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It's a busy schedule working as the MP for Leicester South. We try to make sure we keep everyone up-to-date with important issues, topics that affect constituents. We do this with regular updates on the website, including this page, where we highlight news items.
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OCTOBER 2016

Jon Ashworth, Labour MP for Leicester South, stands up for bus passengers

Wednesday October 26 2016
On the 30 year anniversary of bus deregulation, campaigners are calling on MPs to ‘take control of our buses’ by opposing the government ban on new public bus companies.

The government wants the Bus Services Bill currently being debated to include clause 21 which would stop English local authorities from setting up new municipal companies.  The clause was defeated on Monday in the House of Lords but is expected to be introduced again in the Commons.

On the 30th anniversary of bus deregulation, We Own It is also asking bus passengers to send their 'bus selfies' and explain why they want public ownership to be an option for local authorities.

The Transport Act 1985 was implemented on October 26th, 1986. Since deregulation, fares have risen well above inflation and many routes have been cut.

Fares in England (outside London) rose by 35 per cent above inflation between 1995 and 2013. Bus mileage on local authority supported services in England outside London dropped by 12.3 per cent just in the last year. Bus deregulation leaves few options for cash-strapped local authorities - whereas municipal companies like Reading Buses can use profits to reinvest in services.

Cat Hobbs, Director of We Own It said: "It's absurd that after 30 years of the failures of private bus companies, the government is ruling out new public ownership of buses. It's time to take control of our buses and run them for people not profit. All councils should be not just allowed but encouraged to follow the lead of the public ownership success stories in Nottingham and Reading."

 

While buses are privatised in most towns and cities across the UK, there are 12 local authority-owned bus companies, for examples in Edinburgh, Nottingham and Blackpool. In 4 of the last 5 years, local authority run buses have won Bus Operator of the Year at the Bus Awards.

Jon, said: “Thanks to the damage done by deregulation, bus companies have been able to put profit above passengers for the past 30 years. The Tories said deregulation would improve our buses but the proof has been in the pudding: rising fares, plummeting patronage and too many areas where pensioners have a bus pass but no bus. London rejected deregulation and has a much better service today."

jon ashworth
 
"Almost half of bus company income comes from the public purse, but buses aren’t treated as a public service. Commercial operators can simply pull a route or service and stretched local authorities are left to pick up the pieces. With the Bus Services Bill soon to arrive in the House of Commons, Labour will be fighting to change that.”
 
Jon, backing the campaign, and shown with the 'battle bus'
Jon, backing the campaign, and shown with the 'battle bus'
Click photo for enlargement
 
Research from Transport for Quality of Life suggests we could save £506 million a year from buses outside London by bringing them into public ownership. Municipal bus companies are common in other European countries such as Austria, France and Germany.

We Own It polling shows that 57% of the British public think local authorities should be allowed to set up new public bus companies – as opposed to 22% who don’t believe they should have this power. Amongst Conservatives, the majority still oppose clause 21. Over four times as many people want more public ownership of buses than want more private ownership (46% to 11%). 26% want to see no change.

Jon Ashworth, Labour MP for Leicester South, questions the government on its cuts to community pharmacy funding

Monday October 17 2016
Today, an Urgent Question was granted, namely: “Does the Secretary of State agree with the Chair of the National Pharmacy Association, Ian Strachan, who believes Government cuts will result in “serious consequences for patients, communities and the NHS”, and what steps is he taking to ensure current levels of patient access to community pharmacy are maintained?”

As part of this debate, Jon Ashworth stated that: “Ministers appear to be intent on pushing ahead with the cuts that have been outlined, under which thousands of community pharmacies could close and patients could lose out on essential medical services.”

“The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has described the Government’s proposals as “founded on ignorance” and warned that they will do “great damage”. The National Pharmacy Association says that the proposal is a “dangerous experiment” that “shows a complete disregard for the well-being of patients.”

Jon has been involved with the campaign to save Community Pharmacies for over half a year and visited a Community Pharmacy in July to see at first hand the important work that community pharmacies undertake in Leicester.

Jon commented: “In September the Pharmacy Minister announced that the proposed £170 million community pharmacy funding cut will not be implemented this October, but just over a week later his Department is sending out letters saying that a new funding package will be announced in mid-October and brought into force this December.”

“Given the lack of response to my letters seeking confirmation of when the funding cuts will be announced, and implemented, I again asked him yesterday “Given the concern among Members from across the House, including Conservative Members, can he be more specific and tell us when he will give us a final decision? Will he also be negotiating a solution with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee?”

 

As part of his response David Mowat MP stated: “The hon. Gentleman mentioned that the previous Minister talked about 3,000 pharmacies closing. We do not believe that the number will be anything like that big. In some areas, there are 10 or 11 pharmacies within half a mile of each other. [Hon. Members: “Where?”] Leicester, Birmingham - we can talk more about this”

Despite this view of the Minister, there are potentially up to 60 pharmacies at risk across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland with up to 24 being at high risk of closure in Leicester City.

Jon commented: “Distances between pharmacies is not an accurate indicator of need as it takes no account of the deprivation in the areas, the health care needs in the areas in regard to which Leicester has a higher than average number of people with long term health conditions and a higher mortality rate.”

“Each pharmacy offers a unique personalised support in terms of local population including the fact that there are many ethnic minority groups who rely on specific pharmacies due to cultural reasons and language barriers”

There are many other factors that could be used when deciding on funding including the distance to the nearest GP, demography and in particularly the age of the local population, access for vulnerable patients and carers and access for those with limited mobility.”

Ms Luvjit Kandula, Chief Officer, Leicestershire and Rutland Community Pharmacies Committee, commented: “The funding cuts are likely to have a significant impact on the local NHS network overburdening A&E departments, GP practices and other health services in an already overstretched NHS. This will affect accessibility and timely provision of much needed healthcare to our patients.”

 
Jon speaking at the Dispatch Box in Parliament
Jon speaking at the Dispatch Box in Parliament
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“It is vital that the Government understand that investment into GP clinical based practice pharmacists is not interchangeable with the community pharmacist role, expertise and function. It is vital to invest in both in order to ensure a sustainable long term future for our patients in terms of safe and timely provision of access to medicines, advice and supporting services.”

GP based practice pharmacists will not undertake the work of the Community Pharmacies that provide various free services. These include managing complex medication regimes, resolving clinical queries with GP’s, delivery services to housebound patients and support for patients though the provision of compliance aids to support medicines adherence.

Jon commented: “Closures of community pharmacies could potentially increase the workload of surviving pharmacies to unsustainable levels so that they may not be able to continue to provide the level of service they do now which will cause further disruption for patients.”

“I urge the government to reconsider their proposals given their potential impact on the overburdened NHS services network and, most importantly, patients.”

Jon Ashworth MP calls into HQ recording studios

Friday October 14 2016
Jon at the mixing desk with Harry
 
Group photo – (from left to right) Jake, Jon, Harry, Yasin and Dorothy
 
Jon with Yasin in the recording booth
On the eve of Social Saturday Jon visited HQ Recording Units home of social enterprise, HQ CAN

Social Saturday on 15 October is an opportunity to shine a light on social enterprises. There are 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, employing a million people and contributing £24 billion to the economy.

Jon visited a social enterprise that helps to regenerate local communities by working with people to increase skills and confidence that can be used for enterprise or employment.

Jon stated: “HQ Recording is a fantastic business that offers a range of music and arts based services both commercially and funded. As a social enterprise it offers ongoing and future personal development to its users, and also delivers enterprise and mentoring projects.”

HQ Recording Studio was founded in 2010 to provide a professional studio environment and caters for both commercial clients and for funded workshops as a response to the lack of music provision, live urban music events and opportunities within the music business for adults in Leicester.

The social enterprise arm, HQ CAN Community Interest Company, typically works with people from disadvantaged areas as well as people with learning difficulties, ex-offenders and those furthest from the labour market.

Yasin El Ashrafi, HQ founder and Managing Director, stated: “Our company has a long history of successfully delivering projects for social enterprises, and we have a track record of re engaging and helping people to find work, start their own businesses or go into full time education.”

Yasin worked with Kieran who was in his mid-20s. Struggling to deal with problems at home, Kieran started getting involved with alcohol and drugs which led him to getting in trouble with the police and criminal justice system.

 

Kieran had been out of work, or training, for 13 months before working with Yasin for 9 months through the Leicester City Council Step Up Project. He has now progressed to self-employment and is a freelance MC and studio engineer.

Kieran stated: “Since I started working with Yasin and HQ everything has changed. My outlook on life has changed, the way I live my life and my lifestyle has changed. I’m more positive. I’m able to speak to people that I’d have probably just shied away from and not spoken to or had any conversation with. But it’s given me the confidence to want to achieve more from my life.”

Another great outcome for HQ Recording is Oliver, who had mental health issues and was at a low point. Having enrolled on the Talent Match Leicestershire Project, Yasin has mentored Oliver over the past six months and is helping Oliver to set up his own events business called Lucid Promotions.

Oliver is now a much more confident person and also helps out with my community projects and events and is himself an inspiration for other young people.

Oliver commented: “Yasin helped build my confidence and taught me to believe that anything is possible and that I can realise my dreams! HQ has been amazing for me, there’s always positive influences and opportunities that are available when you’re working with them”

Jon was joined on his visit to HQ Recording by Dorothy Francis, Chief Executive Officer of CASE which has a 34 year history of delivering business support, capacity building, advice and training to assist people wanting to set up and run co-operatives and social enterprises in Leicester, Leicestershire and the East Midlands.

 
Jon stated: “Dorothy has worked tirelessly to assist local people to achieve economic independence via running their own businesses and she is a fantastic asset to Leicestershire and the East Midlands.”

As part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours, Dorothy was chosen as one of only five recipients of this year’s Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion. Dorothy’s commitment to the creation and support of social business was recognised by the conferment of the sole 2016 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Dorothy commented: “It is the first time that the Lifetime Achievement Award has been won by someone in Leicestershire and I am immensely proud to have brought this honour to the county. I have been recognised for 30 years of working to develop co-operatives and social enterprises across Leicestershire and the East Midlands.”

“I have the pleasure of working with hundreds of people who run successful social businesses that impact positively on the lives of individuals and neighbourhoods.  The combined efforts of these businesses make a huge difference to communities and I think that it is fitting that their contribution is marked on Social Saturday.”
 
 
Photos, top left, Jon a the mixing desk with Harry, middle, Group photo – (from left to right) Jake, Jon, Harry, Yasin and Dorothy, right, Jon with Yasin in the recording booth
Click any photo for enlargement

Jon Ashworth, Labour MP for Leicester South, calls on authorities to save Network’s Resource Centre

Wednesday October 12 2016
Ten days before World Mental Health Day Network for Change was informed that its application to the Big Lottery Fund for the Resource Centre was unsuccessful. The Resource Centre is already having to reduce the services it offers

Jon stated: “As a Local Champion for Mental Health I have worked closely with Network for Change since being elected in 2011. It is very sad news that Network’s Resource Centre will not receive further Lottery Funding. Although the Lottery recognised the benefits of its work, the competition is now so high due to the government cuts to local authority and NHS funding.”

“It was World Mental Health Day on Monday and the 130 people who use the Resource Centre are facing the possibility of it being closed down by Christmas if no emergency funding is found before then.”

“I have written to Leicester’s Clinical Commissioning Group and the City Council to ask for emergency funding so that the Centre can stay open and help people whilst other funding is applied for.”

The loss of the Resource Centre will not only impact on the 130 service users that use the Centre but it may well result in an increase in demand on statutory services provided by the NHS and the City Council.

Dr Dan Kinnair, a Consultant General Adult Psychiatrist with the Partnership Trust, commented: “Leicester has above the national average of individuals with severe and enduring illness and good preventative community support such as that delivered by network for Change is needed to minimize high demand on secondary care and the continued crisis re demand for hospital beds and in-patients services.”

In Leicester one in four working age adults and one in ten older people have a common mental health problem, and about 1 in a 100 have a serious mental health problem. These numbers are set to increase with common mental health health problems expected to rise by a massive 10% over the next 10 years.

 

The Resource Centre works with many people who are currently falling through gaps in services. The majority of the nearly 3,500 working age adults with severe and enduring mental health problems in the City are not eligible for social care or personal budgets, and are not regularly supported by community mental health teams.

As well as drop-in sessions, the Resource Centre runs various groups, such as art, gardening and peer support, and organises outings and social evenings.

Gabby Briner, Chief Executive of Network for Change, stated: “The Resource Centre helps many people with complex needs, such as personality disorders, alcohol issues or those who have suffered significant trauma and abuse and loss. The Centre helps to reduce social isolation which is a trigger for relapses and crises.”

“Network is in the process of applying for limited funds from Carlton Hayes, but if successful it will still require an additional £15k to £20k to maintain the Resource Centre on a very limited programme until September 2017 when the funding streams through the Better Care Together Programme come on line.”

Jon commented:

“Mental wellbeing is one of the key areas for improving health and wellbeing in the City. As Leicester has higher rates of hospital admission for mental illness than the national average, it is important that emergency funding is found for this well used and crucial resource for people suffering from mental health issues.”

The value placed on the Resource Centre is clear when you read the following service user testimonials:

 
Jon speaking in parliament
Jon speaking in parliament
Click photo for enlargement
“We were gutted to hear the news from Gabby that even though we had got through to the second round for your entrance into a further grant we were not successful in receiving a further grant for the next three years. I do not think you have realized the terrible consequences this will have on our group and also [on] our already difficult lives.”

“I have been using Network for Change to help me stay out of mental hospital. That saves money. It shouldn’t close. It is a lifeline to some people. When I came out of hospital two years last May, the Resource Centre helped me fill my time with drop-ins and rambles and residentials. If it hadn’t been for Network for Change, I would never have been able to leave my residential home and move on to greater independence.”

And to finish, there is this simple and moving view of a servicer user:
“Without Network I would not be here.”
 
 
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