As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 18th April, Stephanie is continuing her campaign to remove the maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving following the death of her constituent Jaqueline Wileman. Read more below.
As reported in The Guardian, The Mirror and the by the BBC on 14th April, Ministers have admitted to Stephanie that less one in six new schools have sprinklers installed, flying in the face of official policy and revealing a significant recent decline. Written answers to Parliamentary Questions from the Labour MP, a former teacher, reveal that of 673 schools built by the Department under the Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP) and free schools programme by February 2019, sprinklers are fitted in just 105 of these schools, less than 1 in 6. The government’s flagship free schools are far less likely to be protected, with under 4% or less than 1 in 25 free schools benefiting from sprinkler systems. The figures have dramatically worsened since the Labour government set higher fire safety standards in 2007, and even since the first phase of the PSPB, which saw around 30% of schools fitted. This comes despite official figures showing there have been over 7,000 fires at educational establishments including schools in the last decade, with hundreds of injuries and repair or rebuilding costs vastly exceeding those of fitting sprinklers in the first place. Government guidance states that “All new schools should have fire sprinklers installed except in a few low risk schools.” In 2016, Tory Ministers had attempted to to remove this requirement, but were forced to back down following a furious backlash from trade unions, fire chiefs and the Labour Opposition. Following recent Labour calls to strengthen standards further, the Department for Education has recently agreed to consult on the regulations. The Selsey Academy school in Sussex, which did not have a sprinkler system and was destroyed in a fire, has just been rebuilt without sprinklers as an apparent cost-saving measure. Commenting on the answers to her questions, Stephanie Peacock MP said: “It beggars belief that we even have to debate having the highest standards of fire safety in schools but clearly that is yet another victim of this government’s obsession with austerity. The ridiculous thing is that we spend far more rebuilding and repairing schools after fires than we would have paid to install sprinklers in the first place, making this an utterly false economy. “These figures raise just one more question mark over the Tories’ free schools, which once again are falling short of the previous school building programmes they replaced. Not only are the numbers in stark decline from those under Labour, they are getting worse by the year as the Tories strip back standards and cut back investment.” “There have been thousands of fires at our schools in the last decade and it is frankly absurd that the Government won’t stump up the cash to keep them safe.”
In her column the Barnsley Chronicle on 12th April, Stephanie wrote about the importance of grassroots sport participation and funding, in both encouraging people to stay active and succeed at an elite level. You can read her full comments here.
As reported in the Yorkshire Post, the Guardian, the Independent, the Law Gazette, and RightsInfo, Stephanie held a Westminster Hall debate this week on providing automatic legal aid to families during inquests. The following is from the Yorkshire Post: A Yorkshire MP has urged the Government not to “turn a blind eye to the suffering of some of the most vulnerable in our justice system” as she called for bereaved families to be given an automatic right to legal aid to pay for representation at inquests. Barnsley MP Stephanie Peacock led a Westminster Hall debate where she said such a move would cost as little as £5m and would be “invaluable to suffering families who need answers”. She said: “A huge injustice sits at the very heart of our justice system. On the one hand, state bodies and representatives are equipped with access to unlimited funds and resources - the best experts and the best legal teams. “On the other hand, vulnerable families in the midst of grief are forced to navigate a complex and alien application process that is provided with the bare minimum of support - indeed, most people will not even receive that.” The Labour MP added: "The process is far too complex, and those who apply for legal aid are forced to run up huge legal bills on their own, represent themselves in court or rely on the generosity of strangers to help raise the required funds. "Often, people have to tackle complex legal processes that involve multiple interested persons and agencies. Among a host of other complicated legal matters, people must address issues such as access to and release of a body, post mortems, communication with investigation teams, securing evidence and criminal investigations. "Most people do not have the legal knowledge to do those things, and many do not have the resources to help. I ask the Minister: is that fair? "We are talking about the death of a child in a mental health setting—a death as a result of neglectful state services, or the self-inflicted death of a prisoner. "The families of those lost feel a deep sense of pain. This debate is about deaths in state detention and custody, or where there is a clear public interest element to finding out the truth - for example, the Grenfell tragedy, the disaster at Hillsborough, or the recent case of Molly Russell who tragically took her own life in part, her parents believe, because of distressing material related to depression and suicide that she was able easily to access on social media platforms."
As reported in the Barnsley Gazette, Barnsley Chronicle and Barnsley News and Sport on 8th April, Stephanie recently visited the Dorothy Hyman Sports Centre as part of the FA’s ‘Football Footprint’ campaign.The campaign aims to celebrate and showcase investment in grassroots football here in Barnsley and right across England, including investment in three new grass pitches and one new artificial pitch at the Dorothy Hyman Centre.During her visit, Stephanie was shown the new pitches, and was presented with the FA’s Grassroots Champion award.Commenting, Stephanie said:“As a keen football player for the Parliamentary Women’s Football Club, I understand how important investment in grassroots football is.“So I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Dorothy Hyman Sports Centre and see the work that goes into the local game in my constituency.“It was great to meet fantastic staff, volunteers and players, and I was honoured to be presented with the FA’s Grassroots Champion award as part of the ‘Football Footprint’ campaign.”
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle on 12th April, Stephanie recently visited Parkside Care Home and Valley Park Care Centre in Wombwell.Stephanie was given a tour of the homes and heard about the work they’re doing, as well as chatting to staff and residents.Commenting, Stephanie said:“It’s so important that we support the fantastic work local care homes and carers do in the incredibly difficult circumstances they currently face in the social care sector.“So it was great to visit Parkside Care Home and Valley Park Care Centre in Wombwell.“I was struck by the compassion and dedication of the staff at the homes, and really enjoyed chatting to residents about their experiences."
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 12th April, Stephanie recently visited High View Primary Learning Centre.During her visit, Stephanie chatted to Year 6 students about the House of Commons and her role as an MP.Stephanie then took part in a Q&A with students and had a walk round the school.Commenting, Stephanie said:“It’s always great to see young people here in Barnsley interested in politics and what it entails.“So it was a real pleasure to visit High View Primary – I really enjoyed chatting to Year 6 about the House of Commons and my role as their local Member of Parliament.”
As reported by BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Look North and ITV Calendar, Stephanie has been pushing the Government to amend the maximum sentence for convictions of death by dangerous driving, following the tragic death of Jacqueline Wileman in Brierley. You can hear Stephanie's recent interview with Radio Sheffield on this issue here.
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle on 5th April, Stephanie has backed the Labour Party’s declaration of a national climate and environment emergency. The decision was taken by the party in the House of Commons, following a wave of motions passed by local councils declaring a climate emergency and calls to tackle increasing global temperatures. The ‘Climate Emergency’ is an internationally recognised declaration being used around the world to publicly declare concern over the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings. The IPCC’s recent Special Report, describes the enormous harm that a 2°C rise in global temperatures would cause. Last week it was revealed that the UK will miss almost all its 2020 nature targets, with 14 out of 19 biodiversity targets currently not being met by the government. Said Stephanie: “Species decline, habitat destruction and climate change are progressing at an alarming rate, risking livelihoods, food supply, landscapes, infrastructure, and public health – it’s absolutely vital we address this threat now with urgent action. “But rather than the radical action required, austerity under this Tory government has had a serious impact on our natural world, with vital agencies such as Natural England having their budgets slashed in half and staff morale at an all-time low. “Labour will kick-start a Green Industrial Revolution, and invest in clean transport and energy that will help create hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle on 5th April, Stephanie has revealed Government figures that show a 40 per cent increase in time taken to consider benefit decision appeals in Barnsley. The statistics show that mandatory reconsideration of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) decisions increased on average by 13 days for the last 12 months in which figures are available. Mandatory reconsiderations allow claimants to challenge DWP decisions on PIP if they disagree with the initial ruling. In February 2018, the average time taken for the Government to fully consider a mandatory reconsideration in Barnsley was 31 days. By January 2019, this had increased to 44 days – meaning applicants are forced to wait over six weeks for a decision. Across South Yorkshire, clearance times increased by 17 days. Nationally, the average time taken for mandatory reconsideration rose to 54 days, an increase of over 86 percent over the same period. Personal Independence Payment provides help to people with long-term ill-health or disability, helping with daily activities or getting around. The figures were admitted by the Government through parliamentary questions submitted by the Barnsley MP, who commented: “PIP is a vital source of help for people who require assistance because of ill-health or disability, yet those in need are finding it increasingly difficult to access under this Government. “The time taken for the DWP to decide on mandatory reconsiderations of their own decisions have increased by nearly 2 weeks in Barnsley alone over the last year. “People in desperate need of assistance and support should not be made to wait for increasingly long times by this Tory Government for the help they need just to go about their daily lives.”