here.

Oldham's Future - Reflections 15 Years on from the Riots

The borough’s three MPs - Jim McMahon, Angela Rayner and I - have collaborated to remember the lessons learnt from the Oldham Riots, which took place 15 years ago last month and to set out our vision for the future. You can read the article in full here.

We are proud of Oldham and all of our diverse communities. We are inspired by the prospect of a positive future but we are honest about the challenges our town faces too.

The town hit the national headlines for all the wrong reasons 15 years ago and while the images were shocking no one could honestly say it came as a total surprise. The riots led to a fundamental review of a range of issues from community relations, education, skills and employment, housing and the role of community leaders and public services.

Although there is much to celebrate about how Oldham has risen to the challenge following the riots, there are still persistent inequalities across the borough. Not only is this unfair and a waste of human potential, but it threatens the social cohesion we are trying to foster. Fundamentally, these inequalities are not fixed or inevitable.

In March 2015 the final
Oldham Fairness Commission report was published and local Commissioners from across public, private and voluntary sectors accepted the challenge to work together to build a fairer Oldham. We know that fairer and more equal societies benefit all of us and we are doing our bit in Oldham.

Oldham is a long way from being fixed, but the focus on creating a decent town centre for all communities in Oldham to share, enjoy and to socialise together is important. The same is true of new housing which is of high quality and designed to appeal to the aspirational who might otherwise choose to leave Oldham in search of something better. With new leisure centres, shops, bars (both wine and milkshake) and an emerging Independent Quarter bridging the town centre with a new £60m retail and residential scheme at Princes Gate there is a lot to be hopeful about.

But is it not right for the Government to constantly undermine these efforts through indifference and through actively chipping away at the foundations a new Oldham will be built on. With the other Members of Parliament – and working along the local council – we are determined not to have our town’s history wrote for us.

We want Oldham to be known as an inspiring town that – despite all the odds – came out fighting and won.


Queen's Speech - My Response

Following the Queen’s speech on 18th May, I spoke during the Debate on 'defending public services'.  Unfortunately, this Queen’s Speech was a re-announcement of old ideas, but contained no new solutions. 

For example, there are no measures to deal with the damaging effects of the Government’s austerity agenda, to tackle the housing crisis, to improve living standards for working people, to improve health and social care services or to protect our environment. 

 

As Shadow Minister for Disabled People, I was disappointed that following the Secretary of State’s announcement in early May that the proposed White Paper on supporting disabled people into work had been ditched, there was no mention of how the Government plan to halve the disability employment gap.

 

After 6 years of the Government cutting support for disabled people, refusing to reform work capability and health assessments, and removing vital motability support, their silence on issues affecting disabled people is deafening.  The TUC have warned that the Government is years behind schedule on their manifesto commitments to halve the disability employment gap and at current rates of progress it will take until 2030.  Cutting vital social security support and employment programmes will only succeed in locking people out of the workplace. You can watch my speech here or read it in full here.


Devo Manc and Health and Social Care

As a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and former NHS Trust Chair, I have released my latest NHS Check report in which I discuss the Devo Manc plans for health and social care are more about devolving financial risk to Greater Manchester and less about devolving decision-making to a local level. It’s about delegation not devolution.

I support the principles of devolution, but this deal is a sham. It is more about delegation from NHS England. The fact that the Chief Executive won’t take up his post until 22nd July begs the question who’s running the show now? And with all but one NHS Trust currently in deficit, the £2bn deficit forecast by 2020 looks somewhat optimistic.

I have outlined action that is urgently needed in my report, including on accountability; proper impact assessments; finance and oversight of the deal.


I want to see the vision for the greatest and fastest possible improvement in the health and wellbeing of the people of Greater Manchester, and the reduction in health inequalities, being achieved. But we must mitigate against the risks that exist.

Working for Your Community Summer School

As an MP, I am often asked for work experience placements and internships and unfortunately cannot accommodate them all.  To try and give as many young people from Oldham as possible work experience, I held my first ‘working for your community’ summer school for 18-24 year olds in 2014 and because of the fantastic intake, the great programme and the popularity of it, I now hold this summer school annually. This year will be the third year and I am very much looking forward to it! 

The aim of the summer school is for participants to develop community action skills and experience by working on various community projects in Oldham. Participants will develop key skills for both future involvement in politics and community based work.

This year's school will take place between 18th and 29th July. Applications close on Thursday 30th June. Full details can be found on my website
here.

Shadow Minister responsibilities

As ever, there has been a great deal of work in Parliament in my role as Shadow Minister for Disabled People.  As well as highlighting issues in the Queen's Speech I have also tried to repeatedly raise in Parliament the DWP's publication of Peer Reviews into the deaths of social security claimants.

I believe that an independent body should be set up to investigate the deaths of vulnerable social security claimants after a Freedom of Information request forced the Government to publish its own internal ‘peer reviews’ into 49 such deaths.

The peer review reports were drawn up between February 2012 and August 2014 and were finally published by the Government two years after the FOI request and following April's Information Tribunal which ordered the Government to publish them.

I believe that it is shocking that the Government have had to be compelled to publish the peer reviews of social security claimants who have died and the delay in doing so. Although these peer reviews are heavily redacted so that individuals can’t be identified, our initial analysis suggests that the most vulnerable claimants weren’t given appropriate care and support, reflecting an over-stretched workforce driven by a top-down culture focused on targets. 

The Government’s priority has been to get claimants ‘off-flow’ with too little regard of the consequences. We need to know from Stephen Crabb what action has been taken following these peer reviews. It has been reported that 10 deaths were associated with sanctions and 40 were suicides, and we need to have this confirmed.

I repeatedly called for a full impact assessment of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, now Act, as there was no consideration of the effects it would have on the health and well being of claimants. The Government must pause the implementation of these social security cuts, including cuts to ESA WRAG. My d
etailed comments on the reports can be read
here. My question to the Leader of the House can be read here.

Labour called an Opposition Day debate on the disability employment gap, to examine the Government's lack of support for disabled people both currently in work and for those who are able to work and seeking employment.  My speech outlining what changes the Government should make can be read
here.  This debate was soon after I spoke at the Work Foundation's report launch on support for disabled people and people with long-term conditions into work. Details of the report and the launch are here

My colleague, Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Minister for Children and Families, has launched a review into the support available for children with SEND. This review was is needed, as many organisations within the SEND sector have raised concerns with weaknesses and shortcomings in the implementation of the Children and Families Act.  The review is keen to hear from as many people, including local organisations, charities and groups who have involvement in the local provision of SEND services.  If you have experience of these issues I hope you will consider submitting written evidence to the review before 29th July. Find out more
here.


You can also read my article on what the EU referendum means for disabled people here.

   

Constituency Update

It's been a busy time in the constituency.

Alongside my regular constituency surgeries I recently attended the PC Nicola Hughes Memorial Ball at Old Trafford in Manchester alongside, Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham MP. Nicola (who was born in Saddleworth) and her partner PC Fiona Bones were tragically killed just under four years ago in Sept 2012 when they responded to a burglary call. The annual ball raises funds for young people which have suffered a tragic loss of a close family member through a violent crime. Well done to Bryn and his son Sam who have raised over £400,000 since the charity was established and I look forward to continuing to support their great work. Find out more about the charity and it's work here.

I also recently met with First Choice Homes Oldham to tackle homelessness in our Borough. First Choice Homes Oldham told me there has been a 500% increase in people presenting needing homelessness advice between 2013/14 to 2015/16. These figures are shocking and we need to press the government to do more on the lack of temporary accommodation and affordable housing. I will continue to press this matter.

As part of Carers Week I visited the Link Centre to find out more about the support available to carers in our borough. It is so important we care for and value all our carers and make sure the support is available so they can also look after themselves. If you are a carer please know that you are not alone.There are groups and organisations that can support you. Find our more
here and here.


   

Parliamentary business

I have raised numerous issues in Parliament, including on what actions the UK is taking with the EU to kick start the peace process in Syria.  I also asked about the speed with which the Government will process applications from child refugees, fleeing the fighting in Syria.

Numerous constituents, mainly teachers and parents, have contacted me about the Government's failures on Key Stage 2 tests.  During a Ministerial Statement on the issue, I
asked whether the Department's preoccupation with forced academisation had meant they had taken their eye off the ball.

I have also quizzed Ministers on their plans to
scrap NHS bursaries for student nurses and midwives and called for a clear timetable for pilots on pre exposure prophylaxis, after the Government refused to commission it throughout the country.

As Shadow Minister for Disabled People, I have also sought to raise key issues across Departments and my recent contributions have been on
PIP and the Dispatches programme, specialist learning disability nurses, fuel poverty and disabled people, BBC diversity, the downgrading of the White Paper on disabled people and employment, Disability Hate Crime and cuts to spending on disabled people.

To read all my contributions in Parliament click
here.


 
ADVICE SURGERY DETAILS

If you live in Oldham East and Saddleworth and would like to attend one of my surgeries to discuss personal cases regarding housing, immigration, social security or other matters please call the Oldham office on 0161 624 4248 to book an appointment.

PLEASE NOTE ALL SURGERIES ARE BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.

My next advice surgeries are on:

Friday 24 June 2016; 3:00pm - 4:30pm in Shaw


Friday 8 July 2016; 4:00-5:00pm at my offices in Oldham

Saturday 9 July 2016; 10:00-11:00am in Lees

If you have an urgent enquiry, please send an
e-mail, including your name, address contact number and details of the issue you are e-mailing about.
Meetings and Events

Some of the events I've been involved in this month have included:

1 May - Attended the Residential and Security fair for local residents in Uppermill.

3 May - Visit to the Basildon Disabled Sports Club at the Swan Mead Centre as Shadow Minister for Disabled People. Read the media report
here

4 May - Met the Minister for Local Government, Marcus Jones, alongside a local delegation from Saddleworth to discuss changes to the law to ensure people convicted of a child sex offence cannot serve on a local authority or parish council.

5 May - Local elections took place in Oldham and across the country.

6 May - Regular quarterly meeting with First Choice Homes on local housing issues, including constituency casework.


7 May  - Attended the Oldham Roughyeds game against Super League Warrington Wolves in the Challenge Cup.  The Roughyeds put up a good showing against the Super League team, even taking the lead early on, making Oldham proud!

8 May - Attended the Castleshaw Centre centenary event in Delph with Oldham's Mayor.

9 May - Interview with Channel 4 News on their #NoGoBritain campaign on accessibility for disabled people. You can watch the interview
here.

10 May - Meeting with Blind Children UK and Guide Dogs to discuss the importance of providing habilitation training to children with sight loss, giving them mobility and independent living skills for life.

10 May - Attended the launch of Sheffield Hallam University's report 
'The Uneven Impact of Welfare Reform.'

11 May - Attended the
APPG for Prescribed Drug Dependence's meeting on 'Rising prescriptions, rising mental health disability - is there a link?'.

12 May - Launch of first wave findings from the 'Welfare Conditionality: Sanctions Support and Behaviour Change' research project then met with Prof Peter Dwyer, one of the report's authors from the University of York.


13 May - Informal visit and tour of Oldham Central Masjid and Islamic Centre.

13 May - Popped in to the 
coffee afternoon organised by Andrew Taylor in aid of  Great Ormond Street Hospital at the Link Centre, Oldham.

13 May - Attended the Oldham Business Awards at the Queen Elizabeth Hall to recognise local business success. Also great entertainment from Madhlo.

15 May - As Co-Chair of the All Party Group on Dementia I participated in a BBC Radio Manchester interview on dementia awareness week.

18 May - State Opening of Parliament with the Queen's Speech.

19 May - Held a Disability Equality Roadshow event at the TUC Disabled Members' Conference to hear from disabled people their key policy priorities.

20 May - Toured the Whit Friday Band Contests across Saddleworth.  As ever, a brilliant display of top notch music.

23 May - Took part in Radio 4's 'You and Yours' programme on PIP assessments.  You can listen again
here.

24 May - Meeting with Nick Gibb, Schools Minister, alongside Oldham colleagues Jim McMahon MP and Angela Rayner MP to discuss education in Oldham and the findings of the Education Commission and the Oldham Fairness Commission.

24 May - Meeting with GMB disability officers, followed by campaigners for independent living for disabled people.

25 May - Took part in the Guide Dogs lobby of Parliament to raise awareness of access issues for blind and partially sighted people.

25 May - Meeting with Sport England to discuss disability sport and women's participation in sport through the 'This Girl Can' campaign.

26 May - Spoke at the Work Foundation's launch of a report on supporting disabled people and people with long-term conditions into work.  Full details are
here.

27 May - Keir Starmer MP, Shadow Immigration Minister and Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Home Secretary visited Oldham for Labour's Immigration Roadshow (see story, left).

7 June - Meeting with Equity's Deaf and Disabled Members Committee to discuss key priorities for disabled people who are professional performers and creative practitioners.

8 June - Meeting with Dr Sarah Waters from the University of Leeds regarding her research on politics and society, particularly in the workplace.

8 June - Chaired the Industry and Parliament Trust's meeting on supporting diversity in the workplace.

9 June - Alongside local community leaders in Oldham attended Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham's speech on 'New Security Challenges' in Manchester.

9 June - Attended a performance of 'Benefits, who?' exploring local people's experiences of Universal Credit at the Oldham Coliseum, then participated in an informal roundtable discussion.

10 June - Popped into Carers' Week event at the Link Centre, Oldham.

10 June - Attended a roundtable meeting at First Choice Homes on local homelessness.   

11 June - Constituency advice surgery in Uppermill.

11 June - I was honoured to once again attend the PC Nicola Hughes Memorial Ball at Old Trafford in Manchester.


13 June - Took part in a BBC Radio 5 Live debate on the EU referendum in Eccles. Click here to listen to the debate from 37 minutes in.

15 June - Visit to Fatima Women's Association with London Mayor, Sadiq Khan to present the positive case for remaining in the European Union.
Focus on....

If you've thought about volunteering but haven't got round to it... how about taking your first steps now. Visit the Volunteer Centre in Oldham and find out how you can help your local community and learn new skills.

Find our more
here.
Debbie on the Parliamentary Website

To find out more about how I have represented Oldham East and Saddleworth in Parliament, you can read my contributions in debates and questions I have asked here on the parliamentary website.  
Be Fair - Pay on Time

To keep up to date on my Be Fair - Pay on Time campaign, read my campaign page here

To get up to the minute news and information between e-newsletters see my
Facebook page, follow me on Twitter or read my blog.

 
If you know anyone who would like to receive news about Oldham East and Saddleworth, they can sign up to my e-newsletter here.  Past editions my e-newsletter can be accessed here.
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