I finished last week with a busy few days in the constituency.
Friday first thing I met Debra Green of national charity Redeeming Our Communities, which hopes to take over the management of the Fuse in Partington.
This is a really exciting development, and I promised to put Debra in touch with local businesses who might support the project. If you run a business locally and would like to support this amazing initiative, which will work with young people, older people and those at risk of exclusion and isolation, in a state of the art, purpose built building designed by local young people, please get in touch.
Then I travelled into Manchester to meet Breakthrough UK for a fascinating meeting with this disabled people’s organisation. The team were fantastically well informed about every issue from employment to enabling disabled people to live independently to healthcare. I really enjoyed the discussion, and I learnt a lot too.
After that, I attended the ceremony to mark Action for Mesothelioma day in Albert Square. This is always a tremendously moving event, with sufferers and their families displaying so much courage and dignity in their fight for justice. This year, there’s been something to celebrate, as the Mesothelioma Act, on which I worked over the winter, and which will ensure payments to more sufferers who contracted this terrible lung cancer at work, passed into law earlier this year. But in another way, it was even sadder than usual, since it was the first commemoration since the death of Paul Goggins, who did so much for the campaign for justice for mesothelioma victims, at the beginning of the year.
I spent the afternoon in advice surgeries, helping constituents with a range of problems. My colleague Catrin was there to support me – staff in my office do a huge amount of the follow-up work as well as taking copious notes!
Saturday was also busy, beginning with an hour with the South Manchester foodbank, helping them to collect donated items from shoppers at the Old Trafford Tesco. Then I met local Labour party members to go out on the doorstep, to talk to local residents in Stretford about road safety issues, following the recent serious accident in Davyhulme Road East. We got lots of ideas for improvements in road safety which we will follow up.
In the afternoon, I headed over to Urmston for the 66th birthday celebrations for the founding of the NHS. My colleague Cllr Jo Harding had put in a huge amount of work to organise this, and it was a really great event, with lots of organisations coming along with stalls, cakes, drinks, and information. She even sorted the weather – it was a fabulous day.
On Sunday, I visited the As-Salaam centre in Stretford to discuss a whole range of matters with members of the mosque, including how we can build closer relationships between all sections of our community. This is something I’ve heard all the mosques in my constituency discuss in recent months, as tensions between communities rise. I was glad to have the chance to raise the issue with the minster the very next day in parliament in Home Office question time.
Monday evening was taken up with a long meeting with campaigners who’ve prepared a comprehensive report on the UK’s record in complying with our international obligations towards disabled people. It isn’t good, as the coalition government’s policies have put progress for disabled people into reverse. And it wasn’t very impressive either that our room booking had been messed around, necessitating those attending, including some in wheelchairs, criss-crossing Westminster, only for us to end up back in the room we had first booked.
Tuesday began with a breakfast meeting with insurance company Aviva, who have a large call centre in my constituency, and with whom I’ve been working on affordable insurance products for social housing tenants. The meeting was well attended, and very interesting, but I had to rush off early to speak in a debate on organ transplantation mark National Transplant Week. This is a subject on which I do a lot of work in parliament, and I’m pleased that since I began to work on it, there have been some small improvements in the way organs are allocated for transplant. I hope that will help us in the North West, where waiting times are the longest in the country, and too many patients die waiting for a transplant. But now I’ve been told there are problems with funding, so I asked the minister about that.
Then I dropped into a reception to mark the Summer Reading campaign, and was delighted to be allowed to choose some children’s books to donate to a local library. Into Cabinet Office questions, to ask what the government’s doing to help more learning disabled people to register to vote and participate in elections. In the afternoon, I was back in another debate on enabling learning disabled people to get out of residential care and live independently. Finally, off to two simultaneous receptions (this happens a lot, I really need to clone myself), one on a new report about the youth courts, and one organised by the fabulous Fabian Women’s Network.
Wednesday and Thursday have been much less busy, with time to catch up with my staff, and do a bit of reading and thinking, something I don’t give nearly as much time as I should. I’ve had a few meetings with campaigners, and with Capita, who carry out Personal Independence assessments, went into the chamber to support my colleague Chris Bryant, who was asking an Urgent Question about the government’s disastrous Universal Credit programme, and attended a reception hosted by NHS Blood and Transplant, again for National Transplant Week.
And now I’m on my way to Scotland for a day’s campaigning with Scottish colleagues, ahead of the forthcoming independence referendum in September. As a Scot who’s lived in England for more than 30 years, I simply can’t imagine Scotland leaving the UK. I’m looking forward to a packed programme of events to discuss how we’re all better off together, pooling our resources, sharing risks, and protecting our influence and relationships abroad. It should be an interesting visit!