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You may recall that earlier this year I wrote about my concern over the Government’s plans to cut housing benefit, to the detriment of supported housing schemes.

Since then I have met with several housing providers to find out more about the possible effects of this policy here in Bolton. I know from my casework that older residents often struggle to find housing that meets their additional requirements, and the uncertainty caused by this policy puts at risk any future investment into the housing projects needed to meet this rising demand. Many other specialist schemes, like housing for teenage single mothers who need extra help, could be at risk of closure.

In Parliament, Labour have opposed the changes and called for a total exemption for all social housing schemes from the Local Housing Allowance cap. Opposition-led debates in both January and July forced the Government to delay the plans and rethink.

This week we heard further concessions from the Government. Social rents being linked to LHA has been pushed back again, to 2019. While housing benefit will no longer cover the extra costs that come with supported housing, a new ring-fenced “top-up” funding scheme will be created and managed by local authorities.

It is good that the Government are beginning to recognise the problems that this policy would cause for the supported housing sector, but this still isn’t good enough.

The lack of detail about the “top-up” system suggests that this could be a confusing extra layer of bureaucracy which hurts funding for providers and creates instability for tenants.

Funding is key as well. The Government has a record of ring-fencing funding for a specific purpose, handing it to local authorities, and then cutting it to the point where Councils can no longer meet demand. Given that George Osborne originally designed the cap as a way to cut money in the budget it’s a real possibility that this “top-up” concession will not be properly funded.

The Government need to clear up this uncertainty. People who have suffered domestic abuse, veterans, older people, disabled people, the homeless, former offenders, veterans and young people leaving care are all being put at risk without a clear package of support.

Labour will continue to hold the Government to account over this, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in this policy to take part in the upcoming consultation.

Supported Housing - an update

  You may recall that earlier this year I wrote about my concern over the Government’s plans to cut housing benefit, to the detriment of supported housing schemes.Since then I...

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There have been some huge political events this year that have dominated the headlines but I’d like to highlight a campaign that you may not have heard about which could have a big impact on women across the country.

Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is a group set up to lobby on behalf of women born in the 1950s who are subject to rapid short-notice changes in their state pension age.

It has long been planned to equalise the pension age of men and women. However, in order to save money, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government opted to accelerate this process in 2011. As a result, women born after April 1951 are discovering that they will not receive their pension when they expected and have a limited amount of time to make alternative arrangements.

This Friday (16th Sept 10am) WASPI is holding a demonstration outside Manchester Town Hall to highlight the campaign. Many women are only now realising what the Government’s policy means for them, so it is important to spread the word that pension ages are changing. Over 99,000 women will be impacted in Greater Manchester alone.

If you think that someone you know may be affected you can check the new pension entitlement age here.

While I agree the equalising the state pension age is the right thing to do, it is unfair that this group of women will be penalised and transitional arrangements must be put into place as soon as possible.

Labour has put forward six different options for the Government to consider and has forced several votes in the House of Commons, but the Government still refuses to act.

As well as voting to support those affected I have been lobbying the Minister responsible for this on behalf on my constituents. If you have any concerns about your pension as a result of the Government’s position then please get in contact with me and I will be happy to raise your case with the Minister.

State Pension Changes

There have been some huge political events this year that have dominated the headlines but I’d like to highlight a campaign that you may not have heard about which could...

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I have written previously about my concern over the closure of Chorley A&E and the impact that this could have on surrounding hospitals.

Sadly this situation has not been resolved. Despite huge opposition locally and pressure in Parliament for the Government to intervene, hospital bosses are looking at April 2017 as the earliest possible re-opening date.

I have serious concerns that there are major underlying problems in our NHS that the Government is refusing to address. While NHS bosses in Chorley must take some responsibility for the closure, you only need to search for ‘A&E staff shortage’ on google news to find stories from all across the country of A&E services under severe strain.

Our own Royal Bolton Hospital rightly celebrated their recent award of a “good” rating from the Care Quality Commission which put them in the top 25% of hospitals. However, even that report highlighted that our A&E is facing high demand and they do not have appropriate staffing levels to meet that challenge.

Widespread problems in Accident and Emergency acts as a red flag warning to us all that there are serious issues elsewhere in the NHS. Problems across the whole of our health care system, including primary care, social care and mental health, all end up piling the pressure back onto hospitals and A&E in particular.

Doctors are doing their best to meet targets but they are being asked to do more and more, with longer and more anti-social shifts in this high pressure environment. Rather than being supported by the Government they are faced with Jeremy Hunt’s fight to curb their pay and conditions. Is it really surprising that recruitment is becoming difficult?

I shall continue to lobby the Secretary of State for Health about the issues in our NHS and will be working with other local MPs to press for a swift resolution to the ongoing closure of Chorley A&E.

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A&E Staff Shortages

I have written previously about my concern over the closure of Chorley A&E and the impact that this could have on surrounding hospitals.Sadly this situation has not been resolved. Despite...

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