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Why, as a Parent, I'm Backing Yvette Cooper as Labour's Next Leader

06/07/2015 17:05 BST | Updated 06/07/2016 10:59 BST

I know that it can sometimes seem like politicians aren't 'real' people. But, believe me, we are.

Much more important to me than being an MP and shadow minister is that I am a mum. I have two children and although they are both grown-up (supposedly), once a mum, always a mum. I remember the difficulty of having to work and arrange childcare. Getting them up and ready for school, nagging them about their homework, which strangely seems to get harder as they get older, then battling to get them to bed at a sensible time - a task.

That's why I'm backing Yvette Cooper to be the next Leader of the Labour Party. As a working mum, she understands the pressures on modern family life.

We need a Leader who knows what challenges ordinary people face day to day, and who is committed to helping them. And as I see it, there are six major challenges that politicians need to get to grips with.

Family finances

Everyone needs to pay for the basics: food, fuel, a home and clothes. But children need more than this. Parents don't want to deny their children that day trip organised by school connected to their project, or swimming lessons, or some books and toys of their own.

We've heard about Tory plans to limit child benefit to the first two children in a family, and last week, it became clear that tax credits were in the firing line too. But 71% of families on tax credits are working. Low pay and insecure jobs means that tax credits are needed to top up family income.

Cameron has no plans to substantially raise the minimum wage or incentivise firms to pay the Living Wage, so it is low-income families who are going to bear the brunt - a loss of £1,400 a year by IFS estimates.

Yvette is committed to ensuring that those who work take home enough to make ends meet, instead of pulling the safety net out from under them.

Childcare

This is a nightmare for many parents. Often, the cost of childcare when a parent goes back to work outweighs their earnings from that job - meaning they make a loss from working. Every family needs high quality, affordable childcare. Needs change as children grow older and siblings at different stages can't be parcelled up together.

Just before the election, the Tories finally realised that childcare mattered to people, so at the last minute they promised 30 hours free childcare for toddlers a week. Of course, just days after the election their promise began to unravel - they have no idea how they will pay for it. Childcare providers have been scathing.

Getting this right will be a top priority.

The 'sandwich generation'

It's a jolly sounding phrase that masks real problems. With the UK's population living longer, mothers are often finding themselves caring for their ageing parents at the same time as being responsible for teenagers, usually working as well.

This is hard because people no longer live in the same city or village. And just as you think 'I can relax now the offspring are leaving home', grandpa gets ill. We need better social care and support in place at the very time the Tories are undermining the local authorities with heavy cuts.

Mental health and children and adolescents

One of the myths of parenthood is that there's less to do as children grow older. Practical things get easier, but emotional ones don't. Of course not every adolescent has a nervous breakdown, but pressures and insecurities are growing for young people: exam stress, body image, learning to be independent all take time, attention, and energy from parents.

Slowly, mental health is gaining the recognition it deserves. From depression to bipolar disorder- we are beginning to realise how much support children and young people need. But there is still a long way to go before mental health is given parity with physical health, and the NHS is already under pressure.

Child protection online

As we become an ever more digital society, new problems emerge alongside all the opportunities.

When I was growing up, I didn't have to worry about cyber-bullying, seeing explicit material online, or self-harm websites, let alone grooming and child abuse imagery.

With Yvette, I pressured Cameron to demand internet providers automatically turn on filters unless an adult requests otherwise. We've worked with the internet giants to crackdown on child abuse imagery. But there is more to be done, and if Yvette becomes Leader, you can rest assured she won't stop until everyone is safe online.

Women and children as victims of crime

Sadly, women and children are still particularly vulnerable to certain types of crime, especially domestic abuse and sexual assault, and we are still learning to recognise other forms of violence, such as FGM and emotional abuse.

Yvette has been a tireless champion for women and children. She has spoken out about the shameful fall in convictions for sexual assault and the use of community sentences for domestic abuse. She has challenged Theresa May about police cuts, and worked with women's charities to raise awareness.

Solving one of these issues might seem difficult, and tackling all six might seem impossible. But I believe it is the duty of the Labour Party to take up that challenge and address them head on. We need a Leader who will champion families. And I know who I believe will do that.

Helen Goodman is the Labour Member of Parliament for Bishop Auckland