Wednesday, 24 May 2017

MP launches long overdue legislation aiding new parents

Steve Reed in his constituency office in Thornton Heath discussing his new plans to help families with premature babies. PHOTO/Jean Pierre Ivanov

Steve Reed, the Labour MP for Croydon North is leading the charge to tackle gaps in maternity and paternity leave legislation. He is currently proposing a prematurity bill which aims to extend statutory leave for parents of premature babies. Reed became aware of flaws in the current law in November 2015, when he took part in a debate with fellow MPs to discuss premature births and provisions currently in place for families with babies who were born earlier, in some cases months before the due date.

The House of Commons has recently accepted Mr Reed's Ten Minute Rule Motion which gives MPs ten minutes to introduce a new bill. There will be a second reading of the bill on 16th December where MPs will fully debate his proposals. In a small, unassuming room at his constituency office in Thornton Heath, Reed explained with real enthusiasm what inspired him to tackle this issue, which is often extremely painful for parents: “It was Catriona Ogilvy who is a constituent of mine and she had two babies that were born prematurely and she came to talk to me about how difficult it was for her.” He reiterated,

Ms Ogilvy had started a campaign called “The Smallest Things” as well as creating a petition attracting over 123,000 signatures which aims to extend maternity and paternity leave for parents of premature children. Ms Ogilvy’s son Samuel was born at 30 weeks and her maternity leave started the day after he was born so she had to spend two months visiting her child in neonatal intensive care. She had saved money during her pregnancy but this was spent on travel, food, parking and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) visits. Ms Ogilvy stated, “five years later I can still suffer flashbacks to our time in intensive care.” Having returned to work, her son Samuel was officially eight months old but according to his ‘corrected age’ he was less than six months old “and he was still extremely small and vulnerable,” she said.

In regards to the current legislation, Mr Reed said: “The UK has got good maternity and paternity leave available compared to other countries. But there is a gap in it, the gap is that if your child is born prematurely no additional provision is made for your needs under the law,” he confirmed. The MP said that one of the most important things we should do as a society is support families and particularly parents with vulnerable children and argues that the law does not support these families, therefore he is proposing a change in the law. The same facts are published by Bliss who state “The length of maternity and paternity leave does not recognise the difficulty for parents whose leave begins long before they can take their baby home from hospital.”

Mr Reed described the huge psychological impact on women: “1 in 5 mothers with a premature baby suffers from mental ill health as a result of that through post-natal depression.” He pointed out that often mothers require support from the father at this difficult time and fathers only get two weeks paternity leave. “That is inadequate and it's not fair on the baby. What more important to any person is that their child is fighting for its life that has to come first,” he stated.

The Labour MP expressed with sadness in his voice: “I've met parents whose child was born three months before the due date.” He reiterated that it's a very stressful and worrying time for parents, as they spend a lot of money getting accommodation and eating expensive meals out because they can't get home and cook. Mr Reed added: “The average family runs up a bill of £2,500 to have a premature baby and then eventually hopefully the child survives after three months and comes out of the incubator and is allowed to go home.” The website Bliss does confirm these costs in a recent report stating that the average family of a premature baby faces unexpected costs totalling £2,256 throughout their baby’s stay in hospital.

Mr Reed believes that many families who have premature babies are financially and emotionally worse off. Some mothers, he said, only have three months maternity leave left to take care of their child after they leave the hospital, putting the baby at a disadvantage as they have less time to bond with their newborn before they get back to work. Also, he went on to add: “many mothers have to take a lot of time sick off work that can damage their earnings. So the maternity provisions don't recognise those needs and we're trying to correct that.”

When asked how many people would benefit if his bill does become legislation, he responded enthusiastically: “I think it's 1 in 10.” This statistic is 1 in 13 according to the NHS website. Reed explained that a more flexible system is sensible for parents and will give them the freedom to judge what is right for their child “If your baby is born one week premature then it's not a problem but three months is life threatening so it can depend on the length of time,” he added. The Verywell website states micro preemie babies which are those born below 26 weeks gestation, suffer from long-term cognitive problems, vision and hearing loss and this was certified by a physician.

Reed exclaimed proudly that his bill is supported by fellow colleagues across the political spectrum. “We got cross-party support from 12 other MPs from Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties backing it,” he said.

The MP, elected in November 2012, believes the best chance of the bill becoming a piece of legislation is by arranging a meeting with Margot James, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, who according to Mr Reed is the Minister responsible; persuading her to change an existing piece of legislation through parliament will allow the process to be completed quicker.

Key words: Prematurity Bill, Bliss, Verywell, Steve Reed, Catriona Ogilvy

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Feeling Welcome in the Lib Dems

Feeling Welcome in the Lib Dems

My title
I decided after many months of despair and outrage to do something to challenge the outright dictatorship of the Conservative party, with the help of a lacklustre Labour opposition presiding over a hard Brexit exiting the Single Market, putting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk and damaging many communities across the United Kingdom. So in response to that I joined the Liberal Democrats and will explain the reasons why I did that.

I was previously a Labour member and remember the day when Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as party leader in September 2015. We in the Labour party all thought politics would change for the better and there could be a fairer, simpler way of conducting politics. There was promise and hope for a better world with sensible policies.

However, this all changed after June 2016 following Corbyn’s lack of action or fight in the EU Referendum campaign effectively sabotaging the Labour party's official position of staying in the EU. Subsequently I let my Labour party membership lapse without renewing it. As a son of Bulgarian migrants (and a bit of Slovakian and Hungarian descent) born in Croydon I felt betrayed by the Labour party who normally would be supportive of people from ethnic minorities.

Croydon voted 55% to remain in the European Union, all three Croydon MPs Steve Reed (Labour, Croydon North), Gavin Barwell (Conservative, Croydon Central) and Chris Philp (Conservative, Croydon South) campaigned to stay in the EU. Now Reed, Barwell and Philp seemed to have given up and are now accepting the hard Brexit dictated by Theresa May, the Prime Minister who has no elected mandate lecturing others and shutting down any resistance from people who just want to understand what are her plans for dealing with this colossal task.

Now I have a place in the Liberal Democrats. I joined the party on 1st February 2017 and I am glad I did so. I have met many fantastic people in my local party, the Croydon Liberal Democrats. I have been busy with leafleting the Focus 2017 edition and have done quite a lot of it in South Norwood ward, the ward which voted by 66% to stay in the EU. I have met with a few members of the public on the doorstep who are pleased to see some work being done to challenge May’s lack of opposition. I am eager to do more to help others and stop the monopoly of the Conservatives and Labour who go hand in hand with UKIP and have created a nationalistic coalition against the true interests of the majority of citizens in this great country.

Throughout history our country has been home to many different civilisations, including Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Picts, Celts, Normans and you name it. I identify myself as a Londoner, English, British, Bulgarian, Slovakian, Hungarian and European. It is not wrong to have many identities and we should, as a country, embrace the values that unites us rather than divide us.

I have also become involved with Croydon for Europe, a group which is fighting against the hard Brexit pursued by the Conservatives. We have done well distributing hundreds of leaflets across the borough to advertise the march on the 25th March 2017 with many supportive colleagues and members of the public.

Here we are as part of Croydon for Europe unveiling our Stop the Silence billboard in Waddon, Central Croydon

Unite for Europe leaflet distributed by Croydon for Europe advertising the march to Parliament on Saturday 25th March 2017 at 11am, Park Lane, London

The Unite for Europe march on the 25th March 2017 coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome which established the European Economic Community and the foundations of the European Union. I urge you all, leave or remain supporters to go out and protest against this toxic Government leading us all down the path of isolation following in the footsteps of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

We are meant to be building a more united society but shutting down the 48% who did vote to stay in the EU will come back to bite the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats under Tim Farron are courageous and will fight for the rights of EU citizens to be protected in this country and UK citizens abroad in the EU as well. I have found a home in this party and hope to continue making new friends on this journey of mine. I hope some of you will join our journey and join the Liberal Democrats to fight for a fairer, tolerant and united society.

Monday, 7 November 2016

SPERI annual lecture with Nicola Sturgeon

Sturgeon does not rule out a second Scottish independence referendum

Nicola Sturgeon was defiant in setting out Scotland’s position in a post-Brexit United Kingdom. The SNP Leader spoke tonight at the SPERI Annual Lecture in Sheffield and expectedly started out by attacking the UK Government’s controversial austerity cuts “Austerity is damaging the very fabric of our society” she declared from the podium. Moreover, she described her opposition to the Government’s approach to Brexit negotiations by suggesting “Nothing about Brexit is straightforward.”

Sturgeon did not rule out another Scottish Independence Referendum however asserted the importance of expanding international relations amid claims that Scotland would become isolated as a result of Independence “I’m a Scottish nationalist – I believe Scotland should be independent – but I am also an internationalist.”  She also urged people to “understand the reasonableness” of a second Scottish Independence referendum if Scotland is deeply affected by a hard Brexit.

The Scottish First Minister set out the case for Scotland staying in the EU Single Market, “If the UK leaves the single market we will explore options to keep Scotland in the single market” eloquently stated by Nicola Sturgeon who is renowned for her good public speaking skills. 

Moreover, she condemned the UK’s inability to stem the rise in hate crimes “Your enemy is not your immigrant neighbour; your enemy is the politician in Whitehall” confidently professed by Sturgeon in response to a question from the audience.

Nicola Sturgeon also focussed on the environment by answering a question from the former Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett on making green agenda a part of economic transformation and she stated that “To tackle climate change, the economy needs to be transformed.”

Friday, 28 October 2016

Potential US First Lady

Who is Melania Trump?

Melania Trump wondering whether her husband Donald Trump will get elected
PHOTO/ Nozell, Marc. Donald Trump & Melania Trump. 8th February 2016. Donald Trump @ Manchester, NH (20160208). 28th October 2016.

Melania Trump was born on 26th April 1970 in Novo Mesto, Slovenia situated on the Balkan Peninsula, and is the 3rd wife of the American Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump. She is the mother of the 10 year old Barron Trump. She is a former underwear model who had a nude photoshoot for the British magazine GQ in January 2000 and now assists her husband by performing speeches to increase his chances of becoming the first Republican President since the year 2008 when George W Bush finished his second term as President. If her husband Donald Trump wins the 2016 US Presidential election, Melania would be the 1st legal Immigrant First Lady and she would also be the second First Lady born outside of the United States after Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams who was the wife of the sixth American President, John Quincy Adams (1825-1829). She is the only First Lady to have been born outside of the United States.

Melania Trump copied the speech of Michelle Obama, who is the wife of outgoing President Barack Obama, and Mrs Trump was criticised for plagiarism by sections of the American population. At the time of publication, Melania Trump will be performing two or three more speeches to help her husband get elected as President of the country United States of America. She could be the First Lady which is the spouse of an elected President, if her husband wins the Presidential Election on 8th November 2016. Mrs Trump recently had an interview on the American satellite television channel CNN (Cable News Network) with the American journalist Anderson Cooper to defend her husband’s allegations of sexual misconduct when he made disgraceful comments towards women.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The Rise of Insufferable People

The Rise of Insufferable People

Have you encountered bad customer service? Are you frightened of being put on hold?

These are just some in a multitude of questions that looks at the 'insufferable person'. It doesn't cost one to demonstrate good manners.

Our society has been plagued by selfishness and rudeness. Rather than helping out people in their time of need, some customer service assistants make matters worse either by being completely incompetent or deliberately stringing customers along.

Whether it's giving way on the road, whether it's making room for other commuters you get the sense that many people out there simply do not care about others.

On a daily basis I encounter insufferable people- families at the park who occupy too much space, people who stare at you as if you offended them, men and women who do not look where they are going on the street. You name it and it will almost certainly be another case of people who act irresponsibly and are absolutely clueless to the consequences of their actions.

What you must remember is that people will only look after their own interests so you cannot rely on them to help you out. People will only let you down, so be careful who you trust.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Croydon's Homeless Community

Helping the Homeless

On Tuesday 2th August 2016 I had the pleasure of being invited by a friend to the Croydon Seventh-Day Adventist Church. I was very eager to make my way to the venue in good time and familiarise myself with the activities this Church provides for the local community. Croydon SDA Church helps out the homeless by providing a weekly dinner for the ones who are struggling to afford regular meals every day. The gathering takes place on Tuesdays from 18:00 to 21:00 pm.

I arrived at the Church a few minutes before the meal was due to commence, and I was greeted by several volunteers who explained the planning behind the whole event, chairs and tables were being set up, the kitchen staff were enthusiastically awaiting their guests and the volunteers were pacing up and down making sure everything is in order.

Before the food was served, everybody recited a prayer of 'Our Father' while holding hands, the unison between these members of our community was evident despite the difficulties they were enduring. I could sense the camaraderie in the room among the people who were seated in the middle of the huge church hall, socialising and feeling at ease for a few hours in their day, in a welcoming and warm environment. The meal tonight included soup with bread, spaghetti bolognese and ice cream. It was a delight to be savoured.

I was in charge of the technical facilities and I would take requests from the guests for certain songs and videos to be played at the church. One such video showcased the work of some of the participants who were involved in art exhibitions across Croydon.

There was a total of 38 people who arrived to enjoy this meal. They all represented different backgrounds, races and socio-economic status. I realised that homelessness is rooted in our society and affects all walks of life. It is a huge problem and it's difficult to pinpoint the solutions to help everyone in their struggles.

I felt a sense of great satisfaction to have helped the homeless and enjoyed my time at Croydon SDA Church which does fantastic work for the local community in Croydon and the surrounding areas.

Friday, 29 July 2016

End of the Road

End of the Road

Uncertainty has hit the United Kingdom in the wake of the EU referendum. The most acute issue in my view is homelessness. The hostels and B&Bs don't have enough vacancies to accommodate people who have nowhere to live. Housing is a subject which has been avoided in this country for many decades, as a result there is a lack of affordable housing in our big cities, especially in London.

There has been inaction from the Government and there hasn't been a policy in place to effectively provide decisive solutions to ease this problem. Furthermore, the Government did not anticipate such a large population arriving from within the EU in the last decade. The net migration from non-EU countries also remains high. According to Government figures, the amount of homes built has hit a seven-year high as 37,080 new homes were built between October and December 2015, up 23% on a year earlier. Despite this rise, the number of homes needed to rectify the housing deficit is nowhere near the actual target.

The Government led by Theresa May must address the issue of housing especially after the 'Brexit' result. With a lack of supply and an unprecedented amount of demand, the new PM should promote revolutionary house-building projects, working with local housing authorities and Mayors, to solve this crisis. The key to solving this conundrum lies in our local authorities, who have the power to promote new housing projects but issues to do with bureaucracy certainly do not help to alleviate homelessness, which is worse than in other 'less advanced' EU countries, the Czech Republic for example. The new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has a big role to play in terms of acting as a gatekeeper for councils in Greater London to use existing brownfield land as well as TFL assets to create new council housing estates and develop community schemes to develop affordable housing.

There are indications that prices are falling because of the uncertainty created in the country in the wake of the EU referendum. Thus there is danger that an increasing amount of foreign buyers are acquiring a vast amount of UK properties and subsequently making it difficult once again for citizens living in the UK to own their own home.

Moreover action should be taken on unscrupulous private landlords who do not maintain their tenants' property to a satisfactory level and still charge premium rents in excess of £800 a month often for large families living in a single room in a shared house. Again there should be greater powers for the Government and local authorities to crack down on these landlords who do not provide shelter to acceptable or even basic standard to their tenants.

The housing market is a contentious issue due to conflicting ideas about how exactly the crisis should be addressed. Political parties are not part of the solution but rather part of the problem because they are squabbling between themselves and getting involved in personal attacks totally forgetting the bigger issue such as bettering the life of rough sleepers and failing to reduce long housing waiting lists. The only thing that is certain is that no one knows how long the uncertainty will last for.