Mr Speaker, I am neither seeking nor will I be standing in the next general election. I am nevertheless not a member of my local Government but the London Borough of Lambeth. I am on the Broadband Taskforce which is investigating how we can get universal access to high-speed, superfast internet to every part of the UK.
I work for a charity, The Prince’s Trust, and am part of our Cabinet-style leadership team that is improving chances for young people, specifically those who have been excluded from education and those who have been affected by the criminal justice system. On one particular project, which I have been involved with since I joined the Trust in 2013, we started from nothing and within seven years we have helped more than 20,000 young people. This year, we celebrated winning the Best Innovation Award at the Observer Social Enterprise Awards, for a project in which we have provided our service users with access to laptops.
The project has helped me understand how there is such a thing as the 99 per cent problem. It has made me aware of the levels of poverty and inequality in my own community and particularly in the LGBT communities that I serve. It has forced me to question how we are policing our prisons and providing social care to those in society at risk. It has challenged me to push beyond political opposition and to build alliances with grassroots organisations to allow these positive developments to flourish.
Change in the UK has often arrived via referendums and political campaigns. Together, with my colleagues, we have looked at the issues that face our society and identified solutions. We have identified the causes that stop young people from getting on in life. From the meeting room to corridors, to Loughborough, to Kent and Sunderland, our flagship strategy for Lambeth is Helping Our Young People: Get Out, Get On, Get Ahead and Learning is seen as a lead example of using the internet to help empower local communities. In doing so, it is empowering so many young people across our borough.
So why don’t I stand for Parliament? Because this is the best platform for me to make a positive difference. Why is Lambeth even considered in this context? Because it is in our back yard. Lambeth is a borough that, for far too long, has been working to create a fairer, more just society.
If we want to make Britain one of the most equal countries on Earth, we must look at what barriers our young people have to overcome. Whether they are homeless or refugee, or they have been stopped and searched and re-offended, or they have experienced gender identity issues and bullying at school. The average ages for those involved in Lambeth’s National Referral Mechanism are 18 and 30 years old, showing that our borough has many young people who are seeking help, and I believe they need our involvement to empower them and give them the opportunity to make a contribution to our community.
In all my years of work, I am not an expert in this area. I am an ordinary mother, working hard to ensure that my children get the good opportunities and good jobs that they deserve. In an increasingly hostile climate, we need to try to create a Parliament that is truly representative of our local communities.
I am in a position to understand that, if we have that ambition, and this is one of those opportunities where we have to try, perhaps we have to look at doing things differently, or maybe we should take up the role of Government.