Simon Danczuk MP

Fighting for Rochdale, Littleborough and Milnrow

Letter from Parliament 17 January

I know there are plenty of people who think politics doesn’t matter, but every week I see extreme examples in Rochdale of how it affects people’s lives. In some cases it can be a matter of life and death. 

Last week a family came to see me to explain how Government policies had put their daughter’s life at risk. Sheila is the same age as me and has a serious disability which stems back to extreme trauma she experienced as a child. As a consequence she hasn’t worked for many years, though under the Government’s reforms she’s been pushed onto a work programme to force her back into work. 

I’m all in favour of welfare reform, as I can see the system is open to abuse. But you can’t just bulldoze through changes in a reckless and insensitive way. If you aggressively push vulnerable people back into work it can have very serious health consequences. 

In Sheila’s case she was sent on back to work classes in another town and given no mental health support. She struggled to cope and last December was admitted to Birch Hill hospital after being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. A few days later she suffered a heart attack and is now in a coma. 

This is an extreme case, but I have no doubt it is happening elsewhere. Doctors do not yet know if she will recover consciousness and Sheila’s story must act as a warning to ministers. Welfare reform has to be handled smartly and the system cannot just ride roughshod over vulnerable people who are in genuine need of support. 

Another challenging case that’s been in the news recently concerns the Rochdale Red Cross worker, Khuram Shaikh, who was murdered while on holiday in Sri Lanka. I have campaigned with Khuram’s family to secure a trial for his killers and we were extremely disappointed to hear last week that the main suspect has now jumped bail and gone missing. The trial date is set for March but as he is a fugitive from justice we can only hope the police do their job and catch him as soon as possible. 

Away from politics the great form of Rochdale football club has the town buzzing and we now know their next opponents in the FA Cup will be Sheffield Wednesday. This will be a very tough tie but I’m sure the whole town will be behind Keith Hill’s men and I wish them the best of luck.

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