Meeting constituents who are living with dementia and carers from Barnsley East

I met with constituents who are living with dementia and carers from Barnsley East.It was moving to hear about the experiences of those living with dementia, and the kindness, commitment and dedication of those caring for people with dementia.I recently became an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friend, and I’ll be encouraging others to do the same. It’s so important that we build a society that is inclusive for those living with dementia, and that we recognise the dedication of those acting as carers.

Visiting the Wombwell Lunch Club

It was really lovely to drop by the Wombwell Lunch Club at St Michael's Church this afternoon.A huge well done to all the volunteers for this brilliant community event - you can join them from 12-2 every Thursday.

Challenging the Government on Carillion apprentices

Since Carillion collapsed in January, only two of 1200 apprentices who lost their jobs have been offered a placement by the Government, and 419 are still without work.This is simply not good enough – the Government has a duty to look after the apprentices who have been badly failed by corporate bosses and Tory ministers alike.You can read my comments here:

My Column on Showing Off Our Arts and Heritage Centres

The following appeared in my column for the Barnsley Chronicle on March 29th: Last week I was pleased to host Labour’s Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in Barnsley, and show him some of Barnsley’s best cultural and heritage centres. I showed my colleague to Experience Barnsley, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Elsecar Heritage Centre, and I was so proud to show off what our community has to offer. But it’s concerning to see the impact reduced funding is having on the UK’s cultural assets. Local authorities have seen their resources stripped to the bone, and across the UK last year 39 per cent of museums funded by these authorities saw their funding decrease. And that’s bound to have an impact on the experiences they provide – in fact, 85% of publicly funded museums reduced their opening hours over the same period. In spite of this trend, the culture and heritage industry in Barnsley is thriving through strong civic and community leadership. But with greater resources, it could be doing even better. Independent figures I recently acquired show how far our town is lagging behind when it comes to central arts spending as we’re dwarfed by other areas. Between 2016 and 2017, for instance, £5.69m was spent in Barnsley on culture – that equates to roughly £23 per person. This barely compares to London, where nearly £360m was spent in the same year. It’s not just in London either. Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield all saw greater amounts of investment in arts and culture, both in total and per person, than Barnsley. Sheffield alone saw the equivalent of £64 per person spent – well over two-and-a-half-times more than here in Barnsley. But Barnsley has a rich cultural past and unique history that I’d back to out-do anybody’s. We’ve got incredible heritage centres, museums, arts exhibits and cultural events – including the Tour de Yorkshire later this year. And we’ve got fantastic local workers and volunteers who I paid tribute to in Parliament recently, willing to bring these experiences to life We should all be incredibly proud of what Barnsley has to offer the world culturally. It’s about time we had the resources to show it all off.  

My Speech on Social Mobility and the Economy

On 28th March I made a speech in a Parliamentary debate on 'Social Mobility and the Economy'. You can watch my full speech here, or read it below. "It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies, and to follow the right hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (David Evennett), who made a powerful speech. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Putney (Justine Greening) on securing this important debate on social mobility and the economy. She made a passionate and practical speech. People in my community too often feel like social mobility no longer applies to them. I am told time and again by my constituents during my surgeries and on the doorsteps of Barnsley East that the economy is not working for them, and that they are being held back. It is difficult to disagree or to reassure them because they are not entirely wrong. In my constituency and across Barnsley, someone’s postcode still to this day determines their life chances and what they can, or rather cannot, become. The Social Mobility Foundation has identified that Barnsley sits in the bottom 10% of local authorities in the country on the social mobility index. I am sure that, through her experience of growing up in nearby Rotherham, the right hon. Member for Putney knows the area well, and is at least familiar with the challenges it faces. She will also know that she remains in the minority for those born and raised in South Yorkshire. To put it simply, starting from childhood, life chances in Barnsley are far below those provided elsewhere. As many hon. Members have said, that must change. A huge percentage of children in Barnsley’s classrooms are eligible for free school meals and come from disadvantaged backgrounds, but fewer than 10% of those children will go on to study at university—one of the lowest rates in the country. That is put into perspective, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) outlined, when compared with, for instance, the 50% of disadvantaged children in Kensington and Chelsea who will go on to higher education. Despite those struggles, Barnsley’s schools have fewer resources to progress. Once past those struggles in childhood, the economy lags in providing the opportunities for people to get on in life. The mining industry, which helped to shape our community, once provided employment for more than 30,000 people. Although the work was hard and often dangerous, it was secure and well paid. The economic landscape is different now. The largest private sector employers in my constituency are in distribution. Both unemployment and youth unemployment are substantially higher than the national average. The average weekly wage in Barnsley East is a full 10% lower than the UK average. Across the area, many people are trapped in insecure and precarious employment, on short-term or flexible contracts. There is less certainty of work, no guaranteed income, no planning past the next week’s rota, which may change at the last minute, and no economic security to provide food or pay the bills. Such an economy is not conducive to social mobility. For social mobility in Barnsley, and my constituency of Barnsley East, we desperately need an inclusive economy that provides the security of wages, and the opportunities that people have missed out on for too long. We need secure, long-term employment with a guaranteed income that allows people to plan, save and look further than the next pay packet. Most of all, we need an economy that works for people in Barnsley, that allows workers to advance and progress; that allows children to aspire and achieve; and that provides the opportunities and conditions for genuine social mobility, which has evaded our community for too long."

Stephanie Demands Guarantees on Steel Pensions

The Government has stated that even if applications to transfer pensions from the British Steel Pension Scheme with a guaranteed transfer value are submitted before tomorrow's deadline, administrative delays in processing could result in a loss of the pension value. That is simply not fair. I brought this up with the Secretary of State in Parliament on Wednesday 27th March, who agreed to meet with me to discuss this issue. You can watch my full question to the Government here.

Visiting the Dearnevale Care Home in Grimethorpe

I visited the Dearnevale Care Home in Grimethorpe.Dearnevale was graded ‘Outstanding’ by the CQC following its recent inspection, and I visited to meet some of the staff and have a tour of the home’s facilities.I was struck by the dedication, commitment and compassion of Dearnevale’s staff, and I was pleased to see that the home is providing an excellent standard of care in difficult circumstances in the social care sector.

VIsiting Experience Barnsley, the Elsecar Heritage Centre and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park with Kevin Brennan MP

Myself and Labour's Shadow Culture minister Kevin Brennan have been on a whistle stop tour of some of Barnsley’s fantastic cultural spots.We visited the Experience Barnsley museum in the town hall. The new ‘Barnsley On Film’ exhibition brings together historical footage of Barnsley to give an insight into our town’s past. We then popped into the Elsecar Heritage Centre as well as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park that showcases art from around the world.Culture builds pride in our communities and the creative industries are the fastest growing sector in our economy. It’s great that this is so well supported in Barnsley.

Visiting Barnsley College with Kevin Brennan MP

It was great to welcome Kevin Brennan MP back to Barnsley today. When Kevin was Further Education minister in 2009 he signed off the funding for the fantastic new college building. We had a tour, chatted to staff in the Job Shop that help people find employment and training as well as being interviewed by some of the College’s media students.

National Lottery Funding Inequality

I questioned the Secretary of State this morning on the inequality in national lottery funding. So many local organisations, projects and community groups depend on national lottery funding in Barnsley East, yet since 1995 the £13m granted to Barnsley East is dwarfed by funding awarded elsewhere. Prime Minister Theresa May’s seat of Maidenhead has received £63.9 in grants, Chancellor Philip Hammond’s wealthy Runnymede and Weybridge patch in Surrey has been awarded over twice as much with £27m, and the West Suffolk constituency of Tory Culture Secretary Matt Hancock had received over £22m. It’s just not good enough for Tory ministers to hide from this issue when they are overseeing a system that is clearly unfair to people in Barnsley - it’s time that towns like ours got our fair share. You can watch the video of my question here.