Meeting tutors and students on the Northern College Free Thinking Programme

I popped in to Northern College to meet tutors and students on their pioneering Free Thinking Programme, which supports survivors of modern slavery. Having mentioned the course in Parliament and met the minister this week about the course, it was great to meet everyone on the course.

Sikh Memorial Book

I signed the Sikh Genocide Book of Remembrance to commemorate the 1984 Golden Temple Massacre, which saw 1000s of Sikhs murdered. I stand in solidarity with the British Sikh community and remember all of those killed.  

Attending Wombwell Operatic Society's 'Let's All Go To The Music Hall' show

I enjoyed the Wombwell Operatic Society’s performance of ‘Lets all go to the Music Hall’Big congrats to everyone involved!

Visiting Springwell Learning Community

It was lovely to visit Springwell Learning Community today to present awards as part of their Celebration of Progress and Achievement.A huge well done to all the pupils and staff.

Column: the NHS' Birthday

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 6th July: The NHS is arguably our country’s – and the Labour Party’s – greatest ever achievement. It’s based on a simple belief that no matter who you are, what you do, where you come from or what you can afford, no person here in the UK should go without basic healthcare. And yesterday, we celebrated our NHS’ 70th birthday. For seven decades now, our health service has provided care for millions of people, transforming the health of a nation in the aftermath of a devastating war, and becoming the envy of the world. It’s treated all manner of ailments; from polio to your winter cold. It’s helped people of all ages; from babies taking their first breaths, to comforting those taking their last. It’s provided each and every one of us with care, strength and expertise in difficult times. And it’s something we all should be proud of. What’s more, it’s the staff working in our hospitals, care homes, ambulances and right across our NHS who we should take this opportunity to say thank you to. Along with those that have spent their lives working in the NHS in the past – like my mum – they’re the lifeblood of our health service, and whenever I meet them I’m humbled by their skill, professionalism and dedication to helping others. But our NHS isn’t perfect. And over the last few years devastating cuts to budgets have seen fewer doctors, fewer nurses, fewer beds, longer waiting times, and hard-working staff badly let down in our hospitals. This year’s winter crisis, for instance, showed just how fragile our most beloved institution can be if it isn’t shown the same level of care and backing it has provided for us for so long. So let’s take this important moment to remember the 70 years of our NHS, but also look forward and ensure it can continue. On our NHS’ birthday, I renewed my commitment to defending our universal health service and ensuring it can continue providing vital help and care for those in need for many more years to come.

Attending Acorn Brewery's 15th birthday party

Happy Birthday to the Acorn Brewery in Wombwell.I popped in to their 15th birthday party this evening and tried half a pint of their England’s Dreaming.This is a great local business - here’s to another 15 years.

Marking 70 years of our NHS

It was a pleasure to be at Barnsley Hospital this morning to mark 70 years of our NHS. It is Labour’s proudest achievement, guided by the belief that all citizens, regardless of where they were born and regardless of their wealth, should have access to healthcare, free at the point of access. As we mark the 70th birthday of the NHS, I want to pay tribute to those who made it possible, from Beveridge to Attlee to Bevan, and to the generations of activists who’ve fought to defend our health service. But most importantly of all, I want to pay tribute to our dedicated NHS staff and all who’ve come before them. They are the lifeblood of our health service, and whenever I meet them, I’m humbled by their skill, professionalism and dedication. Thank you to all our NHS staff for all that you do all year round. The NHS is the greatest social policy achievement of the last 100 years, and is the greatest step forward in equality and fairness that our society has ever seen. Today, as we mark 70 years of our NHS, let’s celebrate our health service, and renew our commitment to defending an NHS that’s universal and free at the point of access.

My speech on insecure work and the gig economy

The Yorkshire Post recently reported on my speech in the parliamentary debate I secured on insecure work and the so-called 'gig economy'.The following appeared in the Yorkshire Post as an edited version of the speech I made in the debate:'A changing economy over the past decade has led to a boom in new jobs, which have combined to create a worrying picture of employment rights across our economy. Often under the pretence of offering flexibility, employers have exploited working practices to maximise profit at the expense of workers.The experience of being trapped in a low-paid job with no guaranteed hours, wages or security of employment, and of being unable to plan past this week’s rota or pay cheque, with fewer rights and lower pay than colleagues, is all too familiar for people across the country.It is notoriously difficult to measure insecure work, which is in itself part of the problem, but some estimates put the number of people trapped in insecure employment well into the millions.The number of people in zero-hours or agency contracts alone is near the one million mark, while nearly three million people are underemployed and left seeking more hours than they secure week after week.Areas such as my own in Barnsley are disproportionately affected. Former industrial towns and coalfield areas have been left behind by the economy and are taken advantage of.Where average wages lag far behind national levels, unemployment is higher and social mobility is appallingly low. Unscrupulous companies can offer insecure, low-paid work where the alternative is often nothing.In Barnsley, the switch to gig employment and short-term work in ​areas such as distribution warehouses and our public sector means that too many people in my constituency simply cannot be certain that their job will last longer than the next rota. No matter how hard they work, their precarious employment leaves them with no chance to save up or plan for the future.It is not just workers who suffer. Companies’ widespread avoidance of the minimum wage, holiday pay and sick leave is estimated to cost the public purse £300m a year in lost National Insurance contributions.Such practices undermine the many employers who play by the rules, the companies that invest in their workers’ skills and training, the family-run businesses that pay their staff a decent wage, and the employers who pay their taxes and make pension contributions. In one way or another, we are all footing the bill for the businesses that take advantage of precarious work. Action is long overdue.It is a little over a year to the day since the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street after the election and noted that people who have a job do not always have job security.Sadly, the Government has kicked the Taylor review’s recommendations into the long grass. Will Ministers commit to take action to ensure more and better workplace inspections to ensure that the scant, bare-minimum ​protections that workers are currently afforded are actually enforced, and that swift action is taken against abusive employers?On companies that make profits off the backs of agency workers, will Ministers ensure that, from day one, agency workers are afforded the same rights and pay as permanent staff doing the same roles in the same company?That is another issue that I sought to address in my recent Private Member’s Bill. Cases brought against Uber and Pimlico Plumbers show that such workers are employees; they are not self-employed or independent contractors, as was claimed. In view of such cases, will the Government act now, rather than wait for every single worker to undertake judicial proceedings against their employer? Those are not just legal judgments against individual employers, but damning indictments of employers in the gig economy as a whole.I have heard from an Amazon worker who has seen women colleagues tragically miscarry in a warehouse, and fights break out on the packing floor because the competition for work is so high. I have heard the heartbreaking story of a care worker whose employers forced her to provide a urine sample to prove she was too sick to work.Another care worker’s agency refused to give her work as soon as it found out she was pregnant.I have heard from a Hermes worker who gets only one day off a year to spend with his family, which has a damaging effect not just on him but on his wife and children.Those workers are the real face of the gig economy. It is simply not good enough. We urgently need an economy that works for everyone. We need well-paid jobs that offer long-term security and give people the chance not just to get by, but to succeed and prosper. We need genuine action that addresses the employment loopholes that unscrupulous employers use to exploit vulnerable workers. Many people across the UK need action now.'  

Speaking on Northern College support for survivors of modern slavery

I paid tribute to Northern College and their fantastic course that provides educational opportunities for survivors of modern slavery. Access to funding is vital in initiatives likes this; I plan to meet with the Education Secretary soon to ensure this is the case for this local program.You can see my question to the Education Secretary here: https://www.facebook.com/StephaniePeacockMP/videos/1276761949124620/

Attending the Barnsley flag raising ceremony for Armed Forces Day

I attended the Armed Forces Day flag raising at Barnsley Town Hall to mark the start of the Armed Forces Day celebrations and support our forces.Find out more here: bit.ly/2KaZIW2