Column: support for charities

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 1st May:Our community is full of kind and generous people who are working around the clock to protect our health, deliver vital services and keep the local economy going. From the amazing frontline NHS staff and care workers, who are putting the health of strangers ahead of their own, to the key workers who are collecting our bins, delivering food and keeping our streets safe- there are so many people to be proud of. This pandemic has highlighted how reliant we are on the voluntary and social sectors. Barnsley Food Bank has continued to provide a source of crisis food to people in need and Barnsley Age UK is helping elderly people maintain their dignity by providing tailored support. The domestic abuse charity IDAS has extended its live chat services to help those who are currently facing controlling or abusive behaviour from a partner or family member during the lock-down. The professionalism and dedication of those who work or volunteer within the social sector has been incredible. Whilst demand has increased due to the impact of Covid-19, the capacity for charities to raise funds so they can continue to provide these essential services has fallen. Charities from across the UK are at risk of collapse due to the impact of coronavirus. Many simply do not have the reserves to maintain the support they used to offer as charity shops have had to close and fundraising events have been cancelled. The London Marathon, which I ran last year for BSARCS, has been postponed until October. This single event raises tens of millions of pounds for charities every year. Without the ability to fundraise charities are struggling to stay afloat. They urgently need financial support to get through this crisis. Whilst I welcomed the Government’s announcement of a £750 million package of support for frontline charities this month, it is clear more needs to be done if they are to survive this pandemic. Voluntary organisations are reporting a £4.2 billion shortfall over the next twelve weeks as donations have fallen due to Covid-19. So many people in our community rely on services provided by charitable organisations, from food and medicine deliveries, to advice services. I will keep pushing to get them the financial support they need to continue helping vulnerable people from our area. Anything you can spare during these difficult times, from volunteering your free time with Barnsley Council’s Community Responder Scheme to donating unwanted food to the local food bank will make a big difference. Thank you. My constituency office remains open to help all those who need assistance. Please call  01226 743 483 or email

The economic impact of coronavirus

Our community has been hit hard by COVID-19.Worrying new research has found Worsbrough to be the 10th most economically at-risk UK town.I will keep fighting to protect the economy of local towns and industries already facing financial hardship.Read more on this here.

Column: domestic abuse support services

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 17th April:The Coronavirus outbreak presents one of the biggest challenges our community has ever faced. Our NHS frontline staff, care and key workers are working around the clock to look after us and keep the country running. To them we will be forever grateful.I’m proud to belong to an area full of caring and generous people. I have heard so many stories of local heroes who have lent a hand to those in need, from delivering groceries to offering companionship through phone calls. When this crisis has ended I am sure we will remember their acts of kindness.Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on so many families. I have in my thoughts those who have already lost loved ones.In these uncertain and difficult times households are under immense pressure. This has caused an unprecedented rise in incidents of domestic abuse.Many domestic abuse victims are now suffering behind closed doors. The National Domestic Abuse helpline has reported a 25% increase in calls and online requests since the lockdown was announced.Please know that if you or someone you know feels at risk of abuse, there is help and support available. This includes police response, online support, helplines and refuges.You are not alone.Physical violence is not the only form of domestic abuse. It can include: coercive control and ‘gaslighting’, economic abuse, verbal abuse, emotional and sexual abuse.If you suspect a neighbour of domestic abuse please report it to the police.If you are worried about a loved one please check in with them regularly. If you can set up a code word to indicate that help is needed and ask if there is anything you can look out for that might indicate that they need help.If you are in danger and unable to talk on the phone dial 999 and cough/tap the handset to respond to the operator. If you call 999 from a mobile, press 55 to Make Yourself Heard- this will transfer your call to the police.Local services, including IDAS (03000110110) and BSARCS (01226320140), are still offering support around the clock to anyone who needs it. Refuges and helplines remain open. IDAS have extended their online Live Chat service, which is now running from 3pm-6pm Monday to Friday. It can be accessed on their website, offers a discrete way for people to get in touch with them using their phones, tablets or desktop computers.I will keep pushing for these services to get the funding they need to help victims and their families get through this crisis. My constituency office remains open, albeit with the staff working remotely from home, and we are here to offer help and support as we navigate through these difficult times. If you need assistance please do not hesitate to get in contact, either by leaving a voicemail on 01226 743483 or by email to

Grimethorpe Colliery Band virtual concert

I loved the Grimethorpe Colliery Band virtual concert.You can enjoy it here.

Column: the Covid-19 crisis

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 10th April:We’re entering our fourth week of social distancing measures next Monday. Four weeks waving at neighbours from afar and limiting our social interactions. It’s been tough.NHS staff and careworkers are working around the clock to look after us and key workers are doing their best to keep our country running. We have rallied together to help vulnerable neighbours, elderly people and relatives. While we still have a way to go before this is over, I am comforted by the knowledge that I belong to such a kind and generous community. This crisis will pass and we will be reunited with our loved ones.It’s never been more important that we look after ourselves, both physically and mentally. Exercise has been proven to improve chances of beating coronavirus, boosting our immune system and reducing our vulnerability to infection. It also can provide a sense of normality and rhythm to our everyday lives, which have undergone huge disruption in recent weeks.The Covid-19 outbreak has had a big impact on our mental health and wellbeing. It’s causing people to feel anxious, stressed, worried, bored, sad and frustrated. Please know you are not alone. It’s normal to react this way. There are ways we can look after ourselves and those we care about. Keep in contact with your loved ones. Call people, video conference and use social media to stay in touch with people you care about. A burden shared is a burden halved. Talk about your worries with those you trust. Help others. From reaching out to someone who might be lonely to volunteering to help those self-isolating or vulnerable, helping someone else gives a sense of purpose to days that often feel meaningless.The Open University has launched a series of free courses, on topics from psychology to sign language.Self-care can take many forms, from looking after your first potted plant to cooking a good meal. There are so many things we can do to take care of our physical and mental wellbeing.My constituency office remains open to help all those who need assistance. Please call 01226 743 483 or email will keep fighting to get stranded friends and family home from abroad, to make sure self-employed workers have the support they need to survive this crises and help employees who just missed the deadline to be furloughed obtain financial aid.

Thank you to our local NHS and volunteers

It's been a very difficult week for our community and the future ahead looks uncertain, but we will get through this.We will find ways of coming together whilst staying apart.Thank you to everyone who has helped their neighbours, friends and vulnerable members of our community.