Vote for Debbie for MP of the Year
Debbie gets nominated for People's Choice MP of the Year Awards
MP an 'example of best to be followed', earns an award nomination!
The public are being invited to cast their votes for the MP of the Year 2019 award by 18th August 2019, which includes Oldham East and Saddleworth’s very own MP, Debbie Abrahams, in the nominations.
Debbie said: “I’m delighted that my efforts to fight injustice; change attitudes to disability; and my work to bring communities together; tackle inequalities, such as late payments experienced by small businesses; and supporting young people are being highlighted by this nomination.
“Winning the MP of the year award would give me the platform to make even more in-roads into tackling these issues, both locally and nationally, so I’m very grateful to the members of the public who nominated me.”
To place your vote go to the Patchwork Foundation website and select Debbie Abrahams from the drop down list. The People’s Choice Award closes at 11.59pm on Sunday 18th August.
Debbie's work on championing the rights of disabled people and promoting a dementia-friendly Oldham and UK
Developing a Dementia Friendly Oldham and UK
Having had experience of helping care for her mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2002, Debbie has since worked to promote awareness and bring about change to help people living with dementia, their carers and families feel less isolated or excluded in the communities that they live.
Some of the fantastic work Debbie has done on Dementia is below:
- launched a local campaign to create a ‘Dementia Friendly Oldham’.
- Co-Chair of the APPG on Dementia since 2015.
- Became the first MP who trained as a Dementia Friends’ Champion
- Worked to get 8,500 people across Oldham and Saddleworth to sign up as Dementia Friends
- Held Dementia Friends sessions in Parliament including at the launch of the Dementia Friendly Parliament, and in her constituency
- Held the first Memory Walk on dementia in Alexandra Park, Oldham and the second walk is planned for the Autumn of 2019.
- Led the Inquiry into dementia and disability in 2018 and co-authored the APPG’s report which was published in June 2019
- As co-Chair, is working with the Alzheimer’s Society on the Fix Dementia Care campaign to raise awareness of the disproportionate social care costs people living with dementia face, and to compel the Government to act.
Fighting injustice, changing attitudes to disability
Disabled people, including those living with dementia, are often marginalised by the nature of their disability. Every week Debbie receives dozens of cases from around the country, as well as from her constituency, of disabled people who have been left destitute, and some who have died; some have been directly affected by failings in government policy and its delivery. She believes passionately in the social model of disability: we need to remove the barriers in society that restrict the opportunities and choices of disabled people.
Debbie’s key objective has been to try and change societal attitudes to disabled people as well as Government policy. Some of Debbie’s work on this is below:
- has repeatedly held Ministers to account on behalf of disabled people on a wide range of issues, including: SEND provision in schools; access to justice for disabled people; social security support for survivors of domestic violence; DWP support for people with terminal and progressive conditions; ESA underpayments to disabled people and the 20,000 who have died during the DWP’s lengthy review (see here).
- granted an Urgent Question on the numbers of sick and disabled people who have died soon after being found ‘fit for work’ or having their Personal Independence Payment removed or reduced. This was in response to an unsatisfactory response from the Government concerning these deaths.
- written to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to initiate an independent investigation into this.
- read out the names of people who had died after being found fit for work in a Westminster Hall debate; a powerful contribution that has been watched nearly 30,000 times. This is one of ten speeches Debbie has made over the last year on issues affecting disabled people, ranging from DWP spending and estimates, the effects of Budget measures on poverty, and public health and disabled people in poverty.
- worked with the solicitors Leighday in identifying cases and technical arguments that could challenge the Government’s policies on disabled people and Universal Credit. She was delighted to be present in the High Court when the judgment was heard last June finding against the Government, describing the migration of social security claimants from legacy benefits on to Universal Credit as a result of a change in circumstance as ‘discriminatory’.
- Debbie provided written and oral evidence to the UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Disabled People investigating breaches in the Convention. This committee found the Government in breach of the Convention and referred to the ‘systematic violations’ and ‘human catastrophe’ facing disabled people. Following this, in December 2018, she led a debate in the Chamber on the cumulative effects of cuts on disabled people.
- initiated the 2015 Work and Pensions Select Committee sanctions report, by her persistent parliamentary campaign against punitive social security sanctions by the Government
- holding a follow-up cross-party Inquiry (ongoing) as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Health in All Policies, into the actual health impacts of the 2016 Welfare Reform and Work Act on children and disabled people. This follows on from an Inquiry which examined the potential health impacts of the Bill in 2016.
- With disabled people in mind, has also undertaken work to make the case for a new social contract with the British people, has looked at what this new contract should cover, and is working with various stakeholders to model spending scenarios and funding plans.
Ellen Clifford, Member of the National Steering Group of Disabled People Against Cuts & Campaigns / Policy Consultant to Inclusion London, a Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisation on Debbie:
“Debbie Abrahams works tirelessly for her constituents in Oldham East and Saddleworth but on top of performing her constituency role with such dedication, she uses her parliamentary role to champion the rights of disabled people.
Disabled people now make up 21% of the population but disability remains an issue on the margins of society. It is no small undertaking to which Debbie has committed herself yet she manages to stay on top of fast moving and complex policy developments, to reach out to disabled people ourselves and respect our views and opinions and is known up and down the country as a politician we can trust.
Debbie combines her background in public health, her knowledge of parliament and her hard-working approach to take issues forward and lead on initiatives that place parliament at the forefront of tacking social injustice.
In my years of working with Parliament to promote the rights of disabled people I have never met another MP with an understanding of the fundamental nature of disabled people’s oppression who both genuinely cares and has such a sharp grasp of policy details affecting out details as Debbie does.
Debbie Abrahams is a great ambassador for Parliament: she is sincerely committed to the role of MP as an accountable representative in a democratically elected chamber working for the betterment of society, she is honest and hard-working. No MP is better qualified for this award.”
Debbie's work on bringing communities together and tackling inequalities
Jenna from Holts in Oldham said about her Summer School 2019 experience:
“It was an amazing day. It was really great to meet John Bercow face to face. He was really welcoming and explained what his job is all about and told us some funny stories about his time as the Speaker.
“I think the summer school has helped us realise that politicians are just ordinary people like us and they were all really encouraging saying that anyone can do their job if you want to make a difference.
“It was such an exciting day that when I got home at 11pm I couldn’t stop telling my mum about all the things we did and all the people we met until she just said I had to stop talking and go to bed. Now I can’t wait for next week when I’m going to placed at Inspire Women Oldham to see what kind of work they do.”
Annual ‘Working for your Community’ Summer School with young people
Young people’s views are often ignored by the political process. Debbie is determined to listen to and empower young people to become involved in their communities, including through their elected representatives, to effect real change. She has a regular programme of school and college visits – visiting 16 local schools in the last year.
Debbie was very aware of the inequalities across Oldham and Saddleworth that has led to a life expectancy gap of 12 years between the richest and poorest communities, and a context to the challenges that Oldham faced both leading up to and following the 2001 riots. Consequently, in 2014 Debbie established a ‘working for your community’ summer school for 16-24 year olds.
The summer school aims to bring young people from our diverse communities together, to empower them and to raise their awareness about what politics is: public service. She devised the two week programme which helps young people to develop community action skills and experience by working on various community projects in Oldham. It also helps build an understanding of what life as a politician is like.
After spending the first week with Debbie and her team, the young people are placed with different public, private and voluntary sector organisations to work on a specific project, providing valuable work and community experience, followed by a ‘graduation’ ceremony.
As part of the summer school young people visit Parliament to see for themselves how the core of the political system works, meeting with MPs, journalists, researchers and staff. Many of the students have never been to London before and from the feedback received this is a highlight of the experience. This year, participants were able to meet with and quiz a wide range of speakers, including Mike Kane MP, Stephen Doughty MP, Dan Bloom, Mirror Online Political Editor, and the Speaker of the House, John Bercow MP.
Students from the six years of Debbie’s summer school have gone onto a wide range of employment and educational opportunities. Three participants from the 1st and 3rd years of the summer school now work for local MPs – Sabah who graduated from the 1st year now works for Debbie and helps run the summer school! In all cases, they have said that their experiences on the summer school helped them gain employment.
The summer school has also inspired young people to become politically active. Ribia from the 1st summer school stood as a council candidate this year. Alex who participated in the 4th summer school and is now working for a policy events company, credits the school for getting him interested in policy work. Fizah from the 2nd year now works abroad for an international news organisation and Li from the same year campaigned in the US elections. Many summer school graduates are at universities across the UK, including Oxbridge, or have successfully graduated. Other have taken a vocational route and have established their own businesses as young entrepreneurs.
There are many other examples of Debbie’s work in tackling inequalities, including her establishment of the Oldham Fairness Commission which aimed to get Oldham’s public, private and voluntary organisations to work together to address inequalities in education, employment and income across Oldham and Saddleworth, and which saw outcomes such as Oldham Council agreeing to establishing a Real Living Wage for employees and for contractor employees.
More recently, Debbie worked with national and international academics to submit a proposal to the Deaton Inquiry on inequalities to consider inequalities in power, including political power, as part of their Inquiry.
Tackling late payments to small businesses
Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. They account for £2trn in UK annual turnover and make up over 60% of private sector jobs. Too often, however, they suffer at the hands of larger companies who use their leverage to deny, reduce or make late payments for work undertaken. For example, the collapse of Carillion in 2018 saw 30,000 small businesses who were part of the supply chain affected, being owed, on average, £141,000 by Carillion. The vast majority of these suppliers never received any recompense. And following on from these losses it has been estimated that 780 small building firms went into insolvency as a direct consequence of Carillion’s collapse.
Neil Skinner, whose construction firm is based in Debbie’s constituency was one of Carillion’s suppliers and lost £176,000. He stated that Carillion often went over sixty days before they paid him and once the job for a particular customer was finished, his sanction, to stop working, was gone and the payments just stopped even though they still owed money for the job.
Debbie has been campaigning against Late Payments since 2011 when a haulier in her constituency came to see her about the difficulties he was having getting paid promptly by one of the main supermarket chains. Debbie soon heard from two more constituents, Ann & Harry Long, who had a commercial plumbing and heating company that they had built up had built up from scratch 35 years ago. They went bust due to the effect of late payments by larger contractors being owed over £135,000.
To try and see how widespread the issue was, Debbie worked with various small business organisations, including the Federation of Small Businesses and the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group to examine the issues small businesses face.
- convened and chaired an all-party inquiry in 2013 to look at the issues associated with late payments and what could be done about them, inviting small and large businesses, as well as business organisations to give evidence. The inquiry report made a number of recommendations, some of which were incorporated into the 2014 Small Business Act, and some, such as the annual reporting of late payment practice, have since been adopted by Government, most recently this June.
- acknowledged for her work on this issue by awards from the FSB and H&V News.
- followed up the Inquiry in December 2018, holding a round table with representatives from small businesses including the SEC Group and the FSB. At this, mechanisms to ensure greater use of Project Bank Accounts by public bodies were seen as a practical next step. Project Bank Accounts are ring-fenced bank accounts into which monies due to firms providing construction or other works are paid. The accounts are ring-fenced within a trust arrangement so that if a Tier 1 contractor becomes insolvent the monies for the subcontractors are protected.
- introduced a Bill on Project Bank Accounts in Jan 2019 to ensure that all public sector projects over £500,000 use Project Bank Accounts. This will not only protect small businesses from losing monies owed to them should the Tier 1 supplier become insolvent, but it will also stop small businesses being paid late by these large companies.
- given her Bill to the Government as Debbie is concerned that there are clear risks of other ‘Carillions’, so that they can act upon it to protect small businesses.
- met with the Small Business Minister, the Cabinet Office Minister and the Small Business Commissioner earlier this year to make the offer above and to press them to take concerted action on this and late payments more broadly.
- commended by the Small Business Minister in the Commons for her “passion and commitment” on this issue in June 2019.
Since her campaign began, the amount small businesses were owed in late payments by large contractors has fallen from a high of £41.5bn in 2014, to £13bn last year. However, there is clearly still much more to do to tackle the abuse of late payments and ensure that this is seen as unethical practice.