Liz writes June 2019

It’s astonishing how much power one person has to make change. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage rebel, has become the symbol of leadership in 2019 through her efforts to drag climate change firmly back on the international agenda.

Despite Trump’s rejection of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the rise of nationalism and its own brand of fake news and climate change denial and  all-consuming issues like Brexit, Greta has begun the fightback on behalf of humanity.

This is the great issue of our time and while she doesn’t claim to offer all of the answers, Greta has forced us to ask some very searching questions.

Last year’s Special Report on Global Warming describes the enormous harm that a 2°C average rise in global temperatures is likely to cause. The expert panel representing countries around the world confirmed that limiting global warming to 1.5°C may still be possible with ambitious action from governments, councils, wider civil society and the private sector.

Locally, I’m pleased that our councils have followed Greta’s lead, recognising that change will have to start from the bottom and work its way up. The climate change conversation is now taking place locally and is rightly focussed on the “emergency” and the urgent need for radical action.

I’m pleased that Gateshead’s Labour-led Council has formally declared a climate change emergency and is now taking proactive steps to make change locally, knowing that we can no longer wait for national governments to act.

So I applaud Gateshead for their ambitious plans to make their services carbon neutral and achieve 100 per cent clean energy across the Council’s full range of functions by 2030.

And by shifting to a zero carbon approach by 2030 they are now working with other relevant agencies and local business to making the borough carbon neutral within the same timescale.

Councils will only be able to make the real change required by working with others; so it’s vital that we include young people, local residents, the private and voluntary sector in the process, ensuring that they have a voice in shaping their future.

Only then will the UK Government and others around the world be pressured by their citizens into providing the powers, resources and green new deal for skilled work, homes and public transport that will improve our lives.

In Westminster, the starting gun for the Tory leadership contest has been fired. While the 11 candidates to become the next PM jockey for first place, the issues that matter most to people continue to be ignored.

Alongside Brexit, this contest has pushed everything else off the parliamentary agenda, so other important decisions aren’t being made.

The political deadlock means that people living with rare medical conditions such as Phenylketonuria (PKU), Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia and others are being let down; they are not able to access the proper treatments for their conditions in the UK, despite these treatments being widely available throughout Europe.

The 4,400 people living with PKU understandably feel that the government is failing them. The drug they need – Kuvan – has been available throughout Europe and around the world since 2008, but is still prescribed on the NHS, due to the failure of politicians and the “big pharma” industry to find a solution.

BioMarin, the major pharmaceutical company who developed Kuvan currently charge £70,000 per year, per person and offer no discount to the NHS for its use, even though they have generated substantial revenues from the sale of the drug around the world.

As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on PKU, I have been campaigning for Kuvan to be made available in the UK. Our APPG was launched following pressure from my constituent Barbara McGovern, whose son Archie has PKU.

Her personal story and grassroots campaigning have inspired our cross-party group of MPs to call on BioMarin to make their treatment more affordable.

Barbara, like Greta, is leading the way and by following her lead I am hopeful that we can secure the change needed to improve access to treatments on the NHS.

These strong women have recognised their power to make change. What can you do to change the world around you?

Sport England launch new Coronavirus emergency fund

Sport England has opened a new £20 million Community Emergency Fund to help sports clubs, community sport and physical activity organisations, through the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

The fund is now open and welcomes applications for grants between £300 and £10,000 to help organisations experiencing short-term financial hardship or the ceasing of operations due to the impact of Coronavirus.

All information, including criteria, FAQs and the application process, can be found on Sport England’s website below.

Your NHS needs you!

NHS Volunteer Responders has been set up to support the NHS during the COVID-19 outbreak. To do this we need an ‘army’ of volunteers who can support the 1.5m people in England who are at most risk from the virus to stay well. Our doctors, nurses and other professionals will be able to refer people in to NHS Volunteer Responders and be confident that they have been matched with a reliable, named volunteer.

You can help by signing up for one or more of the tasks listed below. Once you have registered and checks are complete you will be provided a log-in to the GoodSAM Responder app. Switch the app to ‘on duty’, and you’ll see live and local volunteer tasks to pick from nearby.

This programme enables volunteers to provide care or to help a vulnerable person, which is permitted under the new rules announced by the Government on 23rd March 2020. Volunteers may be asked to show the active task they are responding to if asked.

Volunteers must be 18 or over, and fit and well with no symptoms. Those in higher-risk groups (including those over 70, those who are pregnant or with underlying medical conditions) will be able to offer support by telephone.

Your NHS needs you! Join our team today.

Charities provide essential frontline services, but they need more funding during COVID-19 crisis

Charities are providing much of the frontline support in our communities during this crisis, but they need additional funding to continue their work. It is vital that the Chancellor recognises this and provides contingency funding, so they can continue to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable.

I raised this with the Minister yesterday. Listen to my speech here:

Call for contingency funding to support self-employed

I have received a lot of enquiries from self-employed constituents over the last few days, and heard a number of stories from our micro-business owners, who are fearful for their future and require immediate support from the Government to survive the coming months.
Yesterday, I raised your concerns in the House of Commons and called on the Government to provide immediate contingency funding, to provide stability during the Coronavirus crisis.
You can listen to my speech here:

Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.

Last night the Prime Minister announced strict rules around the movement of people, which we must all take to reduce the spread of the virus.

The message is simple – stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives.

Stay at home

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work
  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home

Bin collections and COVID-19

Advice from Gateshead Council in relation to bin collections states:

To help protect our crews and you and your family, we need you to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before you do any of the following:

  • before you put anything in your bin
  • when you put your bin out for collection
  • when you bring your bin in after collection

Full information on bin collections can be found here.

Guidance for parents

I have been contacted by key workers who are unsure about whether their children can still access school, so they can continue to provide essential services to keep our health service, public services and essential supplies going.

The link below includes important information for parents and carers of children at registered childcare providers (including nurseries and childminders), primary and secondary schools and further education colleges. This is for both state-funded and independent schools.

Guidance for employees and employers

I have been contacted by a number of local business owners and employers who are deeply concerned about their future.

Following the Chancellor’s announcements earlier this week, please make sure you are fully aware of your eligibility as an employer or employee. Follow the link below for the official advice from Government in relation to coronavirus and employment.

Coronavirus and claiming benefits

If you cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay you will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of your illness. DWP intends to legislate so this measure applies retrospectively from 13 March 2020.

Statutory Sick Pay will be payable if you are staying at home on Government advice, not just if you are infected by coronavirus. This will apply from 13 March 2020.

If you are a gig worker and/or on a zero hours contract, you may be entitled to sick pay. Check your eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay

If you need to provide evidence to your employer that you need to stay at home due to having symptoms of coronavirus an Isolation Note can be obtained from NHS 111 online. If you live with someone that has symptoms, an Isolation Note can be obtained from the NHS website.

If you are not eligible to receive sick pay you can apply for Universal Credit and/or apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance. You can also apply for these if you are prevented from working because of a risk to public health.

Click the link below for information about coronavirus and claiming benefits. It will continue to be updated. Please check this page regularly for updates on the arrangements the Department for Work and Pensions is making to support those who are affected by coronavirus.