I met with the National Autistic Society and their Chief Executive Mark Lever at the Labour Party Conference. Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. The National Autistic Society is a leading UK charity for autistic people and their families, providing information, support and pioneering services, and campaign for a better world for autistic people. It was a great opportunity to discuss how to properly support those with autism in Barnsley East.
At the Labour Party Conference I met with the League Against Cruel Sports. I know how important animal welfare is to so many people in our community, so it was excellent to meet the organisation. The League Against Cruel Sports continue to support Labour’s Hunting Ban in the face of continued uncertainty under Theresa May and the Tories, and also stand up for wider animal protection – such as investigating and preventing dog fighting. We discussed animal welfare, and how we can keep beloved pets and animals safe and healthy in future.
I chatted with the National Deaf Children’s Society about their work ensuring deaf children and their families get the support they need. We were also joined by Erin, a 17 year old from Wiltshire who is partially deaf and was kind enough to share with me her experiences of growing up. It’s important we do our best to provide all of the services and support that people like Erin require in Barnsley East. You can read the full news article here
I met Parkinsons UK at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Parkinsons is a devastating disease which affects around 1 in every 500 people, meaning around 127,000 people in the UK live with the condition. I met with the organisation to discuss the work they do and how we can work together to tackle Parkinsons in Barnsley East and across the country.
It was a pleasure to the civic reception that celebrated the Barnsley Youth Choir's success in the European Choir Games. They returned from the event in Latvia as European Champions in two categories, and World Champions in two more. Their achievements are a credit to our town, and a testament to the hard work of all of those involved in the choir. It was great to attend the reception, and have the opportunity to celebrate the choir's success with them all.
I met with the Worker’s Education Association (WEA) in Barnsley. The WEA is the largest voluntary sector provider of adult education courses in the UK, running over 10,000 courses each year for adults of all ages. They work with local community groups and organisations to deliver meaningful and practical training to adults, giving them the confidence to continue into further education. It was fantastic to meet the WEA, and hear about the great work they do in our community.
I dropped in to meet the Brownies at Elsecar church hall this week. The girls have recently been working towards their own Parliament and have even elected their very own Prime Minister. I had the opportunity to chat to them about this, as well as my own experiences of being an MP and what the job entails. Importantly, I also talked to them about my experiences as a woman in Parliament, and what they all can achieve in future.
Following the National Farmer's Union's 'Back British Farming' campaign, it was a pleasure to visit New Hall Farm, an 800-acre working farm that also provides educational tours. I was hosted by owners Helen and David, who showed me around the farm. We discussed their experiences of farming, and the educational experiences they provide in a fantastic restored 16th century cruck barn with grants from Natural England the Country Houses Foundation. Details of educational visits can be found here: http://www.newhallfarmardsley.co.uk
This is my column in the Barnsley Chronicle of 15th September calling for the Government to scrap the public sector pay cap. These days in politics it can often feel like there’s less and less that everybody agrees on. But from chatting on doorsteps to meeting constituents in Westminster, one thing it seems that everyone believes is that we should all be paid a fair wage for a day’s work. Whether in the public sector, the private sector, a young person just entering the world of employment, or someone nearing their retirement, we all deserve to be paid a proper amount for what we do. But over recent years, it seems like there are far too many who are falling short of this expectation. The public sector pay cap that has been in place since 2010 has forced many hard-working people here in Barnsley and across the UK to feel a real pinch in their pay packets. Whilst the policy still allows for a small 1 percent pay rise each year, this falls short of inflation rates and results in a real terms pay cut. Our teachers, who are seeing colleagues leave the profession and now oversee some of the highest class sizes in Yorkshire, are around £5000 worse off in real terms since 2010. Our front-line police officers, of which our local police force has lost 18 percent since 2010, have seen real terms cuts of nearly £6000 in the same period. Our firefighters, of whom we have lost nearly 28 percent of front-line staff in South Yorkshire since 2010, have seen real terms cuts of £2500 in this time. Our nurses, including those in Barnsley I was fortunate to meet in Westminster last week, are 14 percent worse off since 2010. And other public sector employees working in difficult conditions are seeing demands and workloads rise and, whilst their resources and real terms pay are slashed. The Government finally conceded this week, claiming an end to the cap and offering a meagre rise for various public sector workers. But the rise for those lucky enough to receive it is still below inflation, and for others the extra money will come from their own already-threadbare budgets. It’s still not good enough. Let’s get on with it, give our hard working public sector employees the proper pay and support they deserve, and finally scrap the cap.
Today I confronted the Government on the issue of police pay. After a widely criticised pay offer to officers this week – an offer the Police Federation described as ‘a joke’ – the Government has also not addressed pay inequality between forces. Working as a Police Community Support Officer is a well known route to becoming a Police Officer. Police Pay is now so low that community support officers have to take a pay cut to do so. In Barnsley East for example a PCSO would face a pay cut of over £1000 to start work as a PC just down the road in West Yorkshire. This issue along with continued pay caps nationally has had a damaging impact on police recruitment, and the Government has yet to provide any answers.