Campaigning MP welcomes Judicial Review of two child policy

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has today hailed the efforts of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) who have been granted permission to apply for judicial review of the two child limit.

The decision follows a claim made by CPAG to the High Court against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, challenging the DWP’s decision to introduce the two child limit in April 2017. The rule change now means child tax credits and universal credit claims are restricted to the first two children in a family.

In addition, the policy also requires tax credit claimants, whose third or subsequent child was conceived as a result of rape, to prove this to social workers and health professionals in order to qualify for an exemption – a move that has been categorically denounced by faith leaders, women’s welfare groups, trade unions and child poverty campaigners alike.

Alison Thewliss MP – who first exposed the policy – said:

“I welcome the work that the Child Poverty Action Group have done to put pressure on the UK Government, following the introduction of the callous and heartless two child policy earlier this year.

“The sad truth is, independent analysis shows that in excess of 200,000 children will move into relative poverty as a result of the two child policy. Indeed, those families who now choose to have a third child could be £50,000 worse off under these new rules than they might have been previously.

“Forcing women whose third child was conceived as a result of rape to relive their past trauma, simply in order to make a claim for benefit, is an appalling way to treat women and it’s hardly surprising that ministers have done everything in their power to avoid being drawn into discussion on this issue.

“With the prospect of a judicial review on the horizon, I will continue to urge the UK Government to scrap the two child policy and rape clause altogether”.

Alison Thewliss MP calls on Chancellor to Keep Pubs Afloat

Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss has joined with representatives of the UK’s beer drinkers, pub goers, brewers and publicans to urge the Chancellor to keep pubs afloat in the Autumn Budget.

Ms Thewliss was one of over 50 MPs to add their voice to the campaign, calling on the Chancellor to give serious consideration to introducing a freeze in beer duty for the rest of this Parliament.

Alison Thewliss MP said: “Pubs are a force for good in Glasgow Central and across the UK. Pubs are at the heart of our communities and the local economy, but they are struggling under the weight of a growing tax burden.

“In Glasgow Central, we have a brewery and 309 pubs, supporting 5,768 jobs. These establishments need all the help they can get, which is why I’m asking the Chancellor to do whatever he can to support them in the Autumn budget.”

Taxes now make up a third of the cost of a pint, and UK beer duty is among the highest in Europe. Recent research carried out by YouGov for CAMRA found that 55% of people who expressed an opinion believe beer duty is too high at 54p per pint.

Campaigning MP: Northern Ireland MPs must unite to scrap rape clause

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has called on Northern Ireland’s MPs to join her campaign to scrap the UK Government’s two child policy and rape clause, following a rally against the policy in Belfast today.

The campaigning MP spoke at the rally, which was hosted by Reclaim the Agenda and Women’s Aid Federation of Northern Ireland, and highlighted the risk that existing criminal laws place on vulnerable women and third party professionals for failing to disclose that the crime of rape had taken place.

Ms Thewliss is now writing to every MP in Northern Ireland to seek their support for her campaign to end the UK Government’s abhorrent two child policy and rape clause.
Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Women in Northern Ireland sent a clear message to the UK Government today – the rape clause stigmatises vulnerable women, places them and professionals at risk of criminalisation and will cause greater poverty and misery, both in Northern Ireland and across the UK.

“Women in abusive relationships in Northern Ireland should not have to choose either entering the criminal justice system or struggling to make ends meet to support their families. The chilling effect of the rape clause on rape victims will discourage women from speaking out about the horrific crimes committed against them, which no-one, regardless of their party political persuasion, wants to see happen in a civilised society.

“MPs from all major political parties in Northern Ireland must now combine efforts to end the suffering that women and families have endured from changes to child tax credit entitlement. With the UK Government now reliant on the support of Northern Ireland MPs to survive votes in the House of Commons, it’s time for a renewed cross party effort to consign the poorly thought-out and abhorrent rape clause to the Downing Street dustbin.”

Campaigning MP to address rape clause rally in Northern Ireland

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, will be joining campaigners in Northern Ireland today (Thursday 21st September) to protest the introduction of the UK Government’s two child policy and rape clause.

The campaigning MP will join the Women’s Aid Federation of Northern Ireland and Reclaim the Agenda in Belfast to highlight the stigmatisation of vulnerable women by the rape clause and two child policy and to call on all of Northern Ireland’s MPs to join her campaign to scrap the two child policy and rape clause.

Under Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967, it is a crime to fail to report a criminal offence or to provide information which leads to the conviction of a crime. Third party professionals, such as doctors, midwives, social workers and support workers, could potentially face a prison sentence of up to 10 years if they fail to disclose that a woman has been raped when completing the rape clause form – even if doing so means that women are placed in further danger of violence and sexual assault from their abusive partners.

Speaking ahead of the rally, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Since its introduction in April, the rape clause has caused untold harm and distress across the UK. The cruelty of forcing women to relive the worst ordeal of their life, just in order to make a claim for benefit, shows the morally repugnant depths to which the UK Government has plumbed.

“As if this wasn’t bad enough, women in Northern Ireland face a very specific risk under existing laws, which requires crimes such as rape to be reported to the police by the third party referrer. Women in abusive relationships are therefore placed in an appalling situation where either they are forced into the criminal justice system or they will struggle to afford to pay bills and put food on the table.

“The rape clause also puts professionals in Northern Ireland in an incredibly difficult position, as they face the prospect of their reputations and careers being destroyed if they do not report that a woman has been raped to the police. It’s no coincidence that a growing number of trade unions and women’s aid groups have refused to endorse the third party referral mechanism for claims made under the rape clause, given the risks it presents to their members.

“The rape clause could criminalise incredibly vulnerable women and the professionals who would wish to support them in Northern Ireland. I’ll be asking all of Northern Ireland’s MPs to join me in demanding an end to the two child policy and rape clause and the misery and poverty it has created for families across the UK.”

MP to visit Blackpool to highlight cuts to breastfeeding support services

Alison Thewliss MP, Chair of the UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Infant Feeding and Inequalities, will be chairing a public meeting in Blackpool today to discuss drastic funding cuts to breastfeeding support services in the area.

Ms Thewliss will meet with residents and local campaigners to discuss the decision of Blackpool County Council to close down the Star Buddies peer support service in July 2017, after 10 years of providing one-to-one support to breastfeeding mums in Blackpool. Ms Thewliss will host a public meeting, where she will be joined by residents, local MPs and breastfeeding support groups.

The peer support service paired new mums with mums who had experience with breastfeeding their babies. The service covered the first few weeks and months of the baby’s life, with scheduled visits before, and up to 6 weeks after, the baby is born. As well as providing reliable and informative advice to new mums, regular visits to the new mums by peer support volunteers helped the new mums to monitor babies’ progress and identify any problems that may arise at an early stage.

The closure of the Star Buddies peer support service has been met with serious concern by campaigners and health professionals in the NHS. Figures released by Public Health England reveal that Blackpool has below average breastfeeding rates, with 61.6% of mothers initiating breastfeeding within 48 hours of their babies being born, compared with 74.3% for England as a whole.

Commenting prior to her visit, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The closure of peer support services for breastfeeding in Blackpool has left many people understandably concerned about the quality and level of support available for new mums who are taking their first steps into parenthood.

“Mums need access to reliable sources of information in order to make the best decisions for feeding their babies and understanding what works for them for feeding their babies. Drawing on the knowledge of mums who have breastfed their babies within the first few weeks of a baby’s life provides valuable guidance and support at what can be a daunting and stressful period for new mums.

“The APPG has heard evidence of the positive impact that peer support services like Star Buddies can have on the lives of new mums. I am keen to recognise the efforts of those volunteers who have dedicated their time to run the service in Blackpool and challenge the decision of the Council to close an effective, integrated service which made an important contribution to improving breastfeeding rates.”

Alison Thewliss MP poses in pink to support Breast Cancer Now

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has dressed in pink to lend her support to Breast Cancer Now’s flagship fundraiser, wear it pink, which will see thousands of people across the UK adding a splash of pink to their outfits on Friday 20 October and raise vital funds for breast cancer research.

Ms Thewliss is encouraging her constituents in Glasgow Central to join her and sign up to take part in the UK’s biggest pink fundraiser. The event, which takes place during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is in its 16th year and has raised over £30 million to date for Breast Cancer Now’s life-saving research.

Ms Thewliss joined fellow parliamentarians in Westminster earlier this month to show her support for the thousands of women and men affected by breast cancer each year, encouraging people across the UK to take part on wear it pink day.

Anyone can take part in wear it pink, which brings together schools, workplaces and communities. All you need to do is wear something pink, or hold a pink event at home, work or school, and make a donation to Breast Cancer Now. Whatever you do, you’re helping the charity achieve its aim that, if we all act now, by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live.

Commenting on the campaign, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. One in eight women will face it in their lifetime, and every year around 11,500 women and 80 men lose their lives to the disease. This is why I’m urging everyone in Glasgow Central to take part in wear it pink on Friday 20 October. It’s such a fun and easy way to support Breast Cancer Now’s vital research, and help stop breast cancer taking the lives of those we love.

Also in attendance was Sky News presenter and former Olympic gymnast Jacquie Beltrao. Jacquie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, is lending her support to wear it pink in the hope that thousands of people across the country will take part in the event.

Jacquie Beltrao said:

“I’m very proud to support wear it pink; it’s a great excuse to dress up in pink and have some fun while raising money for a really important cause. I have had breast cancer myself and following my diagnosis and treatment have become incredibly passionate about raising awareness and funds for research.

“Wear it pink has raised over £30 million to date for Breast Cancer Now, which is incredible. The event raises funds for the charity’s world-class research, which will hopefully one day put a stop to this dreadful disease. That is why I’m asking people across the country join me, and the MPs who took part in Westminster, by adding a splash of pink to their outfits on wear it pink day and donating to Breast Cancer Now. I hope lots of people across the UK take part!”

To take part in wear it pink this October, please visit Wear it Pink for further details, fundraising ideas and how to register for your free fundraising pack.

Alison Thewliss MP supports appeal for families in Glasgow Central to have a lifesaving talk during Organ Donation Week

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, is proudly supporting Organ Donation Week and an appeal for their constituents to talk about organ donation.

Hundreds of lifesaving transplants are being missed around the country every year because families don’t know what their relative wanted.

During the week, NHS Blood and Transplant, hospitals, charities and supporters of organ donation are encouraging people across the UK to talk about organ donation with their relatives and friends.

Commenting on the campaign, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I’m proud to support this lifesaving appeal and it’s really easy for everyone to take part – just have a chat.

“That chat might be the next time you sit down for a meal, when you are shopping or working, or when you are just driving in the car. If you want to be a donor, your family’s agreement is still needed for donation to go ahead, even if you are on the NHS Organ Donor Register.”

Families who agree to donate say it helps with their grief and that they feel enormous sense of pride at knowing their relative gave others the chance of a new beginning.

Fiona Loud, Policy Director of Kidney Care UK, commented: “At least one person dies every single day whilst waiting for a kidney transplant and 90% of the people on the organ donation waiting list in Glasgow Central are waiting for a kidney. You are more likely to need a transplant than to be a donor so please, this Organ Donation Week, just take a few minutes to have a think about what you would do if you needed a transplant, and have that life-saving chat with your family so they know your wishes.”

Anthony Clarkson, Assistant Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We are really grateful for Alison Thewliss MP’s support because hundreds of lives are being lost every year.

“This Organ Donation Week, tell your family you want to save lives. A few words now can make an extraordinary difference.

“If you are unsure about donation, please ask yourselves as a family; what would you do if one of you needed a transplant? Would you accept a life-saving organ? If you’d take an organ, shouldn’t you be prepared to donate?”

There is a particular need for more black and Asian people to talk about donation. Patients from ethnic minority communities make up 29% of the national transplant waiting list but people from these communities are less likely to agree to donate. Organs from people from the same ethnic background are more likely to be a close match and give the best chance of a positive outcome.

Chancellor must scrap tampon tax as more major stores absorb costs for consumers

Alison Thewliss MP sitting at her desk in Parliament

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has called on the Chancellor to scrap the tampon tax for good, following the Co-op’s announcement today (29th August) that they will cover the cost of the tax for their customers.

Several big retail companies, including Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons and Lloyds Pharmacy, have already announced that they will absorb the cost of the tampon tax for their customers before it is scrapped entirely.

In October 2015, the UK Government announced that it had reached agreement with the European Commission to scrap the tampon tax, after an amendment to the 2015 Finance Bill forced them to explore options to remove the levy. In March 2016, the UK Government promised to bring forward legislation to scrap the tampon tax by changing the bands at which VAT is applied to tampons and sanitary products.

However, over a year since the UK Government promised new laws to remove VAT on tampons and sanitary products, they remain subject to 5% VAT and no legislation has been brought before Parliament to end the tampon tax.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I am pleased that the Co-op have joined several other major retailers in paying the cost of the tampon tax for their customers. However, retailers should not need to mitigate the cost of an unjust tax that the UK Government has already promised to scrap.

“It is appalling that, over a year since the UK Government promised to end the injustice of taxing periods, no draft legislation has been brought to the House of Commons to remove VAT from tampons and sanitary products. This issue has been running on for far too long and too many women are still being taxed for their periods, despite the commitments of some retailers to shield their customers from the tampon tax.

“The only way to guarantee that all women will benefit from the tampon tax being axed is for new laws to be brought in without further delay. The Chancellor must now come to Parliament with a clear plan and timetable to end this unjust tax once and for all.”

Alison Thewliss MP supports calls to remove employment barriers facing deaf people

Alison Thewliss MP is supporting Action on Hearing Loss’s campaigning to break down the barriers facing people who are deaf or have a hearing loss trying to secure or stay in employment.

Following a presentation of its Working for change: Improving attitudes to hearing loss in the workplace report to MPs, Ms Thewliss is backing the charity’s call on businesses and the UK Government to work closer together to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing to find and stay in employment.

Ms Thewliss also found out about the positive impacts of Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s specialist employability service, Moving On, which is available to support young people in Glasgow Central who are Deaf or have hearing loss into employment, and advises employers how to meet their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 to be accessible and make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for jobseekers and employees with hearing loss.

Alison Thewliss MP, said:

“It’s been great to find out more about Action on Hearing Loss’s specialist support for people who are Deaf or have hearing loss in to employment as well as the charity’s work with businesses to bust myths and eradicate concerns about employing deaf or hard of hearing staff.

“An increasing number of people of working age have hearing loss so it is vitally important that employers across Glasgow Central are aware of the support that it is available and the small changes they can make to break down barriers facing talented jobseekers or staff who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Delia Henry, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Scotland, said:

“We are delighted that Alison Thewliss MP took the time to learn more about the full range of support – including our Moving On service – that is available to help people who are Deaf or have hearing loss to gain valuable work experience, stay in employment and fulfil their career potential.”

Alison Thewliss MP pledges to become an Arthritis Champion for Glasgow

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has pledged to work alongside leading charity, Arthritis Research UK to represent the thousands of people in Glasgow living every day with the pain of arthritis.

Arthritis is the single biggest cause of disability and pain across the country with 10 million people living with arthritis, and other musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain. The pain, fatigue and lack of mobility caused by arthritis affects every aspect of a person’s life, making everyday tasks such as making a cup of tea, travelling to work or getting out of bed extremely difficult.

As well as the personal impact, the cost to NHS Scotland for hip fractures alone exceeds £73 million per year, and these conditions are the cause of one in five working days lost in the UK.

Alison Thewliss MP, pictured at Arthritis Research UK’s annual Parliamentary reception, has pledged to support Arthritis Research UK’s Prevent, Transform, Cure manifesto in Parliament as an Arthritis Champion, which calls for:

  • Making arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions a public health priority
  • Ensuring people have timely access to health and care services that enable them to improve their musculoskeletal health
  • Ensure people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions have fair and timely access to services that support them to be in work, including financial support
  • Protect the UK’s position as a global leader in science and sustain the benefits of the life-science sector to the economy

Speaking about becoming an Arthritis Champion, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I’m proud to champion Arthritis Research UK’s policy calls to tackle the prevention, transformation and cure of arthritis. We need to put the issues affecting people with arthritis at the forefront of Parliament’s agenda.

“I’m committed to making a difference. Together we can fight this painful condition that has such a huge impact on all aspects of people’s lives in Glasgow.”

Dr Liam O’Toole, chief executive officer of Arthritis Research UK, said:

“I’m delighted that Alison Thewliss MP has become an Arthritis Champion. It’s imperative that we have the support of as many MPs and Peers as possible to stand up for the rights of people with arthritis.

“There needs to be a public health approach focusing on preventing arthritis, transforming services and finding a cure for the 10 million people affected by this devastating condition. It’s vital we work together to make life better for everyone affected by arthritis.”