MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
My Lib Dem colleagues and I have always fought for better opportunities for everyone, and this extends to the world of work. Apprenticeships are an excellent route to employment, and are hugely beneficial to both the apprentice and the company they work for.
Earlier this year I held an apprenticeships fair, where a number of young people signed up to programmes run by organisations such as Barclays and the Tottenham Hotspur foundation.
The employers who attended the event have taken on some of Haringey’s talented youngsters, and in turn the apprentices are getting paid to learn, and gaining useful experience and contacts in an industry.
Since the Lib Dems entered Government is 2010, the number of people starting apprenticeships in London has increased by over 130%, and youth unemployment in Hornsey and Wood Green has fallen by a third.
Apprenticeships are giving people the experience they need to get on in life, and they are a key part to building the stronger society and fairer economy that the UK’s citizens deserve.
These are all great opportunities, and I wish anyone applying the very best of luck – I hope you enjoy learning whilst you earn!
Here are some other links to help people looking for apprenticeships:
Over the weekend the Independent ran a special report into Haringey Children’s services – including news that the Council has launched yet another Serious Case Review. Here is the comment I sent to the local media:
“It is just awful to hear that Haringey Council has launched another serious case review, after failing to protect yet another local child.
“This comes just one month after the Child T scandal, and two weeks after my call for an independent review of Childrens Services was rejected by Haringey Council’s Chief Executive.
“I was leader of the opposition at the Council during the Victoria Climbié tragedy, and I remember Haringey Labour and Council officers saying that lessons will be learnt. Since then, they have said the same things over and over again – yet these shocking cases keep appearing.
“That is why I am so angry. That is why we need an independent investigation. No more children should pay the price for Haringey Council’s failure and inability to change.”
Here’s my latest Ham and High Column, also available on Lib Dem Voice.
Social housing in Haringey is in high demand. There are currently over 10,000 individuals and families stuck on the waiting list – and many will not have the chance to bid for a property in the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, people are often in cramped conditions in the private sector, or waiting in low quality ‘temporary’ accommodation. This has a detrimental effect on both the children and adults in these situations.
And once families are given social housing in Haringey, it’s not always plain sailing. Every week, my office receives dozens of letters and emails from residents, distressed by the state of their homes.
My constituents have suffered leaks, boiler breakdowns and damp – and often they are left for months without receiving proper repairs.
This is unacceptable; and we’re in the midst of a social housing crisis in Haringey. Anyone with common sense will know that more homes need to be built, and that Haringey Council need to improve their services to current tenants.
But our local Council aren’t known for their common sense.
Labour-run Haringey Council haven’t built any new homes in 25 years. And 25 years ago, they built 7. Finances may be tight now – but what on earth were they doing during the Blair and Brown years, when they had more money than they knew what to do with?
Instead of investing in new housing stock – they wasted their money and let the waiting list grow longer and longer.
And the culture of waste at Haringey Council continues, despite the tough economic times.
News recently broke that staff at Homes for Haringey – Haringey Council’s Housing department – claimed over £3.7million in bonuses in the last two years (2011-13).
It’s frankly sickening that this was allowed to happen, especially at the same time as they cancelled Decent Homes repair work on hundreds of local houses due to a ‘lack of money.’
To put this in context – £3.7 million could have gone towards refurbishing 300 local homes. That’s the size of the entire Sandlings estate. Instead, Haringey Labour allowed it to be spent on undeserved bonuses, and then had the audacity to blame Government cuts for the cancelled repairs.
The Coalition Government are aware of the problems faced by boroughs like Haringey. The Government have recently provided Haringey Council with extra funding, so that repair work can still go ahead in some areas where they had been cancelled.
And now, when Council tenants wish to buy their homes, local Councils must reinvest the money in social housing (rather than wasting it elsewhere), to ensure we have a rolling supply of housing.
The Coalition’s new Help to Buy scheme is also giving assistance to first time buyers, particularly those buying new build properties. This is stimulating building of new homes whilst also easing pressure on the private rental sector.
These measures are going some way to righting the wrongs of previous Governments, and easing the housing crisis. I will be keeping a close eye on the situation in Haringey and fighting for extra help and investment wherever possible.
Are you a local group who plan to organise Christmas lunches for members of our community?
Waitrose in Muswell Hill have said they will support local Christmas lunch events, which are run for the benefit of people who would otherwise be on their own.
A recent survey has shown that 750,000 people in the UK over 65 either always or often feel lonely, and Christmas can be a particularly difficult time. With their business partners, Waitrose is aiming to reduce this number of people feeling isolated during the festive season.
The deadline for applications is 15th November, and Waitrose are looking to support any community group or individual involved. This will include help from Waitrose employees, who will be paid their full time salary for any time they take off to volunteer.
I think this is an excellent scheme. It is so important to remember that, whilst we may be surrounded by loved ones at Christmas, there are many people less fortunate. As such, if you are planning a community Christmas lunch, or know someone that is, please do apply for support from Waitrose.
To do so, please contact the Muswell Hill branch manager, Jay Radia, using the following details:
Waitrose, 390 Muswell Hill Broadway, N10 1DJ
Telephone: 0800 188 884
A few months ago, I met with Wise Thoughts, a Wood Green based Arts charity aimed at supporting the BAME and LGBT+ communities in Haringey and across the country. They hold a range of projects designed to raise awareness and promote social cohesion through the arts.
Between the 7th and 9th November, Wise Thoughts are holding their Gaywise FESTival at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham. Everyone is welcome, and there will be a range of activities including performance art, film screenings, and debates. The full programme can be found at http://gaywisefestival.org.uk/.
This is an excellent initiative, and I fully support Wise Thoughts in their extensive work promoting equality in all walks of life. This is a subject that is very close to my heart – I was very proud to be part of the team that introduced equal marriage in my former role as Equalities Minister. I will continue to promote BAME and LGBT+ rights in my DFID role, and I wish Wisethoughts every success in the future.
Find more details at www.wisethoughts.org or by following the GFEST twitter feed – @GFest
I have travelled back to Kampala for the final leg of my trip with Ade Adepitan to investigate what life is like for disabled people in Uganda.
I was very excited about our main event – we were due to meet Uganda’s own wheelchair paralympic hopefuls. I was really interested to hear how their training compares to Ade’s and to see them in action on the court.
We caught up with the team mid-match in a small outdoor court in the city centre. Uganda’s own wheelchair basketball team may lack the latest equipment, high-tech chairs or training centres, but they certainly more than made up for it with their passion and dedication – not least because they’d been training in the sun for several hours before we arrived.
The teams limbered up for a match with Ade (with both sides proudly wearing ‘Team GB’ shirts in honour of their guest) and the rest of us gathered at the side to cheer. They clearly had an instant connection with Ade and everyone was speaking the same language of basketball.
The match itself was absolutely thrilling. Both sides gave it their all – and while Ade’s team seemed to have a natural advantage and edged the lead – it was heart-warming to see everyone’s differences melt away. The team and the crowd forgot politics and policies and just enjoyed watching the match.
Afterwards, we talked about the reality of trying to become a disabled athlete in Uganda. Their story was a familiar one. A lack of interest, investment and worry about whether they have the training or equipment they need to make the grade.
It was heartening to hear their hopes for the future. I hope they make the grade. After the UK’s own team, I certainly know who I am going to be rooting for.
The match really summed up a lot of our trip. Disabled people across Africa are proving that they have the ability to take on huge challenges and face up to daily discrimination, prejudice and misunderstanding. It is abundantly clear that we will never create a level playing field unless we do more to recognise the tremendous hardship many disabled people are forced to live with – and take action to address it. Recognising disability in the new UN poverty goals will be an important step towards this.
Earlier in the day I gave a speech to an assembled group of charities, disabled lobby groups and Ugandan officials. I’m eager to hear your thoughts on how we can change people’s perception and put an end to the discrimination that prevents so many talented people from reaching their full potential.
Haringey has a total of 19 Green Flag awards for its parks – Priory Park and Russell Park included.
Under the criteria, Green Flag parks are judged to be welcoming, safe and well managed, with active community involvement. It also means that they should be some of the best parks in the country.
But – I continue to hear reports of excess rubbish, broken glass, dog mess and damaged or missing equipment in the children’s play areas in these parks. This is not my idea of a welcoming or well managed environment!
I have been pressing Labour-run Haringey Council for repairs and maintenance to Russell Park for quite some time, and will continue to do so. Here’s a video taken from my recent visit there:
Over the summer, the children’s playground at Priory Park has also fallen into disrepair and many parents now consider it to be dangerous. The climbing frame, zip wire, sandpit and sandpit equipment are all broken, and it hasn’t been repaired or cordoned off to prevent children trying to play. Residents don’t think its good enough – and neither do I.
Haringey Council are clearly not doing a very good job of maintaining standards. Once again I have written to them, highlighting this and calling on them to take immediate action to repair the equipment and cordon it off in the meantime to protect children using the park.
They have replied tell me that work does need to be done, especially on the sandpit which ‘is past its expected life span’ – but they still suggest that all park equipment is ‘safe to use’. Local people disagree – and I will carry on campaigning for change!
This was the clear cry from the many wonderful and inspiring young people we met at the St. Francis school for the blind in Soroti, Uganda.
Run with help from Britain through the International Inspiration programme, the school is dedicated to giving blind or partially sighted children the skills and opportunity they need to thrive. From cricket to braille reading, the wall in Sister Winifred the headmistress’s office is decorated with an array of academic and sporting trophies. The school embodies the simple mantra that every child is different – and that they should adapt to each individual.
Part of the UK’s Olympic and Paralympic legacy programme and backed by the British Government, International Inspiration is providing vital support to keep the school running. Alongside it’s sister primary school, it is one of the only dedicated schools for the blind in Uganda.
There is no doubt that they are making a tremendous difference to pupils lives. Children have the chance to learn a wide range of academic and life skills. alongside classrooms with braille machines, the children run a turkey farm and grow a range of vegetables. They even sell the turkey eggs for small profit. There is no doubt that their entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well – we were sold and bought the whole batch!
The school provides hope and a head start in life, but it was clear the challenges that remain. They have a recently installed computer lab, but they lack the software that automatically read out text. If you are reading this blog with similar software, you’ll understand how vital it is.
The children also said they were worried about their future when they leave school. They are well aware that the fantastic support, encouragement and equipment – such as braille machines which they have learnt to master so well – are not widely available outside school. Few businesses recognise the incentive or benefit to make changes and adaptations. They are missing a huge untapped resource.
The children were clear about huge social mountain they need to climb. It was heart-wrentching to hear a group of girls describe the daily suspicion and insults their mothers face – everything from being branded a witch, demon or outcast. It is truly saddening that such talented and remarkable children know how hard it is for them to be accepted by the rest of society.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. Education which is tailored to their needs will give them a chance in life. St. Francis school, with help from Britain, is giving them the skills they need to succeed. But social change takes time. The children we met today have the ability to become Uganda’s next politicians, entrepreneurs or entertainers. In one of the school’s bright classrooms, a boy stood up to address us from behind his Braille machine. He told us how worried he was for his future after school and how difficult it will be for him to get a job. Confident and clearly spoken, he told us how many villagers at home would prefer disabled people to stay at home rather than find employment. They simply cannot accept that disabled people have a valuable contribution to make. I asked him what he wants to do when he finishes school. The answer? A politician. I think that is just what Uganda – and the rest of the world – needs. I wish him the very best of luck.
In the meantime, we must do more to change attitudes and provide a lifeline to disabled people. Earlier in the day we’d seen how a successful safety net programme is giving disabled and vulnerable people in Kaberamaido the chance to escape destitution. Unable to work as much as other members of the community, they can claim a tiny monthly payment to keep their families fed and clothed. This safety and security allows them to create a better life for their families. One women - unable to walk without her rudimentary walking stick – described how she had to support seven members of her family. The payments gave her the chance to invest in seeds to grow. She now has more food and the chance to sell some on for a profit. Her family now have enough to eat and her community can see how productive she can be. none of this would be possible without this support.
Change can happen. Disabled people can contribute to their community and their economy. Education can give them the chance to build a better life and fight social stigma. We must wake up this fact and help create more schools that allow every child to thrive. In the meantime, we must ensure we target our aid towards the poorest and most vulnerable. From what I have seen, I have no doubt that this can make a tremendous difference to the lives of countless disabled people in countries like Uganda.
The Lloyds Group has launched a Community Fund to support good causes around the country. In each community the top two will receive £3,000, and the two runners up will get £300 to fund their activities.
I am delighted that four Haringey groups have been shortlisted. These are:
These are all very worthy causes, and it is up to the public to decide who gets the most funding. To vote, please go here and search for the group you would like to support.
Alternatively, links to the voting sites for the four Haringey nominations can be found below.
This ends on November 1st so get voting, and good luck to all those shortlisted!
Today is the first day of my visit to meet disabled people in Uganda.
Disability is the great neglected issue in development. I am here to learn how we can make a greater difference on the ground.
I am extremely grateful to UK paralympic star Ade Adepitan for taking the time to join us on this trip. I wanted his unique perspective and understanding about the daily challenges faced by disabled people at home and abroad.
Our first stop was a state school at the side of a dusty, rural road. 901 children attend classes there everyday. With only 14 extremely dedicated teachers, class sizes are large and teachers’ time is very stretched.
There are five million disabled people in Uganda, so it came as no surprise that there are many children at this school who also live with a disability.
We heard some truly inspiring stories – like Dorothy, a blind girl whose father carries her two and a half kilometres to school and back everyday to make sure she has an education.
Half way through the visit, the skies began to pour. A handful of children quickly huddled in one of the school’s small, dark classrooms. The rain on tin roof made it almost impossible to hear what anyone was saying. This would be a challenging place to teach one child even without a disability. Here they were teaching scores of children in each classroom.
Water Aid, a charity supported by Britain’s own development budget, is helping to improve school facilities. We saw a ‘inclusive toilet’ which is especially designed to ensure disabled children have the facilities they need to go to school in the first place.
We then moved to Bobole village – a tiny settlement at the end of a rutted and muddy track. We met Margaret, a disabled women living in an improvised wheelchair. She makes a living from a specially adapted sewing machine which she turns with her hands.
With WaterAid’s support, she has her own accessible toilet and washing facilities. Despite its simple construction from local wood and leaves, it is giving Margaret the dignity and opportunity to thrive. They have also constructed a water butt to catch rain water to help water her crops. The only other option is a bore hole far from her village – a virtual impossibility in her wheelchair.
Despite these inspiring stories of determination and spirit, the challenge in my mind is clear.
Simple changes and alterations can make a tremendous difference and ensure every one has the chance to succeed. we need to do much more to identify these and ensure all our aid programmes prioritise them.
Tomorrow I will update you on the next trip.