Meeting Barnsley Healthcare Federation

I had a productive meeting with Barnsley Healthcare Federation about their services.We touched on a range of healthcare issues, such as the impact of loneliness.I'm pleased to hear the Federation have taken steps to improve their practices following their CQC reports.

Speaking on Jump Primary School's 'Send my Friend to School' campaign

When I visited Jump Primary School recently they asked me to take their Send my Friend to School campaign to Westminster. So I raised it in the House of Commons.You can see my comments here.

Visiting Brierley C of E Primary School

I really enjoyed visiting Brierley C of E Primary School.It was great to talk to the new headteacher Mrs Benson about her plans for the future, and meet the brilliant students at the school.

Column: Extortionate Costs of School Uniform

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 12th October: As we move into Autumn, the memory for many pupils of starting their new school year may already seem long ago. But for parents, that memory may not feel so distant. Because many were forced to fork out increasingly extortionate amounts for compulsory school uniforms – expenditure that may still be having an impact on their budgets today. In one Barnsley school, for instance, uniforms required to be worn by students can cost over £120. That’s before parents have considered the extras that may be required for sports, dance or drama lessons, or uniforms for their other children. The nature of the uniform can often increase the price, such as school logo embroidery, or the limited number of outlets from which uniforms can be bought means shops can charge higher prices.  It’s not just here in Barnsley that parents are affected, either. Across the UK, 98 per cent of secondary schools wear compulsory uniforms. And according to a recent survey, four in ten parents said they spent between £101 and £200 on uniforms per child, with over a quarter spending between £201 and £300. When families in Barnsley are already struggling to get by, it’s not right that compulsory costs for their child’s education could push them further into financial difficulty. The previous Labour Government strengthened provisions under the Schools Admissions Code which ensured limits in the prices of uniforms and a broad range of providers to ensure costs stayed low. Unfortunately, much of this guidance was removed by the Coalition Government that followed. It’s time these provisions were reinstated by this Government, and local authorities were given increased powers to enforce this Code and help keep costs down – something I spoke about in Parliament this week. They could make sure there’s not just one supplier but several high street shops and supermarkets, and schools use coloured uniforms rather than require more expensive branding and logos. There are great benefits to uniforms, from instilling pride and a sense of community in a school, to supporting good behaviour and discipline. But they must remain affordable, and we should do all we can to ensure no parent is forced to spend too much money for their child’s education when times are already so hard.  

Getting a Grip on Northern Transport

Commuters facing regular delays, overcrowded carriages, extortionate costs, and trains so old they belong in a museum. When is the Government going to get a grip, and properly invest in rail infrastructure in the North?  I asked the Secretary of State for transport that very question in Parliament, which you can see here. 

Mental Health Support for Victims

Following Mental Health Awareness Day, in the House of Commons debate on the Victims Strategy I spoke about the impact of cuts to mental health provision & how it is crucial in supporting survivors of rape, sexual assault & domestic violence. The Government must do all it can under this strategy to ensure survivors are provided with it.  You can see my full comments here. 

The Damage of School Cuts

It was moving to hear the voices of children and young people in Parliament this week, and their heartbreaking stories of how school cuts have impacted them. Well done to all involved - especially Elodie, an amazing young woman who spoke about mental health provision in schools.    

Supporting Survivors of Modern Slavery

There was an extremely important debate in Parliament this week on tackling the appalling practice of modern slavery. Victims of modern slavery can be trafficked and forced into bonded labour, marriage, sexual exploitation and crime, and it’s estimated up to 16,000 people here in the UK are affected.Prevention and protection is crucial, but I used the opportunity to speak of Northern College’s pioneering ‘Free Thinking’ programme which offers support to survivors to help them reintegrate back into everyday life. You can see my speech in full here. 

Backing Socktober Appeal

I'm backing the Socktober appeal for Yorkshire Building Society and End Youth Homelessness, where winter woollies can be donated for those in need. I encourage everyone in Barnsley who can to pop in to the branch and support it to do so.

Cost of School Uniforms

I spoke this week in a debate on the cost of school uniforms – something frequently brought to my attention by local parents. It's unacceptable that people already struggling to get by are forced into greater financial difficulty by extortionate compulsory uniform costs - some costing over £120 for one child, before optional extras and other children are taken into consideration. You can watch my question on this issue here.