Questions remain unanswered on rape clause and two child policy

Alison Thewliss MP at the Department of Work and Pensions

SNP MP Alison Thewliss has spoken of her “utter disappointment” following her meeting today (Thursday 19th May) with Lord Freud, Minister of State for Welfare Reform, at the Department of Work & Pensions.

Following months of campaigning, Prime Minister David Cameron finally relented and organised a meeting between the SNP MP and his Welfare Reform Minister, which took place this morning.

Ms Thewliss had just forty-five minutes to question Freud and his officials on their “draconian” plans for a rape clause and two child policy which she said was “tantamount to social engineering”.

Commenting after her meeting at the DWP’s Caxton House HQ in London, Ms Thewliss said:

“Today’s meeting was one of the most frustrating and soul destroying meetings I’ve ever had to endure in my nine years of elected public office, first as a Councillor and now as an MP.

“Lord Freud showed no compassion for the vulnerable women and families who will be subjected to some of the most draconian welfare reforms in the world, reforms which are tantamount to social engineering.

“The Prime Minister himself conceded the Government had “more to do” on this policy, and promised that they would consult on this. When I pressed the Minister, it turns out that the Government have consulted just four organisations on a policy which will cause unimaginable pain and distress to victims of rape.

“This Government clearly does not appreciate that the majority of rapes happen within abusive relationships, and that pushing women to claim could place them and their children in a very dangerous position. During the course of the meeting, Lord Freud suggested that women should “just flee”, without appreciating how incredibly difficult that can be. This comes at the same time when women’s refuges are under threat by Tory cuts to housing benefit. That is simply unacceptable and confirms my worst fears that this is the most uncaring, heartless and cruel UK Government yet.

“On restricting tax credits to the first two children in a family, Lord Freud made great play of the fact that 85% of families have two or less children, therefore this policy would only impact a small minority of people. He couldn’t answer why the Government is legislating to attack such a small minority. He confirmed that he had not consulted with any religious groups, who may be disproportionately affected by the restriction.

“I was further appalled to hear that they have no intention of protecting eligibility to tax credits for families composed of children from previous relationships, which further undermines the Government’s much vaunted ‘family test’.

“I am absolutely gutted by this Tory Government’s lack of compassion, but I will continue the fight to end to this policy. It’s just a shame that the UK Government are so hell bent on pushing ahead with this that they’ll be as obstructive as possible.”

Thewliss takes rape clause fight to DWP HQ

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

SNP MP, Alison Thewliss, will today (Thursday 19th May) meet with Lord Freud, UK Minister for Welfare Reform, at the Department for Work & Pension’s Caxton House HQ in London.

Further stepping up her campaign against the Government’s proposed rape clause and two child policy, Ms Thewliss will use the meeting – organised by the Prime Minister – to put forward a list of unanswered questions to the Government which, she says, “demonstrate the policies to be unworkable, let alone immoral”.

Commenting in advance of her meeting with Lord Freud, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“It is now ten months since I first raised concerns about the Tories plans to limit tax credits and introduce a rape clause, and I’m determined to keep pursuing this. The Government cannot be allowed to get away with implementing policies that are tantamount to social engineering.

“I’ve met and spoken with a number of women’s welfare and rape crisis organisations over recent months and it is clear that vulnerable women and families are deeply worried about the impact these cruel and draconian policies will have on them.

“Ministers at every level of Government, including the Chancellor and Prime Minister, have assured me that they realise this policy needs looked at again. We’ve been promised a consultation but, as yet – and not for lack of asking – we’ve still got no detail as to how or when the consultation will be undertaken, who will be consulted, how long it will run for and when it will report.

“The policy doesn’t need consultation – it needs binned. The fact that the Government has thus far been unable to answer basic questions demonstrate the policies to be as unworkable as they are immoral.”

Dying Matters Awareness Week

Alison Thewliss MP pledging her support to the Dying Matters campaign

Last week was Dying Matters Awareness Week, which provided an important opportunity to think about dying, death and bereavement and to raise public awareness of the impact of death on households across the UK. In particular, there are big, important conversations to be had about how to manage a deceased loved one’s affairs and how to prepare for the end of life.

I met with representatives of SunLife to talk about planning for death and they presented some shocking figures to me from their Cost of Dying 2015 report:

  • 41% of those surveyed had not made adequate financial arrangements to cover the costs of a funeral.
  • 31% of those surveyed did not know if their loved ones would prefer burial or cremation.
  • One in six of those surveyed had not made funeral plans solely because they felt uncomfortable discussing death.

Failing to prepare for death can put people in serious financial difficulty at an emotionally challenging time and I urge my constituents to use resources available to them to start conversations with their loved ones about death and make adequate arrangements which reflect their loved ones’ wishes. One resource that is available is My Perfect Send Off, produced by SunLife, which asks some simple questions about funeral preferences. The tool offers people the opportunity to record and share their final wishes with loved ones in a sensitive way, either by securely recording your wishes in a document which you can either discuss with loved ones or keep locked away in preparation for the future.

I hope that this tool can be used to start the difficult conversations that people need to have about death so that they can be fully prepared for when the time comes.

Keep the ban on bee-killing pesticides, says Alison Thewliss MP

Alison Thewliss MP supporting the campaign to ban neonicotinoid pesticides

As ministers prepare to make decision on application to lift the ban, pressure builds to keep neonicotinoids off our fields this summer.

Alison Thewliss MP has added their name to a growing list of MPs who are opposed to lifting of the ban on bee harming pesticides.

Neonicotinoids have been restricted across Europe since 2013 due to mounting evidence that they pose a risk to bees. Bees are responsible for pollinating two thirds of the food we eat. But the National Farmers Union (NFU) has applied to the government to lift the ban in some parts of the country. Ministers are currently considering their application.

Ms Thewliss took the pledge to oppose the lifting of the ban at a Parliamentary event held this week, organised by 38 Degrees and Friends of the Earth. MPs heard new evidence from scientists and from a Lincolnshire farmer who had stopped using these pesticides before the ban.

Speaking after the event, Ms Thewliss said:

“The message is loud and clear from people in Glasgow Central – keep the ban on bee harming pesticides. I have listened to their concerns and I’ll be making my opposition very clear in parliament to any plan to lift the ban.”

Amy Lockwood, Campaign Manager at 38 Degrees, said:

“38 Degrees members have come together – in our hundreds of thousands – to send a clear message to the government: the British people don’t want the ban on bee killing pesticides to be lifted.”

Sandra Bell, The Bee Cause campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

“Bees are essential for pollinating our crops – we can’t afford to gamble with their future. The Government must keep these dangerous pesticides out of our fields.”

Vote for your favourite charities!

Yesterday I cast the first vote in the Yorkshire Building Society Charity Choices campaign in Glasgow.

The Yorkshire Building Society branch in Glasgow has £1000 to distribute between three excellent charities (Clyde Cash for Kids, Kilbryde Hospice and Glasgow City Mission). How much each charity gets is up to you!

Voting takes place from now until Saturday 21st May in the Glasgow branch (54-58 Gordon Street). ‪#‎YBSCharityChoices

Davidson urged to be a “strong opposition” to Tories’ rape clause and two child policy

Alison Thewliss MP at Buchanan Street Steps

Scots Tory Leader, Ruth Davidson, has been challenged to put up a “strong opposition” to her own party’s draconian welfare reforms at Westminster.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss has written to Ruth Davidson following her party’s Holyrood election boost, saying that it’s ‘time to stand up for vulnerable women and families’ by opposing the UK Tories proposed rape clause and two child policy.

Commenting, Ms Thewliss said:

“The Scottish Conservative Party spent much of the recent election campaigning under a banner of being a “strong opposition” for Scotland.  I welcome scrutiny and constructive opposition, but Ruth Davidson needs to realise that being a strong opposition doesn’t extend just to Holyrood.

“If Ruth Davidson is serious about being an effective party leader, she can’t just be the UK Tory party’s ambassador for promoting inherently unfair policies in Scotland. Ms Davidson’s party is still absolutely hell bent on ramming through vile and draconian welfare policies, and it just underlines my view that they’re still the nasty party.

“Ruth Davidson has the opportunity to not only be a strong opposition, but to locate her moral compass, say no to penalising families and say no to demanding vulnerable women relive the trauma of being raped simply to claim tax credits.”

Alison Thewliss MP calls for a public awareness campaign on sepsis

Alison Thewliss MP supporting the Sepsis Trust

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, attended a Parliamentary event to raise awareness of Sepsis. A life threatening and relatively unknown condition, which claims the lives of 44,000 people – including 1,000 children – every year in the UK.  The event, hosted by the APPG on Sepsis and the UK Sepsis Trust, was attend by over 40 MPs and Peers, along with a number of patients and their families who have been personally affected by sepsis.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that can affect anyone. It arises when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues and organs. It can lead to shock, multiple organ failure, and death, especially if it is not recognised early and treated promptly.

In a bid to reduce deaths like these, the UK Sepsis Trust (UKST) and the APPG on Sepsis are calling for both the public and healthcare professionals to be more aware of this ‘silent killer’. They are calling for the Department of Health to commit to a public awareness campaign, aimed at both adults and children solely on sepsis.

The UK Sepsis Trust, founded in 2010, brings together leading experts, grass roots health professionals, survivors and persons bereaved; to raise public and professional awareness of sepsis, and provide support for those affected by this terrible condition.

Dr Ron Daniels, Chief Executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, said:

“We hope that the event will allow MPs to learn more about sepsis and take the message back to their colleagues and constituents.”

“An awareness campaign is something we’ve been calling for a long time. It is an absolute necessity that this campaign is dedicated on sepsis and aimed at a both adults and children. A campaign of course is only a part of what is needed. We need to make sure that healthcare professional education is robust and is mandated. We need to have a better measure of outcomes and we have to have some resources available that reward excellent care.”

Alison Thewliss MP stated:

“While sepsis is a condition which may not hit the headlines, it is deadly.  It is a little known life threatening illness that claims the lives of 44,000 people in the UK every year, including 1,000 children.  If timely interventions proposed by the UK Sepsis Trust were adopted across the NHS it could save up to 12,500 lives a year and the NHS money.”

“I was keen to show my support for efforts to tackle the disease and save lives. I want to see sepsis viewed as a medical emergency and have a higher profile among medical professionals and the public. The easiest and most of effective way of doing this is the government committing to a dedicated public awareness campaign for the general population.”

Alison Thewliss MP urges Glasgow communities to apply for HLF funding to mark the Centenary of the First World War

Alison Thewliss MP attending the launch of the Heritage Lottery Fund's First World War Centenary fund

The Centenary of the First World War is a chance to understand the war, uncover its stories and explore what it means to us today. At a recent Parliamentary event Alison Thewliss MP found out more about how the Heritage Lottery Fund supports projects across the UK that focus not just on the events of 1914–1918 but also on the lasting changes the war brought about.

Alison Thewliss MP is urging her constituents to consider applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for community projects to learn more about the First World War.

HLF is making at least £1 million a year available until 2019 as part of the First World War: then and now programme for small, community grants. It provides grants of £3,000 to £10,000 enabling groups right across the UK to explore, conserve and share their First World War heritage and deepen their understanding of the impact of the conflict.

Alison Thewliss MP urged her constituents to think about how they would like to mark the Centenary. Successful projects will include:

  • researching, identifying and recording local heritage;
  • creating a community archive or collection;
  • developing new interpretation of heritage through exhibitions, trails, smartphone apps etc;
  • researching, writing and performing creative material based on heritage sources;
  • conserving and finding out more about war memorials

Alison Thewliss MP said: “I’m delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund is making this money available to local communities. Like many areas across the UK, the impact of the First World War on the people of Glasgow was extensive. For those who want to find out more about its legacy or who wish to mark the Centenary, I would urge them to get in touch with HLF.”

Lucy Casot, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. The Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War: then and now programme will enable communities to explore the continuing legacy of this war and help young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”

Since April 2010, HLF has awarded over £70million to more than 1,300 projects – large and small – that will mark the Centenary of First World War. If a group have a project idea to mark the Centenary of the First World War, an online application pack is available. If a group needs a grant of more than £10,000 for a First World War project, it can apply to HLF through its open programmes.

Alison Thewliss MP welcomes Parent Friendly Places Charter

Alison Thewliss MP for Glasgow Central and NCT, the UK’s largest parenting charity, met in Westminster to welcome its new charter to make the High Street a more supportive place for parents with very young children. They were joined by Starbucks, who is the first retailer to adopt NCT’s Parent Friendly Places Charter, pledging to provide a parent-friendly environment in 800+ stores across the country.

The Charter commits to ensuring a supportive environment for parents, particularly when it comes to feeding their child whether by breast, bottle or high chair – or a mix of all three.

A training programme, designed by qualified professionals from NCT, has been delivered by Starbucks to its baristas across the country. The training increases understanding of the needs of parents with young children or babies so parents can feel confident to ask for help where needed. Starbucks stores will display the NCT Parent Friendly Places badge via a window sticker, alongside the Charter.

NCT hopes their work in developing the Parent Friendly Places Charter with Starbucks will lead the way for others on the High Street to offer a welcoming environment for young families.

The NCT Parent Friendly Places Charter
NCT’s Parent Friendly Charter recognises the work of partners who commit to ensuring that they are ‘parent-friendly’. Partners commit to offering:

  • A warm welcome for you and your family.
  • A place where you can feed your baby or toddler in comfort, knowing staff will support you without judgment.
  • Help from staff if you need any assistance; for example if you need help finding seats or carrying anything.
  • An open and responsive approach to your feedback.

Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I am pleased to welcome this joint initiative from NCT and Starbucks to help make the High Street more friendly for parents of very young children.”

Jeremy Payne, Director of Fundraising at NCT said: “We are proud to launch the Parent Friendly Places Charter on to the High Street with Starbucks as the first partner, so parents with young children feel welcome and supported when they walk into a store.

“We know from our members that many struggle when out and about with very young children. This can include unwanted attention and comments on their feeding method whether it’s by breast, bottle or in a high chair. It’s important that parents feel confident they have the support of staff and won’t be judged.

“We believe this Charter will address the challenges parents face on the High Street and hope that other retailers will follow suit in becoming more parent-friendly.”

Rhys Iley, Vice President of operations for Starbucks EMEA said:

“We recognise that parents out on their own with very young children, sometimes for the first time, appreciate some support.

“This collaboration with NCT and its members has helped us build on our existing customer service principles and identify what we can do to assist parents when visiting our stores. Meeting with Alison Thewliss MP has been a great opportunity to outline our work with NCT and explain how we have refreshed our training and improved our facilities.

“We hope parents of young children visiting local stores will let us know, there and then, if there is anything we can do to improve their experience. We welcome feedback as this is just the start of an evolving collaboration with NCT and its members.”

Alison Thewliss MP attends launch of “Too Much Information” campaign

Alison Thewliss MP at the launch of the Too Much Information campaign supported by the National Autistic Society

On Monday 11 April Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, was one of nearly 100 MPs who attended an event organised by The National Autistic Society who recently launched their Too Much Information campaign. Ms Thewliss is backing the charity’s new campaign to improve public understanding of autism.

As part of the campaign, the charity has released a report (Too Much Information: why the public needs to understand autism better) which revealed how poor public understanding of autism is pushing autistic people and their families into isolation.

Read moreAlison Thewliss MP attends launch of “Too Much Information” campaign