On 6th June, I was delighted to meet with Rory MacFarlane, Vice President for Equal Opportunities at Aberdeen University Student Association (AUSA) and Paul Greene, President of Communication & Democracy at RGU to highlight my support for NUS’s campaign against the Government’s cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).
DSA is paid to cover additional expenditure that a student incurs due to a disability. The Government’s cuts would mean that there would be no national scheme and individual higher education institutions would be responsible for delivering a scheme resulting not only in a postcode lottery when it comes to the support provided but also creating a disincentive to universities taken on disabled students.
I have now signed Early Day Motion (EDM) 48, tabled by David Blunkett, which recognises the importance of ensuring that there is equality of access to education for disabled students wherever they chose to study.
Dame Anne recently met with the Feed4for5 team, a group of students from Aberdeen College taking part in the Money For Life challenge which aims to improve money management throughout the UK.
After conducting some research, the team found that the average person spends £1320 on fast food each year. In order to tackle this problem they want to offer cheaper, healthier alternatives which can feed four people for £5. They have built a competition around their project, which invites people to submit their own Feed4for5 recipes to the group’s facebook page, with the most liked recipe receiving a special prize.
Member of the group, Jessica Cook stated: “We chose this particular issue to work with because these are problems that we are growing up with and we want to highlight the issues of saving the environment, putting our money to good use and lowering obesity levels. We want to highlight these to raise awareness essentially and to teach people ways that they can help stop these issues from getting worse. Our main goal is to show people that there are many ways to save money when it comes to food.”
Dame Anne said, ‘I was delighted to meet the Feed4for5 team who are working hard to reduce the amount of fast food which we consume. We all lead hectic lives and I know how easy it can be to be tempted to order a takeaway after a busy day. However, taking part in the Feed4for5 challenge will hopefully show people how cooking from scratch can be cheaper and healthier!”
Dame Anne Begg MP attended one of the most dramatic and distressing exhibitions ever promoted in the House of Commons highlighting the hidden nature of Modern Day Slavery.
The exhibition, built by students from the Central St Martin’s College of Art, depicts the four different kinds of slavery hidden away in our society. Curtains, doors, drawers and tea chests concealed the stories and photographs of survivors.
The survivors who shared their stories with the Human Trafficking Foundation to create the exhibition attended the opening. Among them was Cristina, a Romanian girl sold by her mother into prostitution in Birmingham when she was 16 and who narrowly escaped being snatched from her local authority care home by her traffickers. There was also a man, duped by a job advertised in Hungary, and on arrival here forced to work without pay, compelled to open a credit card account operated by his slave master, forced to claim benefits for non-existent children.
No one knows the real numbers involved. Yet, the Serious Organized Crime Agency knows that at least 2,000 victims are found each year. However, they believe that is the tip of the iceberg and that for every victim found, another ten remain hidden. The Human Trafficking Foundation concludes there must be up to 20,000 slaves in the cities, towns and villages of the UK.
Of these victims that have come to light, 6% are known to have come from Scotland.
MP for Aberdeen South, Dame Anne said “Due to recent local press coverage on this issue this week, we are all aware that there are deeply traumatised people who have been trafficked to the UK and abused living in Aberdeen.
“That’s why I recently held an event on International Women’s Day to raise awareness of human trafficking and I want to ensure that everyone in Aberdeen is more alert to the signs of modern day slavery. I hope students in schools, public service workers, the police, as well as those in private business will join me in this task.
“In parliament, I have already tabled a question to the Minister asking that frontline staff are fully trained to recognise the signs of human trafficking. I want to see modern day slavery put at the top of the political agenda.”
Anthony Steen, Chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation said: “What is amazing is that trafficked children, unlike adults, are offered no special care in spite of what they have been through. They have no safe haven since in local authority care hundreds of trafficked children go missing each year.
On the 19th November, Dame Anne Begg was delighted to join the Aberdeen University Student Stop AIDS Campaign. A ‘Joint the Patent Pool Party’ demonstration outside St Nicholas Centre in Aberdeen was organised by students to support this cause. The demonstration is part of a nationwide campaign to lobby the Johnson&Johnson pharmaceutical company to put their HIV medication patents into the Medicines Patent Pool, set up by UNITAID.
On 7th October, Dame Anne took part in a Question Time-style event in Portlethen. Dame Anne, along with her North East colleagues, fielded questions on youth unemployment, transport and housing. The event was successfully organised by young people in Portlethen with support from Scottish Labour Council candidate Alison Evison.
Dame Anne was invited along to speak at a recent meeting of the Politics/International Relations Society at the University of Aberdeen. The event was organised to provide an insight into the work of an MP in the constituencu and Dame Anne answered questions on how the students could become effective lobbyists. She also took the opportunity to highlight the important role of the Select Committees in scrutinising Parliament.
Dame Anne Begg MP met with new students today at Aberdeen University Freshers Societies Fayre. She was pleased to see the number of Freshers who signed up to the Labour Society and will look forward to working closely with them in the coming months.