Friday 27 May 2011

Carers Week 2011

I have teamed up with TV presenter Angela Rippon to support this year’s Carers Week (13-19 June) to recognise the contribution made by those people in the Borough and throughout the UK who provide unpaid care for someone who is ill, frail or disabled.

The theme for Carers Week 2011 is ‘The True Face of Carers’. It calls for greater recognition for the diverse range of people who have caring responsibilities. The work they carry out is vital for their families and friends, and for their communities.

I met up with Angela at the House of Commons to pay tribute to carers, and to urge that they receive more support in their caring roles. Thousands of people in Makerfield sacrifice not only their time, but also their money and their health in order to care for a loved one. Together they save this country an astonishing £119 billion. They deserve to be recognised for their contribution to both our local community and to wider society.

I am taking part in Carers Week to show my respect and appreciation for our carers. I also want to let them know that there are services out there to help them. Caring can be so incredibly demanding. It’s important that carers know that they don’t have to struggle on alone.

Angela Rippon has personal experience of being a carer. Other celebrities supporting carers and Carers Week include Dame Judi Dench, Sir David Jason OBE, Jack Charlton OBE and Martin Lewis.

Carers Week is organised by a partnership of 9 national charities: Age UK, Carers UK, Counsel & Care, Crossroads Care, Dementia UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, and The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

For more information about local events and activities taking place as part of Carers Week click here.

Monday 23 May 2011

Support for Regulation of Christmas Savings Schemes

I led a delegation to meet with Ed Davey MP, Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs to press for government support to protect the savings of members in the lucrative Christmas Savings Schemes market following the collapse of Farepak in 2006.

I was joined by Sir Ian McCartney and Suzy Hall, an independent board member of the Christmas Pre-Payment Association (CPA) and a 'survivor' of the Farepak collapse. For Sir Ian McCartney the meeting was ‘unfinished business’, following the key role he played in fighting for justice for the 116,000 agents and customers of Farepak.

I have continued the campaign for justice and the meeting with the minister followed a personal committment from the Prime Minister at PMQs on 24th November 2011.

The Directors of Farepak reached agreement with the Liquidators and a payment of £4million has been received. However, the terms of the settlement are confidential and further action against the Directors lay in the hands of the Dept for Business, Innovation & Skills who have commenced proceedings against its former Directors. Legal proceedings to disqualify directors of the failed business began in the High Court in February.

The government's Insolvency Service had applied to the court to disqualify all nine former directors of Farepak and its parent company. The nine, including former CBI boss Sir Clive Thompson, are fighting the action. As a result creditors of Farepak are still waiting for compensation at a rate of 15p for every £1 nearly 5 years after the collapse.

In the wake of the collapse, businesses in the sector such as Park Christmas Savings Ltd joined the CPA whose members have accepted a code of practice offering greater protection to savers deposits.

In the meeting, Ed Davey was ‘appalled’ that several high profile Christmas Savings Schemes run by the major supermarket chains were not members of the Christmas Pre-payment Association.

I have tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the major supermarkets to set an example to smaller traders and take membership as soon as possible and have written to them asking them to join the CPA.

Farepak was marketed as a savings club and its customers regarded themselves as savers and not creditors at the bottom of the pile waiting for compensation. The Farepak collapse has cast a shadow over the Christmas Savings Industry and it is a scandal that nearly 5 years later, people across the country still await compensation.The minister was appalled to learn that even now with the formation of the Christmas Pre-payment Association that supermarket giants like Asda are not members of the industry self-regulator.

Early Day Motion 1794 – Christmas Savings Schemes

That this House notes with concern that the major supermarkets operating Christmas savings schemes are not members of the Christmas Pre-payment Association; and urges them to set an example to smaller traders and take up membership as soon as possible.

Thursday 19 May 2011

500,000 forced to wait more than a year for their pension

The Government’s plans to accelerate the state pension age increases mean that 500,000 women will have to wait for more than a year longer before receiving the state pension, leaving many women aged 56 and 57 feeling robbed.

300,000 women born between 6 December 1953 and 5 October 1954, will have to wait an extra 18 months, and an unlucky 33,000 born between 6 March 1954 and 5 April 1954 will have to wait an extra 2 years, before being entitled to their state pension.

The majority of these women will already be well underway in their plans for retirement, with many already working reduced hours in order to care for grandchildren or elderly parents.  Yet they are now being forced to make significant changes to their financial plans, with just 5 years notice before the changes kick in. 
The unlucky 33,000 born between 6 March 1954 and 5 April 1954 are set to lose around £10,000 in lost state pension or more than £15,000 if they get the full pension credit, with less than 7 years to attempt to accommodate the change.

The Government’s plans to increase the state pension age disproportionately affects women and 3,500 women across the Wigan Borough are being made to wait up to two years longer for their state pension.  Many of these are women who have juggled working lives with raising a family have very little retirement savings to fall back on. The lack of warning of these changes means they do not have enough time to adjust carefully thought-out retirement plans and leaves them feeling robbed of their pensions.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Smoke Alarms Save Lives

Last Friday, I joined Wigan’s Firefighters at the home of Katie-Jo Finney, Sydney St, Platt Bridge (and her daughter Lacy) to support a vital free service offered by Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service.

Home Fire Risk Assessments (HFRA) are available to all households in Wigan and are free. Firefighters spent approximately 30-40 minutes with Katie-Jo discussing general fire safety issues, how to make a fire plan, and how to leave the property the safest way in the result of a fire.

The firefighters also went through a questionnaire regarding Kati-Jo’s lifestyle in relation to risk from fire and specific advice was provided, whilst the second crew member was fitting smoke detection where required and checked each room in the house for hazards and then discussing the hazard with the occupier to reduce the risk.

The Fire Service in Wigan aim to fit smoke detectors and carry out HFRA’s in all properties in the Wigan area and Wigan Station Commander, Steve Sheridan confirmed that his teams on average carry out over 40 HFRA’s a day. Agreements with partner agencies such as Wigan & Leigh Housing have seen HFRA’s carried out in all their properties over the recent past.

Wigan Station Commander Steve Sheridan said, "In Wigan we are committed to reducing fire deaths by ensuring that every home in the area has a working smoke alarm. We have already fitted over 100,000 free smoke alarms in our local communities across the Greater Manchester area. Along with fitting free smoke alarms, we also give occupiers a free fire safety check."

“Smoke alarms save lives and I would urge anyone without one to book a Home Fire Risk Assessment today by calling 0800 555 815."

Fire safety has progressed considerably since the 1980s when less than one in 10 homes had a smoke alarm. Due to the efforts of firefighters across the UK, the number of homes with a smoke alarm is over 80%, but this still leaves far too many unnecessarily in danger.

Smoke Alarms save lives and I know that Katie-Jo and Lacy will feel much safer for the advice received today.I would encourage every household without a smoke alarm to book a free appointment today.

Monday 9 May 2011

Local Election Results

People are turning towards Labour once again, to be their voice in tough times. As well as the biggest share of the vote, we have won back some of the great cities from the Liberal Democrats in the north, and won councils from the Conservatives in the south. But we have got further to go.

Across the Wigan Borough we gained seats including that of Michael Winstanley in Orrell, current Mayor and leading Conservative in the Borough. Congratulations to Stephen Murphy for his victory in Orrell and also Joel Haddley in Ashton.

These results reflect people’s deep unhappiness with what this Tory-led Government is doing. It was a very bad night for Nick Clegg. But also a bad night for David Cameron. He failed to win a mandate at the last general election and has only been able to force through his right-wing, badly thought through policies because of Liberal Democrat support.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg want to get back to business as usual. Instead they should listen, and change.

For full details of the results here in Wigan click here

Official Opening of Constituency Offices by Labour's Shadow Secretary of Health John Healey MP

John Healey MP today officially opened the constituency office of Lisa Nandy MP and my office both based at Elizabeth House on Pottery Rd.

I was delighted that John was able to join us today and open the offices. Both Lisa and I are really pleased to be here at Elizabeth House and have secured a modern, fully accessible office with good transport links within walking distance of the town centre.

We both place a great deal of pride in the services the two constituency offices offer to constituents and today was an opportunity to showcase the facility as well as provide an opportunity for people to see for themselves the two offices and network with colleagues.