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.