Sometimes in the European Parliament in Brussels, it can be hard to connect with what the EU actually does on the ground to affect people’s lives back home. But I visited a project in Hayle, Cornwall, where European funding is - literally - changing lives.
I watched the first session of a ‘Who Dares Works’ course run by an organisation called Active Plus. These courses, designed to help people with complex needs gain confidence and help them on a journey back to work, are run by military veterans.
And they don’t just help the course participants - many of the veterans who deliver the training were discharged medically from the forces and have had their own complicated transition to civilian life. By helping others, their recovery is also being supported, so it is a win-win situation.
“We’ve helped over 6,000 people in the South West so far, and indirectly thousands more if you include their families,” said Managing Director Danny Daniell.
80% funded by the European Social Fund (and 20% from National Lottery), Active Plus is reaching a population that is simply not supported by government funds. While these people are receiving unemployment benefit, there is little support available to help them address the complex needs that are hampering their ability to improve their lives.
Daniell said Active Plus had just won another two-year grant from the EU and will operate until early 2022, beyond which its future is unknown.
“We’ll have to change if we are to rely solely on Lottery funding because they don’t do continuation funding. So the projects will have to be different.” It is a well-known issue in the third sector that it is difficult to win funding to continue a project even if it has proven to be hugely successful. Funders like to attach their names to innovative new work.
Course participants regularly say that attending Who Dares Works has changed their life, and after just one session it was clear some of those attending had already seen a transformation after just three hours.
This is not a ‘death by PowerPoint’ type of course. The participants were given practical exercises to do outside, run by veterans John and Dave, and which required them to communicate and work together as a team to find the solution. The lesson? If you don’t know the answer, ask someone for help and together, as a team, you will work it out. Apply that to something you are struggling with in day to day life and it will make a difference.
It’s simple stuff, on the surface, but can offer lightbulb moments to people who have been socially isolated or struggling with confidence or anxiety.
One woman used to be a TV producer and had travelled widely, but had suffered from severe anxiety to the point that she was now agoraphobic and hadn’t left her small town for over three years. By the end of the first session, she was helping another participant with a form, joking with the instructors and keen to come back again the following week. It was clear that the exercises, designed by the veterans to increase confidence, communication and teamwork, had already shifted something in her mindset.
I look forward to returning in February to see the six participants graduate at the end of the course.
This is a great example of how funding from the European Social Fund is directly benefitting people in Cornwall. Brexit will mean an end to this funding and we have yet to see whether the government will come good on its promises to match this money with the Shared Prosperity Fund.
At the first meeting of Renew Europe after the British General Election, on Monday, December 16th, I delivered this speech to the group. I chose to speak in French because I knew if I tried in English I would not be able to deliver it without crying. A long, and very moving, standing ovation followed.
I know grief. I’ve grieved for a much-loved husband and a wonderful mother.
I’ve been through the depths of it. I’m familiar with the hollow, empty feeling followed by the swells of emotion - the despair, the anger, the hope, the fear, the utter devastation. And now I’m grieving not for a person, but for my country, my party, my friends and colleagues - those who have lost jobs and hundreds of great people who failed to win new ones.
In a debate they secured in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Liberal Democrat MEPs have warned about foreign interference in European democracies and elections, once again urging the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to publish a parliamentary intelligence and security committee report into Russian interference into British democracy.
In October, the European Parliament adopted a report calling for a range of measures to tackle electoral interference and disinformation in national and European democratic processes and the opaque funding of far-right parties across Europe, despite attempts by
Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party MEPs to vote it down.
The report included a reference to allegations reported in the press in relation to the funding of the Vote Leave campaign.
Caroline Voaden, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, criticised Facebook, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, for failing to implement various measures to prevent the use of the social platform for electoral interference and unwillingness to fact-check political messages, calling for the principles laid out in the EU code of practice on disinformation to be made legally binding.
Watch Caroline's speech to the European Parliament ⬇️
Caroline Voaden, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament has written to Twitter's CEO and Co-Founder Jack Dorsey calling on him to take a strong stance against a misinformation stunt staged by the Conservative Party (UK) press office Twitter account in which it posed as an impartial fact-checking service during a key TV debate ahead of the 2019 UK General Election.
Read the full text of the letter below:
Twitter CEO and
1355 Market St. Ste. 900
San Francisco, CA 94103
Dear Jack Dorsey,
I am writing as leader of the Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Party to outline our grave concerns with the behaviour of the twitter account “@CCHQPress”, followed by nearly 76,000 users, which temporarily rebranded their official party account to make it look like a fact-checking service during a leaders’ debate as part of the British general election on the evening of the 19th November 2019.
We were left shocked and deeply concerned by this dirty trick, a blatant attempt to misinform the British electorate, straight out of Vladimir Putin’s playbook. We all have a duty to combat this type of disinformation, which is a threat to liberal democracies worldwide.
We fear this behaviour, from a once respected and mainstream political party, may set a precedent for authoritarian and illiberal Governments and political movements across Europe and beyond.
Under the voluntary Code of Practice on Disinformation agreed between the European Commission and online platforms in 2018, we would remind you that you committed to recognise the Commission’s conclusions that "the exposure of citizens to large scale Disinformation, including misleading or outright false information, is a major challenge for Europe. Our open democratic societies depend on public debates that allow well-informed citizens to express their will through free and fair political processes".
In our view, obliging by this Code of Practice means acting against this kind of behaviour.
The British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has disgracefully since defended the rebranding of the account suggesting that ‘no one gives a toss’.
On behalf of the millions of people we represent, we do care and we are disappointed that Twitter failed to block the account and your subsequent failure to act.
We would ask you to again consider removing the verified status of this account as soon as possible, as we believe your global rules intended to prohibit behaviour that can mislead people have been breached.
Caroline Voaden MEP`
The European Union launched legal action against the UK government as Boris Johnson has failed to nominate a new EU commissioner to send to Brussels - a condition included in the extension of article 50 issued last month.
In a statement the European Commission said it had issued “a formal letter of notice” to the British government ”for breaching its EU treaty obligations” and would be starting infringement proceedings.
Caroline Voaden MEP, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, said:
"A UK commissioner would ensure we are treated as equal partners as an EU member state and fully represented in Ursula von der Leyen’s new commission."
"Boris Johnson should urgently consult with other parties and propose a candidate capable of furthering the interests of the EU as a whole."
Caroline Voaden MEP was today chosen to lead the delegation of Liberal Democrat MEPs in the European Parliament, following the announcement last week that Catherine Bearder MEP was standing down.
Since beating Labour and the Conservatives in May’s European Parliament elections, Liberal Democrat MEPs have been at the forefront of the fight against Brexit and the battle to restore Britain’s tarnished reputation in Europe.
Partnered with Emmanuel Macron’s MEPs in the Renew Europe Grouping in the European Parliament, with MEPs elected to chair the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee and the Committee on Legal Affairs, Lib Dem MEPs have cemented their position as the most powerful delegation of British parliamentarians in Europe.
Caroline Voaden MEP, the new leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs commented:
“I am honoured to have been chosen by my colleagues to lead the Liberal Democrat delegation in the European Parliament. Catherine Bearder has done a fantastic job since returning to Brussels in May with 15 new colleagues, after a long five years here as the only Liberal Democrat MEP.”
“I joined the party to fight Brexit and I represent a growing force in British politics. The election of 16 of us in May’s European election was proof of the Lib Dems’ strength as the biggest, strongest party of Remain in the UK.”
“We were elected on a mandate to Stop Brexit and build a brighter future for Britain and we will do all we can to help our colleagues win seats right across the country on December 12th.”
“I look forward to working with all my colleagues in the Renew Europe Group to develop our priorities for this five-year mandate of the European Parliament, and to working with Jo Swinson and our colleagues in Westminster to stop Brexit and restore Britain’s tarnished reputation among our allies and partners across the European Union.”
Jo Swinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:
“I am delighted that Caroline has been chosen as the new leader of the Liberal Democrat delegation.
“The European Elections showed that the Liberal Democrats are the strongest party of Remain, and in this general election we are the only national party campaigning to stop Brexit.#
“Liberal Democrat MEPs are doing a fantastic job in the EU and I am planning for them to be serving in Europe for their full five-year term at least.”
Catherine Bearder MEP commented:
”It has been an honour and a privilege to lead this new large delegation into the European Parliament. I continue as an MEP for the South East and to fight to stop Brexit. Caroline will be an excellent and determined leader of our delegation.”
“The European elections were a turning point for the Liberal Democrats, as the strongest party of remain, and we are looking forward to making substantial gains in the general election. The British Lib Dems will do all we can to fight for our place in Europe, and to make the madness that is Brexit stop.”
SW MEP Caroline Voaden voted this week to block legislation that would have weakened EU rules protecting bee colonies from toxic pesticides.
The European parliament vetoed the move by member states and the European commission on Wednesday.
Caroline said: "I'm proud to have signed this objection in my group, and supported this vote in the European Parliament. It's exactly the sort of work we need to do - and can do - in this chamber."
Too many women, men and young people are affected by this life-changing epidemic and it’s our duty to work together to tackle it.
Over 84 000 people died of mental health problems (2015) and suicides across EU countries According to the latest IHME estimates, more than one in six people across EU countries (17.3%) had a mental health problem in 2016 (Figure 1.1) – that is, nearly 84 million people.
The economic costs of mental illness are also significant. This chapter estimates total costs related to mental ill-health at more than 4% of GDP – or over EUR 600 billion – across the 28 EU countries in 2015. EUR 190 billion (or 1.3% of GDP) is direct spending on health care, another EUR 170 billion (1.2% of GDP) is spending on social security programmes, while a further EUR 240 billion (1.6% of GDP) is caused by indirect costs in the labour market, driven by lower employment rates and reduced productivity due to mental illness.
As a result, of the joint action on mental health and wellbeing, launched in 2013, and the European framework for action on mental health and wellbeing were developed. Within this framework, the Member States are supported in reviewing and improving their policies. The EU Compass for action on mental health and wellbeing is a platform that assists Member States in sharing policies and good practices.
That's why I used my chance to question the Commissioner-Designate for Health in the European Parliament to ask what more she would do as Commissioner to put mental health back on the agenda.
We need to stop Brexit and focus on the environmental and economic factors which contribute to this desperately important issue. By working together with our colleagues across Europe we can push for real change.
SW MEP Caroline Voaden reacts to UK Supreme Court ruling
Liberal Democrat MEPs welcome the Supreme Court’s judgment that Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament was unlawful.
A Prime Minister that behaves unlawfully and undermines democratic standards is clearly unfit to hold the office of Prime Minister.
Caroline Voaden MEP commented today;
“Boris Johnson attempted to trample on the UK’s constitution and in doing so he tarnished Britain’s reputation in Europe. I am delighted the Supreme Court has intervened to restore the rule of law.”
“Prime Minister Johnson’s decision to shut down democracy was motivated by his desire to shut down debate on Brexit. His attempt to silence the voices of the people at a time of national crisis was a disgrace."
"I am determined to maintain the voice of the SW of England in Europe.”
“The Brexit crisis will not be resolved by silencing debate or suspending democracy. We need more democracy, not less. As Liberal Democrats, we believe the UK’s best possible future lies within the European Union, not outside it - and the best future for the SW region remains as part of this union of nations.”
Antony Hook MEP, Liberal Democrat MEP for SE England with 16 years’ service as a barrister, said:
"Restoring a supposed supremacy of the British institutions was central to Boris Johnson’s campaign to wrench us out of Europe. The irony has been lost on few people that he has since tried to suppress Parliament and it has fallen to the courts to intervene.”
“It’s time for us to join the modern world by codifying our constitution and the conventions that we rely on for the smooth running of the state. A written constitution could secure a fair balance of powers and create a democratic basis for change in the