Thursday 28 February 2013

Apply for Bomber Command Clasp & Arctic Convoy Medal

I have today called on former aircrew of Bomber Command and the Arctic Convoys to contact my office now that the application process has opened to veterans of both campaigns.

This week, the Government announced that all the details have been confirmed for the Arctic Star and the Bomber Command Clasp and the application process has now opened. This follows Sir John Holmes’ independent medal review and the announcement by the Prime Minister, on 19 December 2012.

Her Majesty the Queen has approved designs for the new awards. The design for the Arctic Star is based on the other World War Two Stars and the Bomber Command Clasp, to be worn on the ribbon of the 1939 to 1945 Star, follows the design of the Battle of Britain Clasp.

Production of the new Arctic Star and Bomber Command clasp has now commenced and could result in up to a quarter of a million veterans, and the families of those who have sadly died, applying to receive the new awards in recognition of their unique contribution protecting Britain during World War II. Priority in issuing the awards will be given to veterans and widows who could receive their awards in a few weeks. Other next of kin may also apply now but will have to wait slightly longer to receive their award.

All those who served our country in Bomber Command and on the Arctic Convoys deserve our thanks and respect. That’s why I am today inviting applications through my office from veterans of these two campaigns.

I am also pleased to support the very welcome announcement that the families of those no longer alive will also be able to apply for these awards.

The eligibility criteria can be viewed here. Applications forms are available by calling the constituency office on 01942 824029 or by email.

Monday 25 February 2013

Fraud in Wigan low but continue to be vigilant

Wigan consumers have experienced relatively low levels of fraud during 2012 according to figures unveiled today by CIFAS and myself.

Adjusted for population, the figures reveal that the Borough was ranked 239th for fraud (where #1 is the worst) in 2012, improved from 215th in 2011. Wigan is ranked 212th for the level of victims of identity fraud (220th in 2011) and is ranked 316th for the level of victims of facility takeover fraud (225th in 2011).

CIFAS is the UK’s fraud prevention service and not-for-profit membership association. Its members work in the banking, credit, asset finance, retail credit and insurance sectors as well as the public sector including the UK Border Agency. It has 25 years experience of identifying and preventing fraud. Their National Fraud Database is the single largest repository of confirmed data fraud in the UK.

In 2011, the National Fraud Authority's Annual Fraud Indicator put the loss to the UK economy from fraud at £73 billion. This level of loss impacts on every part of society, including the most vulnerable. It represents money that individuals, businesses and Government can ill afford to lose ending up in fraudsters’ pockets.

In the North West, Greater Manchester recorded the highest level of fraud with 24.9 frauds identified per thousand people. Of these, 50% were misuse of facility fraud. This type of fraud is common in cities, university towns and commonly involves bank accounts, such as paying in an altered cheque.

In welcoming the relative low levels of fraud committed in the Wigan Borough, I am warning the public to be vigilant and to ensure they protect their personal data. It is a sad fact that anyone can be a victim of fraud and with the advent of the internet and the changes it has brought often means that victimisation is more random.
You can reduce the risk of your details falling into criminal hands by keeping your personal details to yourself. They are a valuable item to a fraudster. CIFAS provide some really useful tips to help people avoid being the next victim of fraudsters.

Simon Fell from CIFAS said, "Your personal details are incredibly valuable and you should treat them as such. You wouldn't leave a laptop lying around, or jewellery out in the open, and you should treat your identity the same way."

"Fraudsters will painstakingly piece together your identity from documents you throw away but don't shred, information you put up on social networking sites, and data which is already in the public domain about you. They'll go to that effort because once they have enough information they can pretend to be you and start applying for credit or buying items in your name."

"The Wigan Borough may have a relatively low level of fraud compared to the rest of the UK, but anyone can be a victim. Stay safe and look after your identity."

Thursday 21 February 2013

More Than Words

A pioneering Community Interest Company (CIC) welcomed me to its Platt Bridge home this week.

More than Words Advocacy CIC gives people with learning disabilities a means of expressing themselves through the Self Advocacy Board Project and have their say about life in our borough. The project is supported by Wigan Council and the findings are reported back to the Learning Disability Partnership Board to influence future planning. The group uses art, drama, dance, games and poetry to explain and express the views of others –  particularly those with more complex needs.

According to Mencap less than 1 in 5 people with a learning disability work compared with 1 in 2 disabled people generally, but at least 65% of people with a learning disability want to work.

Of those people with a learning disability that do work, most only work part time and are low paid. More than Words provides an environment where people can express themselves and build confidence and judging by today’s visit they are succeeding and I wish them well for the future.

More than Words, Sue Seager said, “We were delighted our local MP Yvonne, took time out to visit the project and has committed to raising people’s issues in the course of her work. More Than Words offers a range of Services for children, young people and Adults with Learning Disabilities. Our dramatherapy ethos is to use whatever works best to support people to communicate and take control in their lives. ”

To find out more about More Than Words call Sue on 01942 735426 or email.

Friday 15 February 2013

Huge Victory for Financial Education Campaign

I have welcomed a “huge victory” for the campaign for compulsory financial education in schools, following the publication of the new draft National Curriculum for England.  The new curriculum will see personal finance taught in both mathematics and in citizenship education for 11 to 16 year olds, making financial capability a statutory part of the curriculum for the first time.

In December 2011 a cross party group of MPs published a report calling for financial education to be included in the national curriculum, to equip young people with the knowledge and skills needed to manage their money and make informed financial decisions. 

The campaign has also been supported by national charity pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group),’s Martin Lewis and tens of thousands of teachers and parents across the country.

In an ever increasingly complex financial world it is important that young people are fully equipped to make informed financial decisions. I welcome this huge victory in the provision of personal finance in schools.

But this welcome decision should be part of a wider package of reforms, to include ensuring that people do not get into debt with payday lenders, do not go to fee-charging debt management agencies when free advice is available but do have access to early advice to help them when they realise that they are getting into debt.

The new programme of study for citizenship education specifically includes:

• Key Stage 3 (age 11-14) – the functions and uses of money, the importance of personal budgeting, money management and a range of financial products and services
• Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16) – wages, taxes, credit, debt, financial risk and a range of more sophisticated financial products and services

In addition, the new curriculum places a ‘renewed emphasis’ on mathematics, including financial mathematics.

Monday 4 February 2013

Wigan & Leigh Stroke Support Group

I joined Andy Burnham MP on Friday, 1st February in visiting a vibrant local support group to meet people who have suffered from Stroke.

At the invitation of the Chair of Wigan & Leigh Stroke Support Group, Sue Lewis, Andy and Yvonne met with group members to talk about the work of the group.

The visit coincided with a donation of £150.00 from ASDA’s Windermere Rd branch and the Atherleigh Way superstore in Leigh. ASDA’s Kathleen Fallon and Cathy Jones presented the cheque on behalf of ASDA after it was nominated by customers for the ‘Chosen by You’ Charity.

The Wigan and Leigh Stroke Support Group was originally started by the Stroke Association. Since July 2011 it has become a Stroke Association Voluntary Group, receiving support from Wigan Council and the Manchester Community Fund as well as the group’s own fundraising initiatives.

Sue Lewis, Chair of Wigan & Leigh Stroke Support Group said, “The majority of the group’s volunteers are stroke survivors themselves. We aim to provide a friendly, sociable and supportive atmosphere at meetings which are held at the Abram Community Centre every other Friday from 12.30pm until 2.30pm.

“If you or a family member has been affected by Stroke we will be more than happy to welcome you at our meetings.”

Wigan & Leigh Stroke Support Group is a wonderful example of how local people come together to support those most in need and I am very proud of the hard work that Sue and her volunteers have put in to support stroke victims through their recovery.

The Group receive continued support from Stroke Association Information Advice and Support Coordinators Elaine Pye and Jim Brown on 01942 862429 and Communication Support  Coordinator Rachel Cheetham on 01942 775826.

In Ashton, Leigh and Wigan 600 people have a stroke every year and more than 5,500 people in the area are living with a disability after a stroke. High blood pressure is the single biggest cause of strokes and affects almost a quarter of the population in Ashton, Leigh and Wigan.

A stroke is a brain attack which occurs because of a clot or a bleed in the brain, causing brain cells to die. Although it is one of the UK’s biggest killers and leading causes of disability, far too many people don’t understand it or ever think it will happen to them. We rely on your support to change lives and help us to change how people think about stroke.

The Stroke Association is a charity that believes in life after stroke, and is leading a community of people to change the world for those affected by stroke. It works directly with stroke survivors and their families and carers, as well as with health and social care professionals. It campaigns to improve stroke care and support people to make the best recovery they can and also funds research to develop new treatments and ways of preventing stroke.

Andy Burnham said, “Stroke changes lives. It can and does have a huge effect on the person and their family. That’s why I am always moved by the bravery and enthusiasm of Stroke victims and the dedication shown by volunteers.

"I know that the group are currently looking for volunteer drivers to bring some of their members to the group and I hope that local people with a few hours to spare can assist the group in this way, by contacting Sue Lewis on 01942 514647 for more information about volunteering or joining the group."

For more information about stroke, ring the Helpline on 0303 30 33 100 or visit the website.

Friday 1 February 2013

Be Loud Be Clear and let's beat Bowel Cancer

I committed to working with patients and the local NHS to ensure high quality and safe care is secured for all bowel cancer patients in the Makerfield constituency.

At the recent Be Loud Be Clear Parliamentary Reception, Yvonne Fovargue MP heard from both bowel cancer patients and the charity Beating Bowel Cancer about the importance of a good experience for all patients.

I’m happy to sign this pledge and support the principles in any way I can. I shall be working with the local NHS to ensure they are providing the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to treating bowel cancer patients.

Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer told me that they strongly believe that patient experience should be an integral part of the NHS and it is vital that better care is secured for all bowel cancer patients.

Beating Bowel Cancer know of many cases where patients simply aren’t getting the level of care they need. The launch of the Service Pledge will be a measure of how hospitals should be providing a good experience to the bowel cancer patients they treat.

To find out more about bowel cancer and to read the full Service Pledge, please visit the charity’s website 

About bowel cancer 

Bowel Cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer claiming a life every 30 minutes
Over 41,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK
The majority of people diagnosed with the disease are over the age of 50
Bowel cancer is more treatable if spotted and diagnosed early
Over 93 per cent of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage survive for at least five years compared with less than 7% of those diagnosed at a late stage.