MP of the Year Awards
Dawn Butler MP and Ambassador of Harrow & Brent United Deaf Club was announced as an Overall Winner for the MP of the Year Award 2017.
The prestigious award, organised by The Patchwork Foundation, took place this evening (Wednesday 15th November 2017) at the House of Parliament, celebrates the work done by Members of Parliament from all parties and particularly focuses on diversity and inclusion to reward those who encourage participation from underrepresented groups in society, and recognises those whose work has had a positive impact on diverse communities across the UK.
The Patchwork Foundation believes in promoting and highlighting best practice in the area of under-represented, deprived and minority community engagement. Each year MPs across the country work closely with such communities, with many MPs delivering excellent representation and coverage to otherwise underrepresented segments of society.
The Patchwork Foundation rewards those winning MPs – nominated by individuals or grassroots community organisations and selected by an independent panel of judges – by acknowledging them as the MPs of the Year.
The winner, Dawn Butler MP, who was recently promoted to the position of Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said: “I have great respect for the Patchwork Foundation and the work that they do to engage underrepresented groups in society, which is a cause that I also passionately believe in. I have always said that our Parliament should be reflective of the people it seeks to represent and I will continue to work towards this important aim to increase participation from all our communities.”
“I believe that equality is equality, you cannot pick and choose. In my new role as Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, I will be fighting for an agenda to deliver real equality in this country for all our diverse communities.”
Dawn Butler, the Brent Central MP has this time been recognised for three main areas of her work:
1. Giving the deaf community a voice in Parliament.
There are an estimated 900,000 severely or profoundly deaf people living in the UK and Dawn has campaigned to ensure that Parliament is as accessible as possible. On the 16th March 2017 to mark Sign Language Week 2017 and ahead of the 14th anniversary of British Sign Language (BSL) becoming an officially recognised language, Dawn became the first MP to ever ask a question in BSL in Parliament. Dawn asked the government to commit to giving BSL full legal status, which would mean that the estimated 151,000 BSL users in the country would be given protections and rights which are afforded to other recognised languages. Following this Dawn then worked to get a BSL Act in the Labour Party Manifesto and also signed a special Labour Party manifesto video for the deaf community.
2. Campaigning against Employment Tribunal Fees.
The government introduced Employment Tribunal Fees in 2013 and since early last year Dawn has been raising awareness of the negative impacts of the fees. These fees had often prevented the most vulnerable people in society, including low paid workers and those with protected characteristics from having access to justice. The number of claims dropped by over 70% across a three year period. Dawn pressed the government and the minister on the findings and schedule of release for the report into the ETFs and the fact they were hiding it from publication, which led to Dawn writing to the House of Commons Procedures Committee, who upheld her claim stating the Ministry of Justice had “show(n) a tendency to prevarication in the face of direct questions about the progress of work.” Following UNISON’s successful Supreme Court case against the Government, which resulted in ETFs being found to be unlawful, Dawn then campaigned to ensure that those charged are repaid in full and that everyone denied the opportunity to justice is afforded the chance to have their claims heard. Dawn wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice raising these concerns and setting out her case, and the letter was co-signed by 73 Labour MPs to add weight to the letter.
3. Raising awareness in Parliament of racism and discrimination.
Earlier this year Dawn led a debate on the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which has never been formally marked by the UK Government, despite it being recognised in other countries around the world. This date is marked on 21 March every year, originating from 1960 when a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa turned deadly when police turned their guns on peaceful protesters, killing 69 people. Dawn lobbied the government to officially mark the date, launching an EDM and holding the first ever debate to raise awareness within the House and show the public and that their representatives are taking the job of tackling racism seriously. The Government also had to respond formally to the debate and it was an opportunity to interested MPs to take part. Dawn also sponsored an event in Speaker’s House to celebrate the day, inviting MPs and organisations who are working to tackling discrimination and racism. Statements were also read out by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on the day. This work is part of Dawn’s aim to eliminate any obstacles which prevent groups in society from progress and equality.
Asif Iqbal MBE, President of Harrow & Brent United Deaf Club is delighted to hear such a wonderful news about Dawn’s award, saying: “Dawn truly deserved to be named as the winner for the MP of the Year. Shortly after becoming our Ambassador of our Deaf Club, she made a powerful impact on the Deaf community when she campaigned for the rights of deaf people to have BSL Act and supported our petition for BSL to be added to the national curriculum. Keep up the good work, she is truly an inspiration.”