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Portsmouth MP continues to put pressure on Government Minister over veteran suicide

Following the Westminster Hall debate he hosted last week, Stephen Morgan MP has again called on the Government to do more for our veterans

Whilst the Westminster Hall debate provided Members of Parliament from across the House of Commons with the opportunity to scrutinise the MoD Minister and raise key issues, city MP Stephen Morgan has chosen to maintain pressure on the

Government by writing to the Minister responsible to reiterate the key points of the debate and ask for more comprehensive answers. 

Stephen Morgan MP:

“It is integral that we continue to put pressure on the Government to implement the changes essential to safeguarding our veterans.

It is important that this campaign does not lose impetus and the Government is aware that we will not cease our calls for improvements”. 

A key theme that came from the Westminster Hall debate was the need for the Government to join our allies across the world and begin collecting data on the number of veterans who take their own lives.

This recording of data is essential as without a quantifiable number, the scale of the problem is not known. All Call Signs, a major veteran’s support group who attended the debate, senior military figures and those within the Health Department support this notion. 

In response to Mr Morgan opening the debate by calling on the Government to begin recording veteran suicide, the Minister agreed that “We need to collect data” and that “Data is critical”. However, sadly he made no solid commitments to implementing this as policy and responded by saying that he cannot make coroners record this data as there are “fiercely independent”.

In response to this lack of commitment, Mr Morgan said:

“All Call Signs, Combat Stress, the Health Minister, the former head of the armed forces, the former commander in Afghanistan and many more have all called for the government to start recording veteran suicide. During the debate, the Minister himself conceded its importance, what he did not do is commit to a plan to implement these changes.

I do not believe blaming the autonomy of coroners as the reason for a lack of progression is constructive to this campaign. That is why in my letter to the Minister, I have asked that we work together, cross-party to make legislative changes so that these improvements can be implemented before we lose more brave ex-service personnel.”

During the debate, the Minister and others from his party expressed that suicide is less common in the veteran community. This notion is heavily disputed by experts such as All Call Signs who have raised the fact that it contradicts data from Britain’s allies. The data that this assumption has stemmed from is also highly compromised, issues that Mr Morgan specifically raised in this week’s correspondence with the Minister.

The Portsmouth MP added:

“With the support of veterans’ charities and experts from across the sector, I have called on the Minister to stop pedalling the problematic and compromised idea that suicide is lower amongst the veteran population. 

The data set he has extracted this position from is undermined by the fact that it is based on less than 6000 participants. The participants were also not veterans but rather serving personnel and their response was that approximately 80% of them had experienced a mental health issue.

What we need to see is solid, indisputable data rather than assumptions drawn from guesswork.”

Other key points raised in the MP’s letter responded to the Minister’s choice to bring up The Veterans Gateway, an online resource for veterans, in his closing speech. The Minister spoke of the proficiency of the online resource but veterans themselves have expressed opinions to the contrary.

On Veterans Gateway, All Call Signs, an organisation made up of veterans said:

“Often, The Veterans Gateway make recommendations and only upon following them, does the individual learn that they don’t qualify for the treatment they have been told about. This leaves them despondent and unwilling to reach out again.”

Stephen Morgan MP is committed to raising this issue through any mediums possible until the end goal of getting the Government to begin recording veteran suicide is reached.

Mr Morgan’s letter comes a week after the debate he hosted on the topic and he has expressed that this is just a small part of the intended work that he plans to do.

 

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Portsmouth groups encouraged to apply for SSEN’s communities fund

Stephen Morgan MP calls on local groups to boost their resilience through SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund

Portsmouth South MP is encouraging community groups, charities and not-for-profit organisations to apply for grants of up to £20,000 for projects that support local resilience. 

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has set aside £220,000 to fund projects across its network distribution area, including Portsmouth, and applications will remain open until 17 May 2019.

The fund will support projects that achieve one of the following criteria:

  1.   Vulnerability – to protect the welfare of vulnerable community members through enhancing their resilience and improving community participation and effectiveness.
  2.   Resilience for Emergency Events – to enhance community facilities, services and communication specifically to support the local response in the event of a significant emergency event.

This is the fourth year of SSEN running the RCF being open. During this period SSEN has provided £2.13m of funding to 325 projects. Previous projects that have been successful include; HOPE Portsmouth that received funding for a defibrillator; Solent Rescue, that received funding for a flood rescue kit; and Isle of Wight Search and Rescue, that received funding for a 4×4 vehicle.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I am consistently impressed by the wonderful work of charities, community groups and not-for-profit organisations in Portsmouth, often on limited budgets.

I welcome therefore SSEN opening a funding stream for these groups to access funds to support efforts that promote resilience.

However, this funding can only be delivered to my constituency if Portsmouth groups apply. This is what I want to see, so I encourage all interested parties to find out if their projects qualify on SSEN’s website and apply before 17 May so we can boost resilience across Portsmouth.”

Gareth Shields, Community Investment Manager for SSEN, said:

“Our previous funding rounds have shown a diverse range of successful applicants and we’d really like to encourage communities who may not have not applied before to come forward with their resilience projects.

 We are encouraging applications that will directly impact vulnerable customers and make a real difference to local communities by helping them build their overall resilience.”

Set up in 2014 as a two-year pilot scheme, SSEN has pledged to extend the fund to 2023 using a proportion of the income it receives from the industry regulator Ofgem in relation to its stakeholder engagement performance.

Guidelines and applications forms are available on SSEN’s website: www.ssen.co.uk/RCF/England/ with a full report on the fund available here –https://www.ssen.co.uk/RCF/

The 2019 fund is particularly focused on projects helping vulnerable or isolated people living in SSEN’s network areas, with applications of up to £20,000 to be considered by an independent fund panel.

The closing date for applications is 17 May 2019, with decisions on awards to be made by September 2019.

 

Local MP seeks views from Portsmouth residents about the future of social security

Stephen Morgan MP is asking local residents to submit ideas to Labour’s consultation on the future of social security in the UK

Labour has vowed to completely overhaul the social security system and rebuild it from the principles on which it was founded so that people are supported rather than punished.

The roll-out of universal credit, the government’s flagship welfare reform project, has been fraught with problems and has faced repeated criticism from welfare charities and MPs. There has been intense criticism too of the government’s handling of assessment processes and support for disabled people.

Recently, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd admitted that the long wait for the first payment under Universal Credit may have led to more people using food banks after the Conservative government had previously denied the link.

Labour is carrying out a root and branch review of the social security system. The party has also pledged to stop the roll-out of Universal Credit and deliver a system that supports people when they need it.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Our social security system, once set up to support people, has lost its way.

Instead of providing stability, the current government is tearing away the safety net that should be there for any of us when we need it. Labour believes that this must change. 

I’ve been listening to constituents’ concerns, meeting the team at the local JobCentre and written to local groups and charities which support vulnerable people to understand the impact universal credit and Government policies are having on people in Portsmouth.

I am now keen to hear ideas on how the next Labour government should tackle the challenges our country faces and build a more equal Britain for the many, not the few.”

The MP will be hosting a consultation event on Friday 10 May in the constituency for people to have their say. To find out more and book a place email stephen.morgan.mp@parliament.uk or call 023 9229 1088

Margaret Greenwood MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

“It’s really important that we have a social security system that people can rely on when they need it. 

That’s why Labour is inviting people from across the country to put forward their ideas about what our future social security system should look like.

We want to hear from as broad a range of people as possible, so if you currently use social security, or even if you have never had to, please do get involved.

With your help, Labour will completely overhaul the current system, rebuild it and restore dignity at its heart.”

The national consultation runs until Sunday 30 June 2019 and can be accessed via https://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions/work/rebuilding-a-just-social-security-system

People can respond to the consultation online or by post. You can request an accessible version of the consultation documents from policydevelopment@labour.org.uk or by writing to Labour Central, Kings Manor Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6PA

 

 

 

 

 

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City MP backs Hope Virgo’s Dump the Scales campaign

Over a million people in the country have suffered from Eating Disorders at some point in their life, but many are not properly diagnosed because they are told by GPs that they are not underweight or overweight enough. This only makes the problem worse

The Dump The Scales campaign started following Hope Virgo’s experience of being turned away from services for not being “thin” enough. This didn’t just happen to Hope but happens to hundreds of people weekly across the NHS. The campaign is calling on the government to implement the NICE Guidelines around the diagnosis of Eating Disorders, and therefore to not measure the BMI of those seeking treatment.

Hope Virgo who started the #DumpTheScales campaign said: “I am so excited that we have cross party support coming forward to raise awareness of eating disorders. People with eating disorders are getting an unfair deal in society. It is not right that people are turned away from support because of their BMI. This was devastating to me when I relapsed from anorexia and it happens every day to thousands of people, leaving them feeling suicidal, alone and without help. It isn’t right that we live in a society which is so fixated on weight and BMI. Eating disorders are not about weight and therefore should not be judged on this.”

Turning someone away from treatment not only impacts the person suffering but also those around them. The symptoms have long term impacts on the individual impacting all aspects of life which means that businesses are also effected. 

Investing in early intervention and prevention is essential to individuals having long lasting recovery.

Hope Virgo said:

“There is a disconnect between the NHS England guidelines, that say BMI should not be relied on to diagnose eating disorders, and the experience of people in surgeries across the country. I’m glad that Stephen Morgan MP is taking action in Parliament.”

Rachel Morris MBE said:

“It is vital we start changing the way we see people specifically young people who have so many new pressures put on given and turn that against themselves.

Being part of Dump The Scales is something I am very passionate about, partly as someone who has struggled with both anorexia and bulimia and now as I am working with more mental health in young people and adults I am seeing ‘below the tip of the ice berg’ as people open up to me.

It is so important to support people early on in the illness and that not being done through a number”

Stephen Morgan MP said:

We need to ensure that those with eating disorders get a fair deal in society. The stories that are emerging of people being turned away from treatment centres are a testament to the fact that we need to proliferate better understanding of eating disorders.

Waiting for people to hit crisis point is counterproductive and the government needs to amend its guidance given to clinicians. We need to see a more encompassing approach so that people aren’t let down. Dump the Scales is a pioneering campaign that is drawing the Government’s attention to this valid cause.

I thank constituents who have been in touch with me about these important matters. I will continue to raise concerns from Portsmouth in Parliament”.

You can sign the petition https://www.change.org/p/eating-disorders-are-not-just-about-weight-dumpthescales

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Pressure mounts on Government to act over Portsmouth school funding

City MP, Labour councillors and community campaigners have today written to the Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds MP calling on the Government to reserve cuts to Portsmouth schools and properly invest in education in the city 

Action comes following Stephen Morgan MP’s efforts locally and with the National Education Union’s Councillor Network. Earlier this week the Portsmouth MP joined local government leaders from across the country and Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the NEU in hand delivering a similar letter with over 1,000 from all parts of the country.

The letter from Portsmouth has been signed by representatives from all parts of the city, recognising that city schools are set to lose £3.7m in the coming years affecting 50 schools across Portsmouth.

The letter states:

Across the country, our excellent state-funded schools have lost out in billions of pounds in funding since 2015. The IFS has equated this to an 8 per cent cut per pupil in real terms, since 2010… 

Many schools and colleges in our city are now desperately overwhelmed, as more and more students are competing for fewer and fewer resources”.

Campaigners are calling for the Government to address the funding crisis in the forthcoming Spending Review by reserving cuts to city school budgets, raising the rate for colleges and properly funding schools and special educational needs and disabilities provision.

City Labour Leader, Stephen Morgan MP said:

I welcome the support of Labour councillors and community campaigners in the Portsmouth Against School Cuts campaign.

Children in our city only have one chance to go through the school system. By cutting funding in Portsmouth the Government is failing our children. 

I hope this letter, and the other actions we are taking, will ensure the Secretary of State will finally change course and give our city’s schools and colleges, education professionals and students the proper funding they need”.

 

 

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Portsmouth MP hosts Airbus Parliamentary Space Showcase

Mr. Morgan joint hosted an event in Parliament that saw MPs swapping their order papers for Virtual Reality goggles. The event, which was Airbus’ first virtual reality showcase, took MPs on a guided virtual tour of the manufacturing process of their world leading satellites.

The well attended event allowed the parliamentarians to experience high tech manufacturing lines, including orbiting the earth at 35,000km.

Following the showcase Mr. Morgan said:

“This has been an excellent opportunity for MPs to see what a valuable asset the space industry is to the nation.

We have seen the space sector treble since 2000, meaning that in 2015/15 the sector had a turnover of nearly £14 billion.

The fact that it employs many people in my constituency highlight’s the far-reaching impact of the sector.”

Airbus also took the opportunity to introduce their apprentices to parliamentarians. Throughout the day the apprentices spoke to attendees to inform them of the Airbus Space Apprentice Programme and showcase their microsatellite which they have been building as part of their course.

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Following Mr. Morgan’s discussions with the apprentices, he said:

“Meeting the next generation of satellite engineers again highlights the excellent talent pool that we have here in the UK.

These young people will go on to be the leaders in their field and will be responsible for connecting people around the world and keeping our armed forces safe and connected.”

Mr. Morgan has a particular interest in Airbus as they have a facility located near his city in Hilsea which employs nearly 1000 people, making it a valued asset to the community.

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Government cannot ignore need for action on veteran suicide

This evening, Stephen Morgan MP led a Westminster Hall debate on Veteran Suicide at the request of local groups such as All Call Signs. This provided members from all the major political parties to hold the Government Minister responsible to account and raise the important issues relative to the topic.

Two main convictions were consistently made by a plethora of members. Firstly, that the MoD needs to start recording veteran suicides.

Opening the debate, Mr. Morgan has said:

“Currently, only 1 out of 98 coroners across England and Wales records the detail that the deceased in a suicide case is a veteran, meaning that the scale of the problem is unknown.

Without a quantifiable record, we do not know the severity of the problem. Current estimates project that it could be as high as one ex-serviceperson every seven days but without detailed analysis, the problem has the potential to be far worse.”

Secondly, MPs stressed the need for a more tailored approach to mental health care. Veteran-Specific mental health funding received just 0.007% of the NHS £150 billion budget, this means that many veterans are being let down by the civilian services that are not equipped to deal with their complex needs.

On the matter, the Portsmouth MP said:

“I have been told by exceptional grassroots organisations such as Forgotten Veterans and All Call Signs that we need tailored, bespoke mental health care that is in line with the experiences of the brave men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way for our benefit”

The sentiment expressed by Mr. Morgan and others is exemplified by the survey, commissioned by Help for Heroes, that found nearly 30% of veterans put off visiting mental health services on the grounds that they believe civilian services will not understand their needs.

Mr. Morgan’s speech focused heavily on the human aspect of the plight and told the story of David Jonathon Jukes, a veteran who was let down by a litany of mental health services resulting in him tragically taking his own life in October 2018.

An extract of the speech read:

“I love my family but hate my life. I need help. I’m scared now it hurts”

These are the words sent in an email to the mental health services by David Jonathon Jukes who served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq twice and Afghanistan.

David Jukes was incredibly brave. As is his wife Jo, who has given me permission to share this heart-wrenching story. Despite what he did for his country, in his time of need, Dave was let down. “

Mr. Morgan explained after the debate that the speech told Dave’s story in an attempt to highlight to the government the very human aspect of the need to record these statistics.

In response to the to main point made by Stephen Morgan, that data needs to be kept of ex-service personnel who take their own lives, the Minister agreed that it was a problem but refused to confirm that the government was willing to implement the changes.

Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP agreed that “data is critical” and that the Government is “fully aware that data needs to be collected” but did not make any solid commitments to begin doing so.

In response to the Minister’s comments, Mr. Morgan said:

“The Minister today, as expected, has offered us nothing new. I find it highly contradictory that he both agreed that the Government had no data whilst simultaneously spouting the incorrect statistics that suicide amongst the veteran community is actually lower than that of the civilian population.

The reason that this debate has been tabled, with the support of veteran’s charities, is because we do not know the figures and we are concerned that progress will be slow until we do.”

The Minister suggested that the Government had made steps in the right direction by appointing a Minister for Suicide, the fact that she was not there frustrated many of those from the veteran’s charity sector who were observing.

Whilst Mr. Morgan hit home the need for increased support for our veterans, he informed the chamber that many of those who serve in the armed forces do not face hardship with regards to mental health.

The speech stated:

“In the UK there are around 5 million members of the Armed Forces community, and we see around 15,000 men and women leave service each year.

It is important to stress that the majority of these individuals do not experience a decline in mental health upon their transition to civilian life.

But we are here today to talk about those who do“.

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Following the debate, when pressed on his views on the government’s response to his questions Mr. Morgan said:

“I and the others who joined me here today such as All Call Signs will not be deterred by the Government’s substandard, disjointed response to our questions.

I will continue to raise the matters of veteran-specific mental health services and the need for the Government to start recording veteran suicides both in Parliament and out until veterans get the respect they need and deserve.

I will be writing a letter to the Minister tomorrow to request more comprehensive responses to my questions.”

 

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Local politicians urge Government to increase school funding

Local leaders from across councils and the country have today joined forces with the National Education Union (NEU) to urge Education Secretary Damian Hinds to end the school funding crisis

Cllr Stephen Morgan MP and locally-elected council members from across the country have backed the campaign by the NEU’s Councillors Network, which is supported by education fair funding campaign group f40, in expressing concern about the desperate state of school funding in England and Wales.

They are urging Government to invest more money in schools and colleges in the Spending Review this year to help meet the huge funding crisis across education, which is resulting in growing budget deficits, cuts in teaching staff, a reduction in some subject areas, and a poorer education for children.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies states that schools have suffered a cut of 8 per cent per pupil since 2010. The Education Policy Institute has said almost a third of all council-run secondary schools are now in deficit and, according to last year’s Kreston UK report, eight in ten academies are in deficit

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Campaign group f40, which started more than 20 years ago with the aim of influencing significant change in the way government allocated funding to local authorities and schools, threw its weight behind the NEU’s efforts to lobby Damian Hinds, and follows Stephen Morgan MP’s long running ‘Portsmouth Against School Cuts’ campaign.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This situation cannot go on. Schools and colleges in Portsmouth desperately need additional funding to ensure our children and young people get the education they deserve.

I’ve visited Portsmouth schools and colleges. I’ve met with city headteachers. I’ve surveyed schools. I’ve listened to concerns by parents and governors. I’ve brought local education reps to Parliament to tell the Minister exactly how funding cuts are affecting our city. Its high time the Secretary of State did his job by listening to us, and importantly, now acts for us.

There needs to be a reversal of cuts to school budgets since 2010, and for the funding of schools and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision to be of a level that ensures all children and young people in Portsmouth get the education they deserve, regardless of where they live.”

A survey undertaken across schools in the Portsmouth South constituency by Stephen Morgan MP has identified that not a single respondent indicated they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their schools current funding situation and 100% of schools involved in the survey expressed that they had had to make cuts since 2015.

The MP and Portsmouth Labour Group Leader has vowed to carry on his campaign for better funding for city schools.

 

 

 

 

Today’s indicative votes in Parliament

Debate in the House of Commons today orientated around the second batch of indicative votes, which provided MPs with the opportunity to express their views on a number of Brexit alternatives.

This comes following the agreement of the Letwin Amendment last Monday, which allowed Parliament to control the Order Paper on specified dates.

City MP Stephen Morgan has continued to support amendments that push for a final say on Brexit whilst also seeking to avoid a no deal scenario, which would be disastrous for jobs and the economy in Portsmouth.

Responding to the votes tonight the Portsmouth MP said:

“In the absence of leadership from the PM, it is essential that Parliament continues to have a say and forges a path out of this chaos.

Rather than ploughing on with her discredited deal, which has been defeated three times, Mrs May should listen to views across the House and find a solution that can command a sustainable majority.

At this time of national crisis, I will continue to put party politics to one side, and put our city and country first, in finding a compromise.

Tonight I continued that approach on behalf of the people of Portsmouth. I backed amendments which offer credible ways forward to prevent a no deal or a damaging deal for our city”.

On a confirmatory vote, the MP added:

“Tonight I backed the amendment in the name of my colleagues Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson because I believe that if everyone else in this debate can have the opportunity to have their say more than once, then genuine champions of democracy must agree that the public deserve that right to be extended to them too”.

On the option which out the so called Norway+ or Common Market 2.0, the MP added:

“I have previously had doubts about this option, but am assured that the amendment has now been revised since the first phase of indicative votes. This includes further detail about the form of customs arrangement envisaged, and would allow for a close economic partnership with the EU. At this late stage this option should remain on the table, which is why I supported it this evening”.

 

Amendment Tabled by Summary Stephen Morgan MP’s vote
C Clarke Custom Union a minimum requirement in any withdrawal agreement and political declaration For
D Boles Common Market 2.0 Norway+ option For
E Kyle/Wilson Not to allow the implementation and ratification of any withdrawal agreement and any framework for the future relationship unless approved by the people of the UK in a confirmatory public vote For
G Cherry To revoke Article 50 if no agreement has been ratified two days before exit date and calls for a public enquiry into future Brexit models For

 

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Portsmouth MP kicks off English Tourism Week with a visit to Spinnaker Tower

Stephen Morgan MP kicks off English Tourism Week with a visit to Emirates Spinnaker Tower

Every Spring, English Tourism Week seeks to highlight the value and quality of tourism in the UK as well as promote attractions across the country

The effect of tourism in Portsmouth is far-reaching, whether you are a visitor, resident, business owner or employee the value cannot be underestimated.

The latest figures show that within 12 months, Portsmouth welcomed around 9.3 million visitors and as an employment sector it accounts for nearly 13% of all jobs in the city.

Today, Mr. Morgan visited Emirates Spinnaker Tower, one of the city’s most prestigious attractions, to meet with staff and enjoy the view of the city that he grew up in.

Stephen said:

“We know that tourism is significant for Portsmouth because of all the high-quality attractions the city boasts. From the Mary Rose Museum to Spinnaker Tower, our city is on the map as a national leader when it comes to the tourism industry. We are all aware that our seaside destination draws people from our own shores and internationally. 

Tourism plays an integral role in the economy of our great city and I am pleased to be part of English Tourism Week’s excellent campaign to promote and showcase the first-rate attractions that we have.”