As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle and Barnsley News and Sport on 25th January, Stephanie has slammed the Government after new figures revealed more than one in four children in Barnsley are living in poverty. The figures, released by the End Child Poverty coalition, show that 27.95 percent of children living in Barnsley are in poverty after housing costs are included. This includes over 6,000 children in Barnsley East, where a slightly higher level of 29.64 percent of children are trapped below the poverty line. Within the Barnsley area, the Worsbrough ward contains the highest level of child poverty, with more than one in three children living in poverty. The figure in Barnsley is higher than the UK average, where over 3.7m children are now living below the poverty line according to End Child Poverty – slightly more than one in every four. Said Stephanie: “These new figures paint a damning picture of life for so many families and children under this Tory Government. “No child in Britain and Barnsley in this day and age should be forced to go without food, a heated home or proper clothing. “But the Government’s decision to freeze child benefits in the face of soaring living costs has forced more than 14,000 children in Barnsley below the poverty line. “This Government must take urgent action to address the issue, and prevent more children in Barnsley being trapped in poverty.”
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle and the Barnsley News and Sport on 24th January, Stephanie returned to the classroom recently to teach students of Kirk Balk Academy as part of the ‘Big Class Challenge’. The Big Class Challenge is a programme run by the Teach First charity, aiming to bring volunteers from different sectors into schools to teach pupils. Former teacher and TeachFirst ambassador Stephanie took part in the initiative, and got back in the classroom for a one-off class with students of Kirk Balk Academy. She spoke to the students on a range of topics, including aspiration and the importance of the students aiming high, before fielding questions. Stephanie said: “It was great to be back in the classroom as part of Teach First’s Big Class Challenge. “The Challenge is a wonderful initiative that encourages volunteers with a wide range of experiences and skills to get into schools and teach one-off lessons to students. “As a former teacher and Teach First ambassador, it was a pleasure to teach the students at Kirk Balk Academy and support this initiative.”
As reported in the Barnsley Gazette and the Barnsley News and Sport on 19th January, Stephanie has been appointed as an Opposition Whip. The role entails helping with the organisation of Parliamentary and legislative business for the Labour Opposition. Stephanie expects the role to keep her at the forefront of upcoming legislation and its impact on Barnsley East. The role also leaves her free to continue speaking and taking action on local issues in the Commons. She said: “I’m honoured to have been asked to serve on the Opposition front bench, and I’m determined to use the role to hold this Tory Government to account and stop yet more damaging policies being imposed on people in Barnsley. “This role is a great opportunity to work even closer to the forefront of Parliamentary business. At a time when the Government has no majority, the Commons is more powerful than ever and this is a chance to make a real impact on the decisions that affect this community and the whole country.”
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 19th January, this week Stephanie visited Cudworth Library foodbank. She discussed the rising number of people requiring the use of help due to the impact of policies such as Universal Credit. You can read her reaction to the foodbank visit here, and watch her bring up the issue of constituents being forced to choose between eating and heating in Parliament with the Government here.
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 19th January, Stephanie has attacked the Government for failing to prevent an NHS crisis, as Barnsley Hospital missed its target time for dealing with A&E patients. The latest figures for December show that only 85.9 per cent of patients attending Barnsley Hospital A&E were seen within four hours – well below the 95 per cent target. According to NHS England’s figures, a total of 7413 people attended A&E in Barnsley in December. Of these, 1054 were forced to wait longer than the four-hour target. Nationally, A&E units endured one of their toughest ever months, with only 85.1 per cent of patients seen within four hours – one of the worst levels on record. Commenting, Stephanie said: “These figures once again demonstrate the completely preventable strain this Government’s woeful mismanagement has forced on our NHS. “Hard-working staff at Barnsley Hospital continue to do an incredible job with what they can, but the lack of resources and support is clear. “Over 1000 patients were forced to wait for more than four hours in A&E in December. “Theresa May and her bungling Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt have treated our vital NHS services with neglect for far too long. “They need to get a grip of the situation, because it’s local residents here in Barnsley who will suffer until they do.”
As reported in the Barnsley Gazette and the Barnsley Chrornicle on 19th January, Stephanie is pressing the Government for changes to improve local bus services. After conducting a survey of local residents’ experiences with bus services, the MP outlined responses in the House of Commons, and highlighted the impact cancelled routes have had on the community. Cancelled routes have forced elderly individuals to walk or take expensive taxi rides to avoid missing important engagements such as doctors or hospital appointments. Calling on the Government for an urgent debate to discuss these issues, Stephanie suggested bus local authorities should be allowed to play greater role in the provision of bus services where they could instead be run in the interests of residents and the local community. Commenting, Stephanie said: “I wanted to hear local residents’ experiences of bus services here in Barnsley, but I was disappointed with the responses. “Time and time again I was told of services being run in the interests of profit over the needs of passengers. “Unprofitable routes have been cancelled, leaving often-elderly people to find alternative transport – usually either walking or taking taxis. “I brought up these concerns of local people with the Government in Parliament, and suggested local authorities should have a greater role in bus services so they can remain just that: a service.”
As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on January 19th, Stephanie used her column this week to discuss homelessness. She talked about the appalling increase in homelessness across the country since 2010, and what we need to do to tackle this rise. You can read Stephanie's full column here.
As reported in the Barnsley Gazette and The Star, on 17th January Stephanie has backed a planning bill which aims to protect grassroots music venues. Stephanie praised the introduction of the Planning (Agent of Change) Bill to the House of Commons. The bill would mean developers would have to take account of the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses like music venues before work begins and seeks to protect venues from closure. There has been a 35 per cent decline in music venues in the UK in the last decade. Stephanie said: “I welcome the introduction of the agent of change Bill as a vital means of protecting the future of our best-loved grassroots music venues. "All too often planning laws have placed unreasonable demands on small venues, threatening the development of our world beating music industry. “I am pleased that this Bill recognises the challenges that music venues face. I call on the Government to secure its speedy passage into law.”
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport, on 11th January Stephanie joined calls pushing the Government to continue the guarantee of free school meals for children under Universal Credit. Currently, as Universal Credit is rolled out, all children who live in a household receiving this new benefit will receive a free school meal. However, under new proposals set out in a consultation by the Government, this will change when an earnings threshold of £7,400 will be introduced from April 2018. But according to analysis by The Children’s Society, the proposals mean 3,352 children in Barnsley living in poverty could miss out on the benefits of a free school meal. Nationally, the proposals could result in in over one million children in poverty losing out on a vital free school meal. This figure is roughly the same as those children currently living in poverty who don’t receive a free school meal; showing that Universal Credit will do nothing to alleviate child poverty rates in the UK. The Labour Party is calling on the Government to ensure that no child goes hungry during the school day, by ensuring that every child in a family receiving Universal Credit is eligible for Free School Meals. Stephanie said: “Free school meals have a proven beneficial impact on a child’s education and health, and can do much do alleviate persistent child poverty in our society. “That is why the current proposals on the future of free school meals under Universal Credit are deeply concerning, and risk forcing vulnerable children to go hungry at school. “These changes will affect many local families and children, including some of the most the vulnerable in our community, and shows how out of touch this Tory Government in tackling poverty in Barnsley. “It’s crucial the Government rethinks this plan and enacts policies that help alleviate poverty, not entrench it.”
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on Saturday 6th December, Stephanie has attacked the Government for failing to prevent a winter crisis in the NHS, as Christmas figures for Barnsley Hospital were revealed. The latest figures show that in the week following Christmas, bed occupancy rates far surpassed national safety targets. With rates of beds taken above 85 per cent considered unsafe, Barnsley Hospital averaged 98 per cent occupancy between December 26th to 31st – one of the highest rate in the country. And on December 31st, Barnsley Hospital reached 100 per cent occupancy, meaning all general and acute hospital beds were taken. Nationally, the figure was also above the safety target, with 91.7 per cent of hospital beds in England occupied. The hospital also suffered a number of ambulance handover delays, in which patients were forced to wait outside the A&E department in ambulances rather than being immediately transferred into the hospital. In the week following Christmas, 513 patients arrived at Barnsley Hospital in an ambulance, with 11.7 per cent of these forced to wait longer than 30 minutes outside the hospital. This included 9 patients who were trapped in ambulances for longer than 60 minutes on December 31st alone. Commenting on the figures, Stephanie laid the blame squarely on the Government for failing to prepare and support Barnsley Hospital: “Once again, despite the heroic efforts of hard-working staff at Barnsley Hospital, patients and staff have been badly let down by this Government. “These figures are dismal, and demonstrate the appalling lack of support this woefully under-prepared Tory Government has given our local hospital this winter. “For Theresa May to continue denying a crisis in our NHS whilst Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt offers listless apologies is an insult to NHS staff and vulnerable people here in Barnsley whose health is being put at risk. “Eight years of underfunding, cuts and neglect of our vital NHS services have led to this entirely preventable crisis, and it’s time this Tory Government got a grip of the situation.”