Belfast Telegraph

Carla Lockhart: It's important to set a good example for young girls

 

Carla Lockhart
Carla Lockhart
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Carla Lockhart, DUP MLA for Upper Bann:

First thing in the morning I check Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to see what messages have come in overnight and if anything has happened in Upper Bann during the short time I've been asleep.

I'll then hit the road to my constituency office or to Stormont. My main focus is always my constituents. They trump everything else.

My two staff, Ross and Diane, are flat to the mat every day. I have thousands of open cases. It never stops but I like it that way. I'm a grafter. I was back working on a community grant application two days after giving birth to my son Charlie. You don't get maternity leave as an MLA.

Charlie is now five months. He comes to lots of meetings with me. I worked right to the end of my pregnancy.

As a female politician, I think it's important to be visible. It sets a good example to young girls, and encourages them in politics to take on a challenge and stand up for what they believe in.

I have regular meetings with the Housing Executive, the Southern Health Trust, and permanent secretaries of various Stormont departments.

I've brought permanent secretaries to Lurgan, Portadown and Banbridge to meet people on the ground.

I'm always thinking of new ways to engage with my constituents. I try to run as many local events as possible. I teamed up with the local pharmacy to do health checks where people could come along and get their blood pressure taken and BMI tested.

I've also run benefits events with the social security agency. My main focus is on childcare benefits for working families. I want to make sure they get everything they're entitled to.

I've seen a surge in special educational needs cases. More could be done for these pupils in mainstream schools.

The Education Authority need a root-and-branch review in this area. Teachers deserve more support. I feel very strongly about it.

The abortion issue is a big one in the constituency and for me personally. I've brought Arlene Foster to Upper Bann to talk to church ministers about it.

I get grief day and daily from people who are angry that the Assembly isn't sitting. They'll joke 'You haven't been at work for 1,000 days'. I know MLAs aren't fulfilling their legislative role but so many of us are working our socks off in our constituencies.

It is frustrating that we can't legislate, or make or change policy. We all want to be doing that. Even Sinn Fein MLAs whom I talk to are keen to go back.

"The Assembly should be recalled and those of us who want to be there should be allowed to do the job we were elected to do."

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