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Isolation of House Staff: Gemma White QC Recommendations

Volume 676: debated on Tuesday 19 May 2020

With reference to the July 2019 recommendations of Gemma White QC on tackling the isolation of House staff, what plans the Commission has to implement those recommendations while staff are working from home during the covid-19 outbreak. (902786)

Good day to you, Mr Speaker. In February this year, the House of Commons Commission agreed to establish the Member Services Team, which will deliver the recommendations of Gemma White QC, including on the isolation felt by MPs’ staff. I understand that the team is already working with Members’ staff to see how their ideas for greater mental health support can be delivered. The MST is also currently recruiting two MPs’ staff advisers to tackle the issues raised around isolation.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. I know, Mr Speaker, that you are well aware of the excellent cross-party work that members of my team —Stephanie McTighe and Chloe Mclellan—have done on the issue of staff wellness and support, including by giving vital evidence to the board of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. The Gemma White report highlighted that constituency staff often deal with vulnerable constituents, many of whom can be suicidal and in deep distress. Those existing challenges are now compounded by the fact that staff are working from home. Will my hon. Friend meet my team and I to discuss their work and how staff wellbeing can be made a priority, and to ensure that the Commission does all it can to support staff in our constituencies so that we can continue to serve our constituents in a safe and supportive way?

I thank my hon. Friend very sincerely and commend her for the work she has been doing across the House. I also thank her staff, who have inputted greatly into the work on this terrain. I draw attention to the fact that £4,000 has been made available from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to help with those very issues, and I encourage her to use that resource as much as possible to ensure that her staff are assisted. The employee assistance programme is already available to MPs’ staff for counselling and support. I encourage all Members from across the House to access those services and that resource, and do everything possible to ensure that their staff are kept safe and secure.