Meeting FareShare Yorkshire to discuss the 'Healthy Holidays' project

I recently met FareShare Yorkshire to discuss their work on the ‘Healthy Holidays’ project. A pilot programme has provided meals and activities for young people in Barnsley over the summer. Especially to support those usually in receipt of free school meals. You can find out more about FareShare's work here, and you can read my recent Barnsley Chronicle column on this issue here.

Visiting Barnsley Futures

I visited Barnsley Futures to hear about the important work they’re doing supporting those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in and around Barnsley.Services like this are needed more than ever with an increase in homelessness of 169% since 2010.

Joining an RSPCA Inspector on his shift

Today I was fortunate enough to join RSPCA Inspector Ben on his shift around Barnsley, he covers a huge area of South Yorkshire from Barnsley up to Holmfirth. It was interesting to chat to him about the issues he faces day in day out and sadly to see first-hand some of the terrible situations and incidents involving animals. We travelled from Hoyland up to Shafton and Grimethorpe following up from calls from the public and existing cases. We have seen a lot of progress on animal welfare issues in the last two decades, from the 2007 Animal Welfare Act to the ban on fox hunting. But despite all the progress we’ve made, last year there were 4,500 complaints about animal welfare in South Yorkshire, and 1,100 complaints in Barnsley. This is simply not good enough and shows just how much more there is to do. I want to pay tribute to all the hard work the RSPCA do, from their inspectors like Ben to their fantastic network of volunteers - thank you.

Visiting the site of the new Barnsley Market

I visited the site of the new Barnsley Market today to see the redevelopment Barnsley Council is doing.It's great to see the progress being made and the new facilities coming together.

Column: exam results and social mobility

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 17th August:It’s that time of the year again, where young people across Barnsley will be excitedly receiving their exam results. After months of waiting, the students will finally get to see their hard work pay off. Whilst yesterday was A-Level results day, next Thursday will see GCSE students receive their grades, and I want to congratulate them all. We’re lucky to have some fantastic young people here in Barnsley, and I hope each and every one of them gets the results they need for whatever route they choose to take. But as much as this time of year is often one of relief, happiness, or celebration, it also reminds me of the obstacles they’ll face as they take these next steps. Because, to put it bluntly, these students will find it more difficult to get on in life compared to their counterparts elsewhere in the country. The Social Mobility Foundation, for instance, has identified that Barnsley sits in the bottom 10% of areas in the country on the social mobility index. Essentially, this means that people here aren’t afforded the same life chances as people born elsewhere. When it comes to going on to university, for example, just 10 per cent of children from disadvantaged backgrounds will go on to study there, compared to 50 per cent of children from similar backgrounds in some areas of London. This just isn’t fair. Why should young people born here have less of a chance of succeeding in life, just because of the postcode they were born in? There’s a number of reasons for this, from an economy that has left Barnsley behind, low-wage and insecure work that has trapped people in poverty, to a family of schools that have been historically underfunded. But ultimately, every person here in Barnsley should have the same opportunities as those born elsewhere. So whilst students are excitedly finding out their grades this week, I’ll continue demanding urgent action from the Government until every young person here in Barnsley has a proper opportunity to aspire, achieve, and succeed in life.

Visiting Ardsley Farm

I visited Ardsley Farm this week. Lovely to meet Helen and David to talk about the issues they face daily from rural crime to sustainable farming.Following my visit, I'll be asking questions in Parliament about the issues they raised.   Read more about the NFU initiative on rural crime here: https://www.nfumutual.co.uk/farming/ruralcrime/   And if you want to share your views, you can email me on stephanie.peacock.mp@parliament.uk

Speaking at the South Yorkshire Festival

It was great to speak at the South Yorkshire Festival at Wortley Hall this weekend.It was a brilliant turnout despite the change in weather!As well as speeches and music there were lots of stalls and family activities.

Working on animal welfare

Of all the reasons I’m contacted by constituents, it may not be a surprise that animal welfare issues are amongst the most frequent. We’re a nation of animal lovers – in fact almost every other household in the UK owns a pet. They give us comfort, company and companionship, and for many of us they’re simply part of the family. It’s why I’m delighted so many constituents continue to contact me to stand up for animals who can’t do so themselves. It’s why I’m proud that it was a Labour Government who brought forward the 2007 Animal Welfare Act – described as the single most important piece of animal welfare legislation in the last 100 years, and that it’s Labour who continue to lead the fight on animal welfare issues like fox hunting. And it’s why I’m so pleased to continue working closely alongside the RSPCA as they do incredible work to help often defenceless and neglected animals. Last year, they received over 4,500 complaints about animal welfare in South Yorkshire alone – including 1,100 in Barnsley. Across the country, they receive a call every 30 seconds for help. They do a fantastic job helping the pets and animals we all hold so dear, and this summer I’ll be heading out to join their fantastic inspectors on a shift. It’ll be a great opportunity to see first-hand the issues affecting animal welfare, and the work we need to do to continue looking after our beloved animals.

The Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme

In a difficult and uncertain world, our armed forces are essential to ensuring our security. I’ve always been a proud supporter of them, and the incredible armed forces personnel who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe. But they deserve better. Under this Government, defence budgets have been devastatingly slashed, the size of our armed forces cut, and our servicemen and women given an unacceptable deal. Satisfaction with service life for personnel has dropped every year since 2009, for example, and there are grave concerns about our armed forces’ operational capacity after years of neglect and cuts by this Tory Government. So once Parliament returns after summer, I’ll be taking part in the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, which will give me the opportunity to work alongside the army for a number of days across the year. I hope it will allow me to see first-hand what life in like in the army, and gain a greater understanding of the challenges facing our armed forces and brave service personnel. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.

Column: tackling holiday hunger

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 3rd August:As we reach the summer holidays, it’s usually a time to relax and recharge the batteries before the new school year. But unfortunately, this isn’t the care for many people in our community. Instead, the holidays bring a period of stress for families as the free meals provided to their children by schools are no longer available. In Barnsley alone, for instance, there are over 6,100 children who receive a good, free meal at school every day. But once our schools shut down for summer these vital meals are no longer provided. Parents are left with more mouths to feed at home, and an extra meal each day to provide. For too many families in our community with parents who are struggling for work, stuck in uncertain and insecure employment, or living on low wages that keep them trapped in poverty, they simply can’t cope. Many may be forced to go hungry themselves as they can only provide so many meals for their family and choose to provide for their children, whilst others simply cannot afford the extra responsibilities at all. Ultimately, many children in our community are subject to ‘holiday hunger’. I’ve visited several foodbanks, including Barnsley’s Trussell Trust foodbank. I continue to be amazed by the generosity of our community who give so much for those less fortunate than themselves, but appalled that foodbanks are even required in this day and age. Moreover, I’m shocked by how demand for emergency food parcels increases so much over the holidays. Last year, Barnsley’s Trussell Trust foodbank gave out over 4,256 emergency food parcels to help struggling people put food on their plates. The problem isn’t confined to Barnsley, either. In Yorkshire and the Humber, there were 77,411 parcels provided, and more then 1.3m across the UK- including nearly 500,000 given to children. Demand for foodbanks is continuing to rise, more and more people are seeking help in the long summer holidays, and the number of children going hungry as they’re forced to go without their usual free school meal is unacceptable. We need to do so much more to make sure the summer holidays are a happier time for all our children.