SNP MP appeals to UK Government to allow safe injecting pilot

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has called on the UK Government to give proper consideration to a request for a temporary relaxation of drugs laws, in order that a safe injecting pilot can be carried out.

Ms Thewliss – an ardent supporter of plans for a Safer Drugs Consumption Facility (SDCF) – will speak during a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, to highlight the myriad problems that drug users and the wider public face in Glasgow as a result of public injecting.

A cross-party letter, with signatures from a number of Scottish MPs, has been issued to the Home Office in order to demonstrate the extent of support for the plans which, up to now, have been blocked by the UK Government.

Commenting, Ms Thewliss said:

“Evidence on the need for action on this issue has never been more compelling. In 2015 for example, there was 47 new diagnoses of HIV compared to an annual average of 10, for those who are injecting drugs. Indeed, there is thought to be around 500 people who regularly inject drugs in public places in Glasgow City Centre alone.

“I can attest to the fact that Glasgow has a growing problem with respect to public injecting; my constituency office often receives reports of needles and other drug paraphernalia being discarded in public places. In addition, I have seen for myself public injecting taking place in locations not far from where my office is located.

“It’s clear to me that the drug injecting population in Glasgow face a number of different barriers in accessing health services which can help them with their addiction, and that current methods are falling short of offering the appropriate level of support. For this reason, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, and other parties, have developed innovative plans for the implementation of a Safe Injecting Facility.

“It is imperative that the Home Office consider this request – which has cross-party support from a number of Scottish MPs – to allow an SDCF to be trialled in Glasgow. This issue has become a serious public health issue, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we do what we can to improve the situation not just for drug users, but for the wider public in general”.

Thewliss raises rape clause with new Cabinet Ministers

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

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has wasted no time in contacting new cabinet ministers regarding the damaging effects of the two child policy and rape clause, following the Prime Minister’s reshuffle earlier this week.

The campaigning MP has written to both Esther McVey, the new Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, and also to Karen Bradley, who was announced as the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to ask that one of their priorities be to reverse the implementation of the two child policy for tax credits and Universal Credit, and the associated rape clause.

The Government legislated in April 2017 to restrict Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit (child element) claims to the first two children in a family, a decision which the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has said will force 200,000 children below the poverty line.

In addition, women who have conceived a third or subsequent child as a result of rape, must apply for an exemption, requiring them to relive their harrowing ordeal during an interview. In Northern Ireland, third party referrers are obliged under law to report instances of rape, even if doing so means that women are placed in further danger of violence.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“This is as good a time as any for the UK Government to drop the vile and medieval rape clause, and stigmatising two child policy which lies behind it.

“Esther McVey is now the fifth Secretary of State for the DWP since I was elected in 2015, and the first woman in that time. I want to know from her whether she is comfortable in making a woman who has suffered the trauma of rape, domestic violence and coercive control go through the shame of proving her child was conceived as a result of that sexual abuse.

“Similarly, I am keen to understand Karen Bradley’s views on the ongoing legal uncertainty in Northern Ireland with respect to this policy. The current system places third party referrers in an impossible position and arguably puts women off claiming an exemption at all. If cases are referred to the police, this potentially places women who are already vulnerable in even more danger at the hands of their abusive partners.

“So far, the UK Government has failed to listen on this issue. I am hopeful that the Prime Minister’s reshuffle presents an opportunity for the right thing to be done by women and families, and for this abhorrent policy to be rescinded once and for all”.

SNP MP calls for more guidance on breastmilk sharing

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has urged the UK Government to offer guidance on milk sharing – a practice that thousands of women are already participating in through online networks across the country.

Milk sharing has become an increasingly popular method for mothers to get access to breastmilk for their babies, particularly amongst those who have encountered difficulties when breastfeeding.

The sharing of breastmilk online is unregulated and some experts are concerned that without NHS supervision or Government guidance, there is a chance that the practice could spread infection and viruses.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“There is a growing recognition of the unique qualities of breastmilk, and the growth of milk sharing online is to some degree a symptom of this. It is important that milk donors are following best practice to ensure breastmilk is free from any contaminants, but this will always have a degree of uncertainty when people are sharing milk online.

“Milk banks provide safe and rigorously screened donor breastmilk for those babies who need it. The model used by One Milk Bank for Scotland ensures that breastmilk can be collected from donors, processed and distributed using a well-developed network, and I would like to see this available across the rest of the UK. At the moment, milk banks are often underfunded and running as a project of individual hospitals.

“This also sits in the context of cuts to breastfeeding support projects – Unicef Baby Friendly highlighted recently that local infant feeding leads in England had reported a 47% cut in support groups, and a 58% cut in health visitors. Women who wish to breastfeed can find themselves without the valuable support and expertise they need, and may turn to online donors as an alternative to their own milk.

“I am keen for the UK Government to work with the UK Association of Milk Banks to invest in services to allow those wishing to donate breastmilk to be able to do so locally, in a safe and regulated way, and for those requiring breastmilk for their babies to be able to access it easily. I have asked to meet with Ministers to discuss how breastmilk can be shared safely.”

SNP MP heralds multi-agency response to 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 praised the efforts of charities and organisations in coming together to condemn the two child cap and rape clause.

In a meeting held at Westminster today, UNISON, Women’s Aid, Child Poverty Action (CPAG), and representatives from a range of organisations, provided insight and testimony as to the effects being felt – in particular by women and families – as a result of UK Government changes to Universal Credit and Child Tax Credits which are now in force.

Commenting following the meeting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I’ve been fighting the UK Government on this issue for over two years now, and it’s clear to see from the attendance at today’s meeting that there is growing agreement that the two child policy and rape clause is a pernicious and medieval policy, and that it must be revoked.

“Analysis by CPAG and the IPPR shows that in excess of 200,000 children will be forced below the poverty line as a result of the two child policy. Indeed, working families with three children could be up to £2,780 worse off per year under the new rules.

“In addition, the UK Government is putting women in Northern Ireland in an impossible position given that they, and third party professionals, risk criminalisation if they do not disclose rape to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Women in Northern Ireland should not be forced to choose between struggling to put food on the table or going through the full process of the criminal justice system.

“It is welcome that there is such strong agreement from charities and organisations on this issue. I sincerely hope that the weight of consensus will make the government see the error of its ways, and scrap the two child policy and the rape clause.”