I popped in to The Mill Academy in Worsbrough recently, and had a really productive meeting with headteacher Ms Gulliver.Great to chat to brilliant staff and students.
The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 24th May: Much was made last week of the Government’s decision to finally acknowledge what I and many others have been telling them for too long: that their decision to part-privatise the probation service has been an unmitigated disaster. The decision made back in 2013 under then-Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has proved costly, both to the pockets of the taxpayer and, tragically, human life. Back then, the probation service was broken up and split apart, with private companies tasked with managing low and medium risk offenders in ‘Community Rehabilitation Companies’, or CRCs. There are 21 CRCs in total across the country, responsible for the management of around 150,000 offenders. The service they undertake is absolutely vital, both to the rehabilitation of the many offenders looking to get their lives back on track, and the safety of the communities they serve. But done with the intention of saving money and improving results, quite the opposite proved true. Serious reoffending has soared, with a 22 percent increase in the average number of offences per reoffender. Underqualified and inexperienced probation staff, through no fault of their own, have been overstretched and undervalued, as private companies prioritise cutting costs over performance. And hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer money has been handed over and pocketed by these same companies for the privilege. Here in Barnsley, we saw first-hand the devastation caused by an offender on probation supervision and two others who had recently finished. The tragic death of Jacqueline Wileman last year shows us just how important it is that we get the services that keep our communities safe absolutely right, whatever the cost. Locally, we await an internal review to know what more could have been done in that tragic incident. But nationally, the lessons are already clear. Decisions made by Ministers on public services should be evidence led, not ideologically driven. When the safety of residents here in Barnsley and across the country is at stake, choices should be taken in the public interest, not private profit. Sadly, the failing probation service under this Government will always serve as a stark reminder of what happens when this principle is ignored.
There are tens of thousands of jobs at risk, not just in British Steel but in a supply chain that reaches industrial communities across the country, like ours here in Barnsley.In the House of Commons today, I asked why the Government will not use the power it already has to protect those jobs. Why, even at this stage, won’t the new Defence Secretary commit to building the Navy’s new Support Ships here in Britain, using British Steel and providing decent jobs in the communities that desperately need a government that is on their side: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/may/21/british-steel-administration-jobs-government-loan
I was in Great Houghton today with local councillors Dorothy, Jeff and Anita.We are campaigning against the proposed changes to the 219/219a bus route that goes through the village.You can let bus operator Stagecoach know your views on the changes at: https://www.stagecoachbus.com/promos-and-offers/yorkshire/barnsley-rotherham-and-doncaster-service-changes-august-2019
The tragic death of Jackie Wileman raises serious questions for the probation system to answer.Important coverage by Look North here.
It was lovely to pop into the Forest Academy in Kendray.I met with Principal Ms Bailey, and had a walk round the school to chat to teachers and students.
Amazing food at The Open Kitchen all made and served brilliantly by Barnsley College students - huge thanks to everyone for all their hard work. If you are in town it’s open for lunch each day and you can book dinner every Thursday: https://www.barnsley.ac.uk/shops-services/the-open-kitchen/
Last night the Government announced they will be ending the disastrous decision to outsource probation services to private companies. I welcome the news, which follows my speech on Tuesday in the House of Common on how the tragic death of Jacqueline Wileman demonstrates the failure of probation services under the Tories, which you can see here.
Pleased to have joined the Women and Equalities select committee for my first meeting today. Looking forward to working on important issues from male mental health, LGBT+ health, to the use of non-disclosure agreements. You can find out more about the work the Committee does here.
This week I signed this important letter calling for better protections for victims of rape and domestic violence: