Shortly after I was elected as an MP, the revelation of the horrific sexual exploitation of Rotherham children and the wholesale failures of statutory authorities to act to protect them and bring perpetrators to justice came to light. From that point on I campaigned for greater recognition of child sexual exploitation (CSE). This culminated in persuading the Prime Minister to establish a task force to strengthen our national response to CSE and improve support for victims and survivors.
I led a cross-party Parliamentary inquiry with Barnardo’s to determine whether existing child protection laws were fit for purpose. The report of the inquiry is available here. As a result of the inquiry, I successfully campaigned to change the law on grooming and strengthen child protection laws. The law previously stated that a child had to be contacted multiple times in order for an offence of grooming to be committed. The change I secured means that now, only one attempt to contact the child needs to be made for the police to act, greatly improving the authorities’ ability to safeguard vulnerable children.
I continue to campaign for better child protection and more support for abuse survivors, particularly in Rotherham. I have secured increased funding for Rotherham, both to support survivors of CSE and to ensure the police have the resources they need to bring perpetrators to justice.
In 2014, my Ten-Minute Rule Bill on Equal Pay led to the Government finally bringing mandatory pay audits into force. This means that companies that employ more than 250 people must publish details of pay for both their male and female staff. Mandatory pay audits were introduced as part of the last Labour government’s ground-breaking Equality Act 2010. Labour knew then, as we know now, that transparency will push companies to focus on the reasons why the pay gap still exists and highlight this clearly to the government where changes are necessary.
In 2015, I was appointed as Shadow Minister for Preventing Abuse and Domestic Violence, building on my work helping victims.
As a result of my work with survivors of abuse, I increasingly came to recognise that there existed a worrying lack of understanding of the risks faced by children. There were virtually no resources for parents and children to help recognise the signs of abuse and to protect at risk children. This inspired me to launch my campaign, Dare2Care, which brings together tools and resources to support parents, children and professionals to prevent abuse before it starts. In Parliament, I campaigned to introduce statutory age-appropriate sex and relationship education (SRE) to make sure that our children are able to recognise healthy relationships. My campaign resulted in the Government introducing mandatory age-appropriate SRE for all children in the 2017 Children and Social Work Act, and this will be rolled out in primary schools throughout 2018.
In October 2016, I was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and made a member of the Shadow Cabinet.
My priorities as Shadow Secretary of State were improving economic policies for women, continuing to advocate for education and preventative measures against gender-based violence, as well as safeguarding and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and related communities (LGBT+). I continue to campaign passionately on these issues from the backbenches.
I continue to campaign for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention for Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. This would ensure that we offer universal support for victims and survivors.
In the course of my work, I have met with a great many survivors of child sexual exploitation. Through these meetings, I became aware that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, which administers compensation claims for victims of crime, was denying claims to survivors of abuse on the grounds that they had ‘consented’. This outrageous policy was in total contradiction to the law, which is clear that no child can consent to sexual activity. That a government agency was ruling that survivors of the most appalling abuse were somehow complicit in their ordeal was truly shocking. I successfully campaigned for the guidance governing such claims to be redrafted and as a result, new guidelines have been issued which correct this terrible injustice.
Since I was elected, I have worked closely with the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign to secure a public inquiry into the events at Orgreave, which is in my constituency. I was in the House of Commons chamber when the Government shamefully announced that no such inquiry would be held. Since then, I have continued to work to keep Orgreave on the agenda, submitting petitions and asking questions to remind the Government that this will not simply go away.
I have always put my constituents’ needs first and have campaigned on the issues that matter to them. I have a proven track record on fighting for what matters to Rotherham, from defending steel jobs to saving local Sure Start centres. I consider my duty to my constituents to be my first priority and always try to be as accessible as I can when they need me, be that online where I maintain an active presence on social media, or responding to letters and emails, or meeting my constituents in person at my regular surgeries and community visits.
I take great pride in providing a service to constituents and have supported thousands with personal issues and casework. I always work hard to deliver the best possible outcome for them when they are in need.
I will continue to provide a strong voice for my constituents, both nationally and locally and to reward the faith shown in me by the people of Rotherham.