Karen Buck

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Parliament’s role in the UK’s Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council

Karen Buck MP

Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Day Reception

Monday 12 December 2016

These are challenging times for human rights.  Popular disaffection with politics is placing the laws and machinery that protect human rights under increasing strain.  The political consensus which underpinned those protections is evaporating fast and the international institutions which protect human rights face a resurgence of isolationist nationalism and a retreat from engagement.  Critics of human rights often complain about the lack of democratic legitimacy in human rights decision-making.  In the face of these challenges, it is more important than ever that Parliament gets more involved in debates and discussions about human rights.

Because of its constitutional functions of making law and holding the Government to account, Parliament is well placed to be an effective protector of human rights.  It can both prevent violations of human rights from arising in the first place, and it can act to implement recommendations where such violations are found to have happened, to prevent them from happening again.

But most importantly, Parliament is uniquely placed to confront directly the growing concern about the democratic legitimacy of human rights.  Elected politicians can feel disempowered if the guardianship of human rights is left exclusively to courts and lawyers.  The great challenge today is to find ways to ensure that democratically elected politicians have a meaningful role to play in the interpretation and application of human rights standards.

The UK’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council provides such an opportunity.  The first two reviews of the UK’s human rights record, in 2008 and 2012, largely passed our Parliament by.  There was no questioning of ministers about the UK’s draft Report to the Human Rights Council, and no scrutiny of or debate about that Report in Parliament before it was considered in Geneva. 

Today, the UN positively encourages parliaments to play a much more proactive role in the whole UPR process, realising that parliaments are important partners for the international human rights machinery.  In June this year, the Human Rights Council held a special session devoted to discussing the contribution of parliaments to the UPR process, and to identifying ways of enhancing that contribution in future.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member, is currently doing some important work following up on the recent recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.  I hope that this work will lead on to detailed engagement by the Committee with the UK’s UPR in the new year.  Parliament should scrutinise and debate the UK’s Report to the Human Rights Council, along with the shadow reports of both civil society and the UK’s national human rights institutions including the EHRC, and that parliamentary consideration should inform the Human Rights Council itself when it conducts the review. 

I welcome the EHRC’s Report and I hope that the JCHR will do everything it can to encourage detailed parliamentary engagement with the important issues it raises. 

The EHRC’s report covers 12 priority themes on which it makes a number of recommendations to the UK Government and the devolved administrations.   I would like to comment on three of those themes, on which I think Parliament has a particularly important role to play.

(1)          Our human rights framework

The Government has created a climate of great uncertainty about the future of our legal framework for protecting human rights in this country.  It says that it still intends to repeal the Human Rights Act and to replace it with a British Bill of Rights. Brexit has compounded that uncertainty, causing widespread anxiety that legal protections for human rights in the UK will be seriously diluted.  Parliament must scrutinise both the Brexit process and any proposals to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights to ensure that there is no watering down of the legal protections that human rights currently enjoy. 

(2)          Access to justice

Effective access to justice is one of the most important human rights, because often the protection of other fundamental rights depends upon it.  Yet all of the UN treaty bodies which have recently reported on the UK have expressed concern about the impact of the 2012 reforms to legal aid on access to justice in the UK.  Parliament must insist on there being an urgent review of the impact of that legislation on access to justice, and should rigorously scrutinise the impact of it on vulnerable groups such as children, disabled people and minorities.

(3)          Child poverty

Child poverty is an urgent human rights issue.  Every child has the right to an adequate standard of living and to social protection. Much evidence suggests an alarming increase in child poverty, yet the legal framework designed to reduce it has been seriously weakened, for example by removing legally binding targets which ministers must meet.  Parliament must insist on there being mechanisms capable of holding the Government to account in relation to child poverty.

The JCHR will, I hope, play its part in relation to these three themes, but this cannot be the job of one Committee alone: all Committees, and all parliamentarians, must be vigilant to ensure that no opportunity for scrutiny is missed. In these challenging times, it is no exaggeration to say that the long term survival of human rights protections depends on democratically elected politicians taking ownership of them and getting more involved in debates about their implications for law and policy.

My Speech at The Human Rights Day Reception

  Parliament’s role in the UK’s Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council Karen Buck MP Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Day Reception Monday 12 December...

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I share constituents concerns about the welfare of cats that are bought and sold and about the detrimental impact of poor breeding practices on the welfare of cats.


I believe it is vital that all breeders follow the high animal welfare standards enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) 2006, introduced by the previous Labour Government. The AWA, for the first time, embedded in statute clear standards relating to the welfare of animals. This Act makes owners and keepers responsible for ensuring the welfare needs of their animals are met and makes it an offence to cause unnecessary physical or mental suffering to animals, including cats. Under this Act, breeders of cats may be investigated by local authorities where there are welfare concerns. It is also the case that a business that sells cats, unless it falls within certain exemptions, needs a licence under the Pet Animals Act 1951. Local authorities have powers of inspection of pet shop premises.

However, I appreciate that while there is distinct legislation for breeding and for selling in the case of dogs, there is no equivalent legislation that regulates the breeding of cats. I agree that irresponsible breeding is a growing problem and I believe poor breeding practices contribute greatly to the number of abandoned animals rescue centres have to deal with.

At the 2015 general election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to improve protection of dogs and cats and my Shadow Frontbench colleagues are currently reviewing inadequate regulations on the breeding and sale of dogs and cats and are committed to ensure that animal welfare standards can be applied to modern trading practices such as online trade.

The Opposition will look to improve standards on the sale of kittens. The evidence shows kittens should not be sold under 8 weeks of age, and as with dogs, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues are looking to see if requiring the kitten to be sold with its mother present will enable new owners to see the wellbeing of the mother. This would be one way of ensuring cats being bred are in good health and are not experiencing consequences of over breeding, like prolapse. The Opposition is also looking at how enforcement could be brought to the number of litters a cat has in any given year. I note the call for all cats to be microchipped, which has been introduced for dogs from April 2016. If this scheme delivers the desired outcome, I believe we should look at how this could be extended to other animals.

As you know, the current Government is reviewing animal establishments licensing in England and is looking at the Pet Animals Act 1951 with a view to updating the laws on the breeding and selling of pet animals. I welcome this review.

The Government has proposed creating a single "animal establishment licence" for dog breeding, animal boarding, riding establishments and pet shops. The Government has said that the law will be clear that online and home-based businesses must also be licensed and plans to update the legal requirements for each licensed activity. The Government consulted on this from December 2015 to March 2016 and in September 2016, published a summary of the responses it had received. The Government has said that over the next few months, regulations will be drafted regarding the specific proposals, which will take into account the views expressed in the consultation.

While the consultation included several proposals on standards around the sale of puppies, I understand that Cats Protection made a submission to the consultation and I hope the Government will carefully consider the charity's views when setting out its response. I also note that the Government has recently indicated that it will be looking, as part of the current licensing review, to make it a requirement that both puppies and kittens should not be sold if they are under 8 weeks of age. I am following developments on this closely.

I will certainly continue to support the improved protection of cats and press for the highest possible standards of animal welfare.

Animal welfare - protecting puppies and kittens

I share constituents concerns about the welfare of cats that are bought and sold and about the detrimental impact of poor breeding practices on the welfare of cats. I believe...

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The NHS is now experiencing the worse financial squeeze in its history, facing on present trends, a shortfall of £20bn by 2020-21.  We also now know that the money committed by the government for the NHS is less than was promised (and, of course, the ‘£350m a week for the NHS’ supposedly to be re-directed from our EU contributions post-Brexit was an outright untruth). NHS finances have been looked into in detail by the Parliamentary Health Select Committee, and I have copied details of their most recent findings at the bottom of this letter.

At my most recent meeting with our local hospital trust, Imperial. I learned that their 2016/7 deficit is projected to reach £52m, and in addition, they must find £54m in ‘Cost Improvements’. Our local Clinical Commissioning Groups are deemed to be ‘over-funded’ and will see their budgets fall by 10% over the funding period. Cuts to the community pharmacy budget could lead to many closing. At the same time, local councils, which have faced cuts of up to 50%, have been forced to slash spending on social care- the home and community based services which can help patients be safely be discharged from hospital or even prevent them from having to go in the first place. And all the while needs are rising, primarily, though not entirely, as our population ages.

As you may know, our health services are part of the North West London region, whose structure has been under consideration for some time as part of a process known as “Shaping a healthier future”. This strategic approach is intended to promote better integration of care and the reshaping of the health and social services to increase specialisms in some areas, and build up primary and community care outside hospital. This was the underlying philosophy of the Darzi review under the last Labour government, which envisaged a big expansion of diagnostic and treatment facilities at a more local level, and those ideas to some extent fed in to the ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ plans we now have before us. There is much that is sound and sensible about the approach. The concentration of London’s stroke services into a smaller number of highly specialist units, for example, has definitely saved lives and led to better outcomes, whilst offering some services that currently need a trip to hospital in an expanded GP surgery is more convenient for patients. It is, in my view, important not to lose sight of this agenda- to accept that not all changes are bad, that the NHS needs to innovate, that funding will never be unlimited, and choices do have to be made.

Yet when these plans were first being drawn up, the financial situation was very different from what it is today. Now we know that necessary improvements have to be funded at a time of unprecedented financial pressure. ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ for NW London (now effectively turning into our local Sustainability and Transformation Plan) envisaged the closure of a number of Accident and Emergency units even though demand is rising, and alternative community based services are not yet fully developed and tested. Meanwhile, the Better Care Fund, which is shifting some money from hospitals to the community, has also had to plug holes made by cuts in Westminster Council support for social care. We saw all this before, when long-stay hospitals closed in the 1980s without adequate ‘care in the community’ being available- the essence of a good idea undermined in practice. And even though we don’t (thankfully) face the prospect of losing our Accident and Emergency unit at St Mary’s, there are many other risks arising from a full blown financial crisis.

The NHS does need to continue to change- developments in treatment and changes in the population make that essential- but it will struggle massively without considerable extra investment, not only in acute/hospital services but in primary, community, social and mental health care services.  We also need to ramp up measures to prevent illness and promote well-being- from tackling air pollution and obesity to better mental health interventions, and give urgent priority to reducing health inequalities.  So it is particularly shocking that the public health budget has been raided to offset the funding crisis in the clinical sector, and that council services which play a valuable prevention role (youth, play, advice) have been reduced so dramatically and poverty and homelessness are rising again. The NHS has never existed in isolation from the wider social and economic context.

So I will continue to make the case and my colleagues and I will hold the present government to account- on funding, on the re-organisation, and on other policies impacting on health. Sadly, it is they who determine both funding and policies, but it is important that we expose their record and I am grateful for constituents willingness to join this campaign.

Funding crisis in the NHS

The NHS is now experiencing the worse financial squeeze in its history, facing on present trends, a shortfall of £20bn by 2020-21.  We also now know that the money committed...

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The Europe debate has taken an extremely disturbing turn in the last few days, and the first thing to say is that there is an urgent need to try and ensure the rhetoric is dialled down. Politics has been conducted in a particularly highly charged atmosphere since the beginning of the referendum campaign, and whilst it would be wrong to link any specific event to this, it is surely no coincidence that hate crimes have risen sharply since the spring. Inflammatory language, whether used by politicians, the press or on social media, has consequences and we all have a responsibility to conduct ourselves calmly.

The High Court judgement  recently, represented in some quarters as an attempt to ‘reverse Brexit by undemocratic means’ is, of course, no such thing. As the judgment itself makes clear, the case was not about ‘the merits or demerits of leaving the EU…which is a political matter….but whether the Government is entitled to give notice of the decision to leave the EU under Article 50 by exercise of the Crown’s prerogative powers and without reference to Parliament’.

Whether or not this position is right (I believe it to be so) or whether it is reversed on appeal, it is absolutely right that we all robustly defend the independence of our judges. They are not, and should not be, immune from criticism, but headlines screaming that judges asserting the role of Parliament are ‘enemies of the people’ are both disgraceful and dangerous.

On the substance of Brexit itself, I was amongst the many millions bitterly disappointed by the result, and the last few months have only served to confirm the risks for our country; to say nothing of the extent to which lies put forward by some parts of the ‘Leave’ campaign have been exposed. It is now clear that the ‘Leavers’ have no plan for the country, and that we face the possibility of an extremely damaging ‘hard Brexit’ --which was by no means what most ‘leave’ voters thought they were endorsing.

It would be wholly irresponsible of Parliament not to do its best to mitigate the negative consequences of Brexit, and not to fight for the best outcome for London and the rest of the UK. We need to have a clear idea of what the Government’s preferred options for the UK’s relationship with the rest of the EU are before Article 50 is triggered and the nation is locked into the inflexible 2 year exit period. The ‘leave’ campaign promised that quitting the EU would make us richer, safer and happier. It’s now up to them to demonstrate how they will make it so.

There is a world of difference between ‘thwarting the expressed will of the people’, which would clearly be wrong, and seeking a constructive way of implementing the referendum decision that takes into account the long-term interests of all the British people – both ‘leavers’ and ‘remainers’.

I appreciate that the result of the referendum has raised uncertainty over the future rights of EU nationals living and working in the UK, and of UK nationals in the EU, particularly following comments made by Government Ministers which have suggested that this matter will form part of the EU-UK negotiations. This issue has been raised on a number of occasions with the Government in the House of Commons. On 6 July the Opposition put forward a motion calling on the Government to commit with urgency to giving EU nationals currently living in the UK the right to remain. I supported this motion and I am pleased that it passed overwhelmingly. The Government must now accept the decision of the House of Commons, end the uncertainty and confirm the legal status of EU nationals without delay.

My further response to Brexit

The Europe debate has taken an extremely disturbing turn in the last few days, and the first thing to say is that there is an urgent need to try and...

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It is clear that there is deep concern about this important service, as has been demonstrated by the number of letters I have received, the signatures on the petition and the attendance at the public meeting (on a dark winter’s night!)

There is understandable concern to protect rural post offices, on the grounds that they are important parts of a community and help sustain other services in a local area. However, I believe strongly that this argument also holds true in cities, where it is also essential to keep a local ‘heart’- Libraries, GPs and Post Offices all form part of that.

The Post Office are looking to cut another third from their budget, and it is cost that it driving these changes- whether they are closures or franchising. The question is, can any deal be struck between the Post Office, the staff and the Council who own the building in which the Post Office is currently located?         

I appreciate that the Council will also want to earn as much rent from the premises as possible, not least because of the massive cut in funding they have had to deal with.  But I would hope that a compromise might be reached in the fulfilment of the Council’s general duty to the community.

I have been speaking to the Council and the Post Office - and here is what the Post Office said just before the public meeting:

Dear Ms Buck

We are currently considering expressions of interest for a number of franchise opportunities, including St Johns Wood.  We will need to complete the detailed assessment of these before we are ready to communicate any firm proposals for the branch. Consequently if we were to attend this evening’s meeting we would not be able to discuss any potential franchise partner or potential new location of a franchised branch. As such at this stage there would be very little information we could share with customers beyond the fact that we have advertised for a franchise partner.

Once we have a formal proposal at St Johns Wood we will commence a period of public consultation. As part of this we will host a customer forum for members of the public, local stakeholders and other interested parties to speak to representatives of the Post Office so that they can better understand our proposals and how they can input to the public consultation.  We will also invite CWU to attend the forum. Our forums are held in a local venue and typically take place over a number of hours spanning the afternoon and evening to ensure they are convenient – we also publicise them via the local press and information in branch as well as alerting the local council and yourself as the local MP.  We have been running these forums for many years and find them to be the best way to engage with customers and others on these type of proposals.

Martine Munby
Public Affairs

Post Office Ltd

And when I contacted them again afterwards:  

Dear Karen

I do understand how important the Post Office service is to local residents and will of course keep you updated.  I can’t give you an indication of timescales yet but any franchise branch typically offers the same services as a Crown Post Office and we will run a public consultation when we have a proposal.  I’ll speak to the team managing this about your question around alternative sites for the Crown.

Kind regards

Martine

I can assure you that I will continue to make the case as strongly as I can - and we may need to move the campaign up a gear when we get a more specific proposal.

Thank you again

Karen Buck MP

In case you missed it, here’s the Wood and Vale’s coverage of the campaign from late September.

 

St John’s Wood Post Office

It is clear that there is deep concern about this important service, as has been demonstrated by the number of letters I have received, the signatures on the petition and...

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My Short Term Lets Survey

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In many parts of Asia - particularly China and South Korea - it is culturally acceptable to eat dog meat and the sale and consumption of dog meat is legal.

However, I appreciate that dogs used for meat are often kept in terrible conditions and I share constituents concerns about the barbaric nature of this trade and the inhumane way in which so many innocent animals are treated in its production. I therefore welcome the work of a wide range of animal welfare organisations in raising awareness of this issue. It is also the case, of course, that this industry presents a serious threat to human health.

As has been highlighted there was a debate in Westminster Hall on 12 September 2016 in relation to South Korea and the dog meat trade. This debate was granted after a petition calling on the UK Government to urge the South Korean government to end the dog meat trade has been signed by over 101,000 people. This debate followed a previous debate in the House of Commons on 5 November 2015 which called for an immediate end to dog meat trade cruelty and called on the Chinese government to stop the Yulin dog meat festival where thousands of dogs are cruelly bound, confined, trucked and slaughtered for meat each year. I am concerned that this festival continues despite huge pressure for it to stop. The motion was agreed to in the House of Commons on 5 November without a vote.

The UK Government points out that in the absence of international laws governing the trade and consumption of dog meat, the UK has no legal grounds to intervene or take trade measures against countries where the consumption of dog meat is regarded as culturally acceptable. However, the Government has said that it is prepared to tackle cultural norms, particularly when it comes to the consumption and use of animals, and that it will continue to raise concerns with countries engaged in the trade and the consumption of dog meat.

The Government has also issued a response to the petition about South Korea, in which it has stated that the UK continues to raise the issue of the ongoing consumption of dog meat in the Republic of Korea. The Government also states that the British Embassy in Seoul has raised the issue of cruelty towards animals on numerous occasions with the South Korean authorities and explained that the UK public and parliamentarians would like to see Korean regulation that would bring the practice to an end. The Government says it will continue to seek further opportunities to raise the issue, in particular as we approach the Winter Olympics in 2018, and that it will monitor developments in the Republic of Korea.

While the Government cannot legislate beyond the UK, I hope it will continue to use every diplomatic and other opportunities to ensure these cruel and hazardous practices are brought to an end and that it will press counterparts around the world to collaborate in efforts to change attitudes and reduce animal suffering.

My response to the Dog Meat debate

In many parts of Asia - particularly China and South Korea - it is culturally acceptable to eat dog meat and the sale and consumption of dog meat is legal....

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Advice Special


Sometimes we all need a little help...

Every year, the number of people needing help with problems goes up. In 2015, Westminster Citizens Advice alone reported a staggering 10,095 cases - and many more people struggle on in silence with money, benefits issues, housing or other worries.  Every year my staff and I also assist thousands of people with queries and problems. Sometimes this involves direct help or representation, and sometimes we refer constituents elsewhere - for legal or specialist advice (we often get the best results by working together with lawyers or other agencies.)

I am always pleased to hear from constituents and to try and help whenever I can, but given the huge amount of need for help and advice there is, I thought it would be useful to put some of the most useful info (local and national) into an e-mail for constituents to use or keep for future reference.

This doesn’t cover everything by a long way, but it’s a start and please remember it is always better to seek advice early!


Contents
 
Local agencies:
Westminster Citizens Advice
Advice Plus
Zaccheus 2000
 
Money and debt advice:
Turn2us
Stepchange Debt charity
 
Housing advice:
Shelter
LEASE
 
Heating costs and saving energy:
Energy Saving Trust
 
Immigration:
Migrant Resource Centre
Immigration Advisory Service
 
NHS:
PALS
 
Pensions:
Pension Wise
Check your state pension
 
Employment:
ACAS
 
Local environment - dumping, noise…
‘Report it’ to Westminster Council
 
Crime and anti-social behaviour:
Police on line and non-emergency numbers (but always call 999 if a crime is in progress)
 
Support for young people:
 
Councillors (and me!)


Local Advice Organisations

Westminster Citizens Advice Bureau


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We are an independent charity that provides free, confidential and impartial information and advice to the residents of the City of Westminster.

www.westminstercab.org.uk

How can we help?
 
You can call us for information on 08444 771 611 (Calls are charged at 7ppm from landlines. Mobile rates may vary.)

Drop-in Opening Times

Our drop-in sessions are run in a range of different venues across Westminster each week day, so there will be one near you! Trained volunteers will carry out a brief triage assessment to try to find the best way to help solve your problem. They might provide you with information so you can take action yourself, or help you to get in touch with an organisation that can assist you; or, if it is something we deal with and your problem is complex, they may book you for a ‘Call Back’ or ‘Face-to-face’ appointment with one of our advisers.

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday 1st Sat of Month*
Beethoven Community Centre
Third Avenue
London W10 4JL
13.30 - 16.00          
WECH Community Centre
Athens Gardens (entrance via Chantry Close off Elgin Avenue)
W9 2HX
  15.00 - 17.00        
Citizens Advice Westminster
21a Conduit Place
London W2 1HS
                     

17.30 - 19.00

(for employed only)

                         

4th Friday       
(women only)

14.00 - 16.00*       

09.30 - 12.00      
Church Street Library
67 Church Street
NW8 8EU
    10.30 - 12.30               
             
             

Other Services

For those people whose first language is not English and may need language support. There are special opening times when there may be someone who speaks your language.

If you are over the age of 55 there is an Older People’s Service. There is also a service for Families with a child under 5.

Advice Plus at Beethoven Centre

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This is an open-access drop-in advice shop to help people in need to access good quality advice. It takes place on Mondays at:

Beethoven Centre
Third Avenue
London 
W10 4J

www.a2dominion.co.uk/adviceplus


Telephone:
020 8825 1067

Opening Hours:
Drop-in advice sessions
Mon 2pm-4pm

(Money Matters service from 1pm)
 
Services Offered:
Benefits, Consumer, Money, Employment, Housing, Health
And on Wednesdays at:

Advice Plus at Church Street Library

Address:
Church Street Library
67 Church Street
London NW8 8EU
Opening Hours:

Drop-in sessions
Wed 10.30am-12.30pm (Doors open 10am)

Zacchaeus 2000

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Help & Advice

We provide free advice and support for vulnerable people with household debt or welfare problems.
We can help you if:
  • you are a low-income family or individual, and
  • you are eligible for means tested welfare benefits or other public funds, and
  • you live in London
We cannot help:
  • With any issue that has an element of immigration or fraud
  • With family, consumer or criminal matters
Please contact us to see if we can help or attend an advice drop in session.

Please feel free to give our team a call with any queries you may have. You can also attend on of our advice drop-in sessions.

Our telephone hours are Monday to Friday, 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 3pm. If you contact us outside of these hours, please leave a voicemail message and we will respond to you within 48 hours.

General Enquiries, Training courses, and Volunteering Opportunities

Phone: 02072590801 – select option 3.

Council Tax, Welfare Benefits and Housing Advice

For enquiries relating to issues with your council tax, welfare benefits and housing, or for advice on how the welfare reform will affect your housing benefits.

Phone: 02072590801 – select option 1

Private Rented Sector Access Scheme

For enquiries relating to moving into rented accommodation.

Phone: 02072590801 – select option 2
 
Please feel free to give our team a call with any queries you may have. You can also attend on of our advice drop-in sessions.
Our telephone hours are Monday to Friday, 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 3pm. If you contact us outside of these hours, please leave a voicemail message and we will respond to you within 48 hours.

Money and Benefits Advice
Turn2us

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This summer I took part in a campaign to promote Turn2us and the important work they do in helping make sure everyone claims what they are entitled to. You can see my video clip here.

Turn2us is a national charity that helps people in financial hardship to gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services – online, by phone and face to face through partners and volunteersThe Turn2us website includes a Benefits Calculator to find out what welfare benefits and tax credits you could be entitled to, a Grants Search to find out if you might be eligible for support from over 3,000 charitable funds, and a range of information and resources to help people in financial hardshipTurn2us can also provide direct financial assistance through a range of specific funds that are managed directly by the charity, including the Elizabeth Finn Fund which supports people from over 120 different professions. For more information, please visit www.turn2us.org.uk


Step Change

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Debts are a source of huge worry to people, and can seriously affect mental and even physical health. This is a great website, which you can use to contact an advisor, or to do Debt Remedy, the online debt advice service.

The helplines are open 8am-9pm Monday to Friday and 8am-4pm on Saturdays 

Free advice on problem debt based on what's best for you

0800 138 1111 Freephone (including all mobiles)

Housing

Locally, my office, councillors, the CAB, Law Centre and local law firms deal with huge numbers of housing cases, from disrepair to homelessness, but the Shelter helpline is also an important way to get help, including when other services are closed.

Shelter London Advice Service

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Call us

020 3811 1683

Shelter’s London advice line offers free specialist advice on housing issues across all London boroughs. This includes advice on debt, welfare, and guidance on access to accommodation and available local services.

Face-to-face advice sessions are held, by appointment, in many boroughs. If you are eligible for legal aid, Shelter London’s legal services offer advice and court representation in cases including possession hearings, evictions and ASB injunctions. Shelter London is also able to offer telephone advice on fuel debt and energy problems, 0344 515 1212

Leaseholders

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The Lease website has just had a makeover and is a really good first stop for both private and council leaseholders:
LEASE provides FREE initial advice to members of the public on residential long leasehold and park homes law. We can help if your enquiry is about a flat or leasehold house with a lease longer than 21 years or park homes.

Initial advice is defined as the provision of outline, summary, legal advice – as much as can be fitted into a 15 minute time-slot – on residential long leasehold and park homes law, together with the recommendation as to where more detailed information can be found (should that be needed), in order that the client is aware of their options, and potential risks and is, therefore, able to make an informed decision as to what appropriate action they may need to take next.

LEASE is not able to advise on:
  • assured or assured shorthold tenancies (eg less than 21 years and where rent is paid weekly or monthly)
  • commercial leases (a shop or other business)
To help you get the advice you need as conveniently as possible, here are some tips:
  1. Use the interactive tool on our website. Start by clicking one of the links below to access helpful advice guides that may provide the answer you need:
  1. If you still can’t find the advice you need you can call our advice helpline. To make the best use of your time, make sure that before you call you:
  • write down a clear outline of your problem and any questions you have. This can help the adviser help you more easily
  • make sure you have relevant documents to hand
  • have a pen and paper, as leasehold law can be complicated and you may want to make some notes
We can provide advice by email, telephone, letter or in person at the office.
Telephone helpline: 020 7832 2500
Monday to Friday from 9:30-15:00

Heating and Saving Energy
Energy Saving Trust 

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“Independent, expert advice on saving energy in your home”Contact the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234 (all you pay for is a national rate call). Alternatively you can email energy-advice@est.org.ukHours for callingMonday to Friday, 9am to 8pm www.energysavingtrust.org.uk

Immigration/Home Office

Immigration Advisory Service

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Providing some of the most experienced immigration solicitors London has to offer, here at IAS we can help with anything and everything to do with immigration.

Situated in South East London, the Immigration Advice Service office on Borough High Street offers a professional environment for you to discuss your case with us. Our specialist team will expertly review your case and give you dedicated immigration advice and guidance to help you on your way to resolving your immigration issue, or submitting a successful application.

Having the in-depth knowledge, experience and resources to explore all the options open to you and taking the time to listen to your individual circumstance, we are able to fully analyse your immigration matters on a case by case basis and can provide you with the best advice and representation from a dedicated immigration solicitor based right here in London.

You can be assured that with the IAS immigration lawyers in London you will benefit from a professional and thorough service that will follow your needs and requirements closely, ensuring the success of your immigration case.

www.iasservices.org.uk

Tulip House
70 Borough High Street
London
SE1 1XF

Tel: 020 3740 4613

Migrant Resource Centre

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The MRC offers a range of free services to support migrants, refugees and asylum seekers on their journey towards integration into their host society. By supporting them to develop their skills and understand their rights and responsibilities, we enable them to fully participate in and contribute to that society.

We provide a safe place in which users are able to learn, to meet with others, to speak out for a better world and to move on feeling stronger. We also play a strong part in initiating and participating in campaigns, networks and partnerships to improve the lives of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Specifically, we aim to:• Improve the image and perception of migrants and refugees in the UK

• Promote social justice
• Enable and encourage two-way integration through dialogue, mutual acceptance and respectTo achieve this we offer:• Specialist immigration and asylum advice
• General information and advice
• Employment, education and training advice and support
• Information on accessing health services

Head Office:Migrants Resource Centre
Eurocentres
56 Eccleston Square
2nd floor
London
SW1V 1PHGeneral enquiries
(not advice):
0207 834 2505

www.migrantsresourcecentre.org.uk
info@migrants.org.uk

Health

Patient advice and liaison service (PALS)

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PALS is an independent service available to patients, relatives, carers or visitors. PALS can:
  • Listen to your concerns, suggestions or queries
  • Help sort out problems quickly on your behalf
  • Put you in touch with other sources of help
  • Feedback issues to our organisation to improve services and patient experience
  • Advise you on how to request copies of medical records
Contact PALS
  • Email pals@imperial.nhs.uk: use this email address to raise concerns and give feedback on any of our sites or services
  • Complete a PALS form: Use this form to explain your concern or give feedback, and provide contact details so we can get in touch with you. You can fill this form in yourself or one of our PALS officers can help you complete it.
  • Call or visit one of our PALS offices below:
PALS at Charing Cross, Hammersmith and Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea hospitals

Call 

020 3313 0088, Monday to Friday, 09.30-17.00. An answer phone system operates at busy times and out of hours. Please leave a message with your name and phone number and a member of staff will call you back.

Walk-in PALS office

Ground floor, main hospital entrance, Charing Cross Hospital, Fulham Place Road, London W6 8RF 

Monday to Friday, 09.30-17.00

There is no walk in office at Hammersmith or Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea hospitals, however you can discuss any issues you have at the PALS office in Charing Cross Hospital.

Postal address

PALS manager, Charing Cross Hospital, Fulham Place Road, London W6 8RF

PALS at St Mary’s Hospital and the Western Eye Hospital
Call

020 3312 7777, Monday to Friday, 09.00-17.00. An answer phone system operates at busy times and out of hours. Please leave a message with your name and phone number and a member of staff will call you back.

Walk-in PALS office

Ground floor of the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (QEQM) building, St Mary’s Hospital, South Wharf Road, London W2 1NY. See hospital map
Monday to Friday, 09.30-17.00

Postal address

PALS manager, Ground Floor, Clarence Wing, St Mary’s Hospital, South Wharf Road, London W2 1NY

Making a complaint

If, despite our best efforts, we are not able to resolve your concerns informally with the staff caring for you or via PALS, you have the choice to make a formal complaint. 
To make a complaint please email our complaints office at: complaints@imperial.nhs.uk or send a letter addressed to: 

Complaints department
4th floor
Salton House
St Mary’s Hospital
Praed Street W2

Pensions

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Pension Wise only provides guidance on defined contribution pensions.

Phone 0800 138 3944 to book a free appointment

You can find out what you can do with your pension pot, how to shop around and what to look out for with taxes and fees.

We explain how to avoid pension scams and the importance of taking your time to make sure your money lasts as long as you do.
Talk about your pension options

Pension Wise is a free and impartial government service.

Book an appointment to get guidance over the phone or face to face. You’ll talk about your pension options and what you can do next.

At the end of your appointment you’ll get a printed summary of the options and next steps you need to take.


Pension Wise won’t recommend any products or tell you what to do with your money.

Who the service is for

Pension Wise can help if:
  • you’re aged 50 or over, and
  • have a defined contribution pension. These are not final salary or career average pensions.
If you have a final salary or career average pension, you can still get information from these organisations:
 
Check your state pension entitlement
 
Gov.uk now has a page on which you can answer some questions and find out how much state pension you will be entitled you.
 
ACAS
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Acas offers a free, confidential advice service on employment rights issues.

www.acas.org.uk 0300 123 1100

Issues in the local environment

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Westminster Council’s ‘Report it’ page on their website lets you tell them immediately about a number of issues affecting the local environment.

www.westminster.gov.uk/report-it


Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour

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The Met website allows you to report a number of crimes and find out about crime in the local area.

content.met.police.uk/Home

Have you been a victim of crime?

Westminster Victim Support

02077246032


Help for Young People

Locally:

www.westminster.gov.uk/young-westminster

And also:

The Mix

For free & Confidential Help for U-25s By Phone, Email, SMS or WebChat:

TheMix_logo.png

 Freephone: 0808 808 4994

 1-2-1 Chat  www.themix.org.uk

The National Youth Agency

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The National Youth Agency provides an online information source for young people and all those working with them. It has information about training, education, work, housing, money and health and more. www.nya.org.uk 0116 242 7350


And finally….

Contact me:

Karen Buck MP

House of Commons
London SW1AOAA
0208 9687999
@KarenPBuck on Twitter

Councillors

You are also represented by 3 elected councillors in each ward of Westminster City Council - some Labour, mostly Conservative.
You can find our who your local councillors are through this link.
Here are details of the councillor’s surgeries that I know about:

Maida Vale, Cllr Rita Begum – rbegum2@westminster.gov.uk 0207 641 5371 On the second Thursday of the month 6pm to 7pm at the Maida Vale Estate Office 1 Glasgow House Lanark Road London W9 1QY. On the third Saturday of each month from 11am to 12 Midday at the Paddington Recreational Ground Cafe - Randolph Avenue London W9 1PD.

 

Harrow Rd, Cllr Ruth Bush – rbush@westminster.gov.uk, Cllr Guthrie McKie – gmckie@westminster.gov.uk, Cllr Tim Roca – troca@westminster.gov.uk - 020 7641 4299 every Saturday between 11am and 12 noon at The Stowe Centre, 258 Harrow Road, W2 5ES, and the Beethoven Centre, 3rd Avenue, W10 4JL.  Every Monday from 2-4pm.

 

Westbourne, Cllr David Boothroyd, dboothroyd@westminster.gov.uk ,  Cllr Adam Hug, ahug@westminster.gov.uk,  Cllr Papya Qureshi, pqureshi1@westminster.gov.uk – 0207 219 2330 every Saturday between 11am and 12 noon at The Stowe Centre, 258 Harrow Road, W2 5ES, and the Beethoven Centre, 3rd Avenue, W10 4JL.  Every Monday from 2-4pm.

 

Church Street, Cllr Barbara Grahame, bgrahame@westminster.gov.uk, Cllr Aicha Less, aless@westminster.gov.uk, Cllr Aziz Toki, Atoki@westminster.gov.uk - 020 7641 4299 Every Tuesday between 5.30-6.30pm and every Wednesday between 10.30am - 12.30pm at Church Street Library, 67 Church Street.

 

Queen’s Park – Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, pdimoldenberg@westminster.gov.uk Cllr Patricia McAllister  pmcallister@westminster.gov.uk, Cllr Barrie Taylor btaylor@westminster.gov.uk – 0207 641 4299, very Saturday between 11am and 12 noon at The Stowe Centre, 258 Harrow Road, W2 5ES and the Beethoven Centre, 3rd Avenue, W10 4JL.  Every Monday from 2-4pm.

For details of other Councillor’s contacts/surgeries, please contact Westminster Council.


 I hope this information is helpful!


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Karen Buck MP

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Website: www.karenbuck.org.uk

Promoted by Robert Atkinson on behalf of Karen Buck MP at 4G Shirland Mews, Maida Hill, London, W9 3DY. The information used to supply this email is for the use of Karen Buck and will not be passed on to any third party organisation.

 

Advice E-Newsletter

Advice Special Sometimes we all need a little help... Every year, the number of people needing help with problems goes up. In 2015, Westminster Citizens Advice alone reported a staggering...

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Thank you very much for your e-mail.

Of course I will be there to vote in the debate, although my Human Rights Select Committee meets at the same time and I am may not actually be able to speak on this occasion. However, I can assure you that I have contributed to a number of other recent debates about the NHS, locally and nationally, and will continue to do so!

We face a massive set of overlapping problems in the NHS, the tackling of which has been hindered rather than helped by the expensive and unnecessary reorganisation contained in the 2012 Act. The NHS is now experiencing the worse financial squeeze in its history and if no action is taken faces a shortfall of £20bn by 2020-21. At the same time, local government has been forced to slash spending on social care- i.e. the home and community based services which can help patients be discharged safely from hospital or even prevent them from having to be admitted in the first place. And all the while needs are constantly rising- primarily, though not entirely, because of an ageing population.

Somewhere, now deeply buried underneath all this, lie the bones of some good ideas- the better integration and reshaping of the health and social services to increase specialisms in some areas. The concentration into fewer, better, stroke and trauma services has undoubtedly saved lives. And the building up of  primary and community care outside hospital which  was the underlying philosophy of the Darzi review under the last Labour government, and which  envisaged a big expansion of diagnostic and treatment outside of hospitals were good ideas .  And those ideas have, to some extent, fed in to the ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ plans we now have before us. (‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ is the strategy for North West London’s NHS).

At one level, the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) are intended to drive that agenda, not just in NW London but across the country, but (and it is a huge ‘But’) a lot has changed since the original concept was set out.

As money has drained out of both the NHS and social care, changes have to be funded by cuts elsewhere. ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ for NW London envisages the closure of a number of Accident and Emergency units  even while demand is rising, and in any event before alternative community based services are fully developed and tested. At my regular meeting with Imperial last week, for example, I learned that the 2016/7 deficit is projected to reach £52m, and, in addition, the Hospital Trust has to find £54m in ‘Cost Improvements’. Our local Clinical Commissioning Groups are deemed to be ‘over-funded’ and will see their budgets fall by 10% over the funding period. Meanwhile, the Better Care Fund, which is shifting some money from hospitals to the community, is simultaneously plugging holes made by cuts in Westminster Council support for social care. We saw all this before, when long-stay hospitals closed in the 1980s without adequate ‘care in the community’ being available- the essence of a good idea undermined in practice.

Westminster Council has been considering the STP proposals via reports to their Health and Well-Being Board, so in a sense, none of this is particularly secret or new. (Here it is, by the way)

However, there has certainly not been an honest presentation to the public of the scale of the financial pressures/cuts, nor the impact of changing patterns of demand. I am sure that the (Conservative) Council doesn’t want to publicise the plans, in order to avoid rocking the boat politically, though on the other hand Hammersmith Council has been outspoken and refused to sign them off.

The NHS does need to continue to change- developments in treatment and changes in the population make that essential. But it will struggle massively without considerable extra investment, not only in acute/hospital services but in primary, community, social and mental health care services as well.  We also need to ramp up measures to prevent illness and promote well-being- from tackling air pollution and obesity to better mental health interventions, and give urgent priority to reducing health inequalities.

In the meantime, the worry is that the hospital changes, which affect us in Westminster rather less than they do in  places like Hammersmith, (where they have been battling to save Charing Cross Hospital) have been driven more by the need to cut costs and generate receipts from land sales than by a proper plan to improve health care.

As I say, I will certainly vote for the motion later and continue to do all I can to expose the pressures on the NHS. Even under the strain it is unde , there is so much to value and be proud of in our system of healthcare, and we must fight to preserve, protect and improve it.

Kind regards

 

Karen Buck MP

Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) and the NHS

Thank you very much for your e-mail. Of course I will be there to vote in the debate, although my Human Rights Select Committee meets at the same time and...

Church_Street.jpg

Many local residents have been in touch to ask, or express concerns about, the conditions in these blocks, and the effect of the delay in the regeneration programme.

Cllr Grahame and I attended the meeting a few weeks ago and heard complaints about

  • the state of the blocks, including issues with the lifts
  • cleaning and rubbish in the area, including some of the communal areas.
  • problems with boilers/heating and hot water.
  • lack of communication about progress of regeneration

I have been very concerned for many years about these blocks (as have your councillors), especially regarding what would happen to them if there were to be delays to the planned development of the area. These fears have been realised to some extent as the dates have slipped.

I thought it would be useful to get a clearer picture from you about what you think, and what concerns you may have, so here is a short survey to gather your views.

 

Church Street Blocks Survey

Many local residents have been in touch to ask, or express concerns about, the conditions in these blocks, and the effect of the delay in the regeneration programme. Cllr Grahame...

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