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National School Meals Week

This week is National School Meals Week. Because of the Liberal Democrats in Government, nearly 22,500 school children across Lincolnshire are having a free, hot and healthy meal each day.

Local campaigner, Ross Pepper said,

“It’s a very simple truth that if you don’t give children a healthy, balanced meal at lunchtime, you can’t expect them to sit down, concentrate and learn well in the afternoon.

“That’s why I’m so proud of the work Liberal Democrats have done in Government to put school food back on the agenda.

“This week is about not only encouraging children to really understand and enjoy the food they eat but to celebrate all the schools chefs and catering staff who work day-in day-out to help provide school meals and ensure that we live in a fairer society where every child can get the best possible start in life, regardless of their background.”

Millions to benefit from cold weather cash

An estimated 4 million people are in line for extra Government help to turn up the heating during the coldest days this year, as the Cold Weather Payments season begins today.

The Liberal Democrats in Government have ensured the permanent increase of Cold Weather Payments from £8.50 to £25 to help vulnerable people over the Winter months.

This means that poorer pensions and low-income households, including disabled people and children under the age of five, could be due a £25 Cold Weather Payment each time temperatures dip below an average of zero degrees Celsius for seven consecutive days, or are forecast to do so.

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Liberal Democrat Minister for Pensions Steve Webb said:

“It is vital that pensioners and vulnerable people are given extra help to turn up the thermostat and keep warm when temperatures plunge.

“This help, combined with the Winter Fuel Allowance and Warm Home Discount Scheme, is making a real difference to help the most vulnerable people in our society.

“In most cases, Cold Weather Payments are paid automatically to those eligible. But I urge anyone, especially older people who might be missing out on Pension Credit, to call us.”

Posted by The Liberal Democrats on 01 November, 2014 @ 1:00 PM

There must be parity of esteem between physical and mental health

Mental health charity Mind has said that the amount of public budgets spent on mental health prevention is too low.

In a report published by Mind today (October 28), figures reveal that £40m of council funds will go on mental health compared to £900m for physical health.

Responding to the report, Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb Tweeted:

 

Liberal Democrats are calling for parity of esteem between physical and mental health and want to stamp out the stigma surrounding mental health.

That’s why Liberal Democrats in government have enshrined in law, the equal status of mental and physical health.

And because we believe that mental health conditions should be taken as seriously as physical health, we have also announced that from April 2015, there will be the first ever waiting time standards for mental health treatment.

This means that patients needing talking therapies will be guaranteed treatment in six weeks with a maximum waiting time set to 18 weeks.

Our 2015 general election manifesto includes a commitment to £500m of extra funding for mental health care.

Posted by The Liberal Democrats on 28 October, 2014 @ 3:20 PM

Nick Clegg: We are making sure parental leave can be shared as mothers and fathers see fit

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has written the following article for Mumsnet, in response to comments made regarding his announcement on equalising paternity and maternity pay in the civil service.

Nick announced this week that fathers in the civil service who choose to share parental leave with their partners will be entitled to the same paternity pay as mothers.

You can have your say on the new paternity pay system here.

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In his article for Mumsnet, Nick writes

Let’s bankrupt Britain’s businesses and, once we’re done, burn the buildings to the ground.

This is what you might have thought I’d said last week, if you saw some of the reaction to my plans to increase fathers’ rights when it comes to shared parental leave.

From now on the Civil Service will pay the same to fathers who take parental leave after their babies are born as it pays mothers who do so.

Let’s be clear: we are not doubling the leave and pay that is available, we are just making sure it can be shared between mothers and fathers as they see fit. Whether it’s mums or dads who take the leave, they’ll receive equal pay – and we’d like businesses to follow suit.

A significant change, yes, but highly controversial? I didn’t think so, until I saw the outrage it prompted from parts of the right wing press.

Such a step, they declared, will be ‘crippling’ to taxpayers and business. But why, when there is no extra cost to the economy attached? For every day a man spends at home, a woman will be back at work, so what’s the problem?

What the critics are really saying is that companies can afford to lose a woman for a few months, but they can’t afford to lose a man. The message is loud and clear: women, we don’t need you. Or, at least, we don’t need you as much.

What utter rubbish – and a sorry glimpse into the dated misogyny that still stalks part of the British establishment. It feels ridiculous for me to even write in this article that women are as valuable to their employers as their male counterparts – of course they are! – and yet it seems the flamingly obvious still needs to be said.

Thankfully the dinosaurs and naysayers are not reflective of the country at large. The broader reaction was much more positive. Indeed, many businesses understand the difference a contented, valued workforce can make to their bottom line.

Where I do agree that there are legitimate questions to be asked is on the issue of take up. From next spring we are radically transforming Britain’s leave rules. For the first time ever parents will have a legal right to divvy up between them the year off that is available after a baby is born, in whichever way they see fit – a far cry from the previous system, under which women were given a year and men a paltry two weeks. But we need to encourage fathers to take advantage of this new right.

Better pay arrangements will help. Many men are reluctant to take time off when their children are born, discouraged by the raised eyebrows of their bosses and colleagues. But they are also put off by the drop in earnings they’d face – especially if they’re the bigger earner. That’s why the Civil Service will make it more affordable for fathers to make this choice, and we want as many companies as possible to do the same. In government again the Liberal Democrats would also introduce a “daddy month” – a new, additional use-it-or-lose block of time for new dads to stay at home. We know more men want to be more involved with their children home and, crucially, we know the difference it makes to a child’s development when they do.

As more and more couples enjoy these new rights, I hope we’ll see another big benefit too – helping us tackle the pay gap, which still stands at women, on average, being paid 20% less than men. It’s after children are born that the gap really begins to grow, with women being passed over for promotion or else moving into part time work. But if both sexes are equally likely to take time out of their career to look after young children, and if both are equally likely to go part-time to help them juggle work and home – employers won’t have an excuse for letting women fall behind.

So the only thing that will be “crippled” by new, fairer leave rules is the outdated assumption that women should be in the kitchen while men bring home the bacon. There is certainly still a lot more to be done before mothers and fathers enjoy real equality of choice, and we won’t get there overnight. But we won’t get there at all if the everyday misogynists get their way. So long as my party has a say over things, they won’t.

Posted by The Liberal Democrats on 26 October, 2014 @ 1:01 AM

Norman Lamb’s article on NHS spending

Today Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, published his 5-year Forward Look setting out the challenges facing our health and care system in the coming years.

It makes sobering reading. Simon Stevens sets out the huge scale of the financial challenge facing us in the years ahead as we continue to adapt to an ageing population, and increasing numbers of people living longer with multiple chronic conditions.  We also need more investment to ensure that people with mental health problems can get the same standard of care and support as with physical health.

Earlier this month, the Liberal Democrats set out their priorities for the NHS.  We committed to investing at least £1bn extra in our health and care system in each year in the next parliament.  £500m of that will go to mental health to ensure mental health patients get fair treatment, and can access the support they need.  And by the end of the next parliament we will give each carer £250 a year to recognise the immense contribution they make to society.

We also made clear that we would be arguing strongly this year for significant additional funding for the health and care system as part of the Autumn Statement.  We are the only major party arguing for money next year for the NHS.  And Simon Stevens has today made our case for us in the most powerful terms possible.

I know that when I speak to voters in my North Norfolk constituency, and when I meet people across the country, health and care are consistently among their highest priorities for government investment.  But the Conservatives are not making the case for investment in health and care: they are just promising to maintain the current level of spending.  If that’s the deal, the NHS would crash.  Liam Fox has argued for an end to the NHS ringfence – but this could damage our NHS beyond recognition.

Labour, too, have not argued for any increase in funding next year.  In Wales Labour has cut NHS spending by 8%, missing targets on A&E and cancer treatment and presiding over the worst ambulance response times in the UK.  Over 13 years in government, Labour wasted money with PFI schemes and special favours to private companies.  What is more, they just don’t understand that you can’t secure the future of our NHS without securing our economic recovery too.

I am passionately committed to our National Health Service, and the role it plays in giving every person the opportunity to enjoy a decent and fulfilled life regardless of their health needs.

And I recognise, as most people do, that if we want to have a sustainable NHS which is able to provide good care to those in need, we have to pay for it.  Britain currently spends less than almost any other major country on its health and care system.

And we will be making the case relentlessly in the coming weeks to make sure the NHS gets the funding it needs next year so it can continue to provide excellent care to those in need.  Liberal Democrats want to create opportunity for everyone by building a stronger economy and a fairer society.  We cannot do this by neglecting our health and care system.

Posted by The Liberal Democrats on 23 October, 2014 @ 3:53 PM

Nick Clegg launches the Workload Challenge giving teachers their say

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will launch the Workload Challenge and invite teachers from across the country to have their say on the causes of unnecessary workload.

Nick recently said that many teachers had been left feeling “browbeaten” and undervalued. He also expressed concern for the rising workloads face by teachers.

To address this, Nick will today announce the Workload Challenge, which gives teachers the opportunity to tell the government what they think should be done to reduce this increasing problem.

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Nick wants to free teachers up to spend the time outside the classroom doing what they know will help their class do better.

He will officially launch the Workload Challenge when he gives a speech to an audience of public sector workers today.

Nick is expected to say:

“Firstly, every time I speak to a teacher, nurse, social worker, Jobcentre Plus Manager, police officer or council worker one issue comes up again and again: their battle with bureaucracy.

“Take teaching. Some people are still under the misguided impression that it’s a profession built around short days and long holidays. But talk to a teacher and they’ll tell you about their working week of 50 hours or more. They’ll also tell you how much of this time they feel is wasted on unnecessary processes, box ticking and form filling.

“We’re talking about hours spent struggling to stay on top of piles of incident reports, over-detailed lesson plan templates, health and safety forms, departmental updates, training requests and so on that threaten to engulf them every week. Not to mention the reams of additional evidence which teachers pull together because of a long-held belief that Ofsted inspectors want to see everything written down.

“Some of this work is unavoidable. Every school needs to ensure the safety of its pupils and staff and maintain the highest standards possible. But should you really have to fill in multiple risk assessment forms for every school trip when just one form would be better

“Ask any teacher and they’ll give you at least two more examples like that: whether it’s having to highlight their lesson plans in five different colours or inputting every pupil’s marks into countless different spreadsheets in countless different ways at regular points in the year.

“I believe it’s time for us to stop that runaway train of bureaucracy in its tracks, giving our teachers more time to do what they do best: creating and planning the best possible lessons and experiences for our children. In Government, we’ve already done this for businesses: freeing up money and resources for millions of companies.

“It has already produced a new myth busting document from Ofsted, which clarifies what’s expected of teachers for school inspections.

“And, today, I’m pleased to announce with Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education, the launch of our new Workload Challenge for teachers.

“We’re asking teachers across the country to take a long hard look at how they spend their working day and what pointless processes and paperwork they think should be cut or scrapped altogether.

“We want you to then send us your ideas via the Workload Challenge page available on the TES website.”

Posted by The Liberal Democrats on 22 October, 2014 @ 12:01 AM

Crime fallen by a quarter under this government

The latest independent crime survey of England and Wales shows crime continuing to fall. It has fallen by 16% over the year June 2013 to June 2014 and 25% under this government.

Liberal Democrats have been working in government to make our communities safer. We have freed front-line police officers from unnecessary bureaucracy and given communities more powers to tackle anti-social behaviour.

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Liberal Democrat Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said:

“Police reform is working and crime is down by more than 20 per cent under this government according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales.

“There are now 2.3 million fewer crimes per year than when the coalition government took office. That includes 413,000 fewer acts of violence and 160,000 fewer burglaries, with criminal damage down by 962,000 incidents. This is good news for a safer England and Wales.

“There are also positive signs that police recording of crime is improving, and that more victims of crimes such as sexual offences and fraud are coming forward – which is something we welcome.

“It is vital that police recorded crime statistics are as robust as they can be. That is why the Home Secretary asked HMIC to carry out a detailed investigation of recording practices in all 43 forces. HMIC’s final report is due shortly and we expect Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners to act on its recommendations.”

Posted by The Liberal Democrats on 16 October, 2014 @ 5:25 PM

Tim Farron: Labour has no right to lecture about housebuilding

Liberal Democrat Party President Tim Farron has slammed Labour’s plans for housebuilding, pointing to their terrible record when in government.

By the time they left office the number of new homes being built had fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s.

Under Labour repossessions reached a 14 year high and the number of families waiting for a social home nearly doubled from 1 million to 1.8 million.

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Commenting, Tim Farron MP said:

“Labour want us to pretend that the housing problems we face in Britain are nothing to do with them, but they totally failed to deal with the issue in office.

“Under Labour, the number of affordable homes fell by 421,000 while this coalition have increased the number by 190,000. They have no right to lecture about how we solve a housing problem they did not nothing to address.

“Labour didn’t have the solutions in government and they don’t have the solutions now. Building 200,000 houses a year is an unambitious target that does not even keep up with household demand.

“The Liberal Democrats plan for 300,000 new homes a year would help clear the backlog and address Britain’s housing problems.”

At the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow, Lib Dems reaffirmed their commitment to ambitious plans to accelerate housebuilding to 300,000 new homes every year.

The conference motion, proposed by Tim Farron, includes plans for the creation of a Housing Investment Bank to boost homebuilding and deliver homes to help low-income working families who are earning too much to get a place in social housing but unable to afford a home on the open market.

Posted by The Liberal Democrats on 16 October, 2014 @ 3:33 PM

State pension set to rise by 2.5 per cent next year

Pensioners will benefit from a 2.5 per cent increase in their state pension thanks to the Liberal Democrat Triple Lock guarantee.

Figures out today (14 October) show that inflation is below target meaning that the basic state pension will be boosted by 2.5 per cent next year.

The Triple Lock guarantee means that pensions will increase with inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent – whichever is highest.

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Commenting on the inflation figures, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said:

“This below target inflation number is good news for everyone, but will help pensioners in particular as the Liberal Democrat flagship ‘Triple Lock’ policy will kick in to give an above inflation pension increase.

“The Triple Lock delivers a pension rise of whichever is the greater of average earnings, inflation or 2.5%.

“This means that next year the basic state pension will rise by 2.5% or £2.85 a week.  With Liberal Democrats in Government the basic state pension has risen by over £950.

“This shows that pensioners are at the heart of our Liberal Democrat vision of a stronger economy and a fairer society.

“They’ve done their bit for society and paid their dues over a lifetime. Our Triple Lock policy ensures our country does right by them.

“This is in stark contrast to life under the Conservatives who broke the link between pensions and earnings in the Thatcher years, and life under Labour when pensioners were insulted with rises as low as 75p.”

Posted by The Liberal Democrats on 14 October, 2014 @ 10:00 AM

New mental health waiting time standards set

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has today announced that treatment for mental health conditions will be brought into line with other NHS services with the introduction of the first ever waiting time standards.

For the first time, from April 2015, most patients needing talking therapies – for conditions like depression – will be guaranteed the treatment they need in as little as six weeks, with a maximum wait of 18 weeks.

For many patients experiencing their first episode of psychosis, the NHS will start to provide treatment within two weeks of referral – bringing it into line with consultations for cancer. Evidence shows that treating psychosis rapidly can dramatically improve patients’ chances of recovery and potentially save £44 million each year in hospital admissions.

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Nick said:

“At least one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lives. Whilst I have nothing but praise for the tremendous work of NHS staff, the system is still letting patients down.

“It’s wrong that relatives and friends needing a hip operation can expect treatment within a clear timeframe but someone with a debilitating mental health condition has no clarity about when they will get help.

“For years, NHS waiting standards have existed for patients with physical ailments and they have drastically cut long waits. Now we are finally ending the injustice of people with mental health conditions waiting far too long for treatment with the first ever waiting time standards for NHS mental health services.”

The announcement is part of a radical five-year plan to end years of imbalance between mental and physical healthcare services, backed by £40 million this year and £80 million freed up next year.

Liberal Democrat Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb, said:

“I want to build a fairer society and that means mental health has got to be a priority for everyone. As well as being potentially devastating for people affected, mental illness has an enormous impact on our economy. That’s why, through these plans, I am absolutely determined to make sure anyone with a mental health condition can expect the same standards of care as they would for a physical health problem.

“I urge the whole health and care system to engage with these ambitious plans to drive up standards so that, by 2020, mental and physical health services will be given equal priority in all parts of the country.”

Other measures include:

Investment in psychiatry services in acute hospitals so that more people than ever before who go to A&E in a mental health crisis, for example if they have self-harmed, will get the right help at the right time.

A £7 million investment by NHS England to create 50 new inpatient beds for children and young people and better case management so that children with specialist needs get the right care in the right place, as close as possible to their homes and families.

Posted by The Liberal Democrats on 08 October, 2014 @ 12:01 AM
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