Stephanie Reveals Education Secretary yet to Visit South Yorkshire

As reported in the Barnsley Gazette on 11th May, has forced the Government to admit the Education Secretary has not visited a nursery, school, or college in South Yorkshire. The revelation came in response to a parliamentary question submitted by the local Barnsley MP. In their response, the Government admitted their Education Secretary Damian Hinds MP has failed to make a single visit to South Yorkshire. Appointed at the turn of the year, the Minister in charge of the country’s education system has made a solitary trip to the whole of Yorkshire – to visit a nursery in Bedale. Barnsley East’s Stephanie Peacock – a former teacher who even before her election brought Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary to visit Barnsley’s schools – claimed following the admission it’s no surprise the Government is out-of-touch with the problems facing schools in Barnsley and South Yorkshire. Said Stephanie: “Our schools are facing unprecedented pressure with budgets slashed, resources cut, and teachers leaving the profession in droves. “Yet how would the Education Secretary have any idea how this is affecting schools here in Barnsley when he has failed to make a single visit to the region? “The Minister is welcome to come and see the damage his Government’s appalling obsession with austerity is doing to Barnsley’s schools, but given his record I won’t hold my breath. “This is just another example of an out-of-touch Tory Government ignoring people here in Barnsley.”  

Apprenticeships Supplement

AS featured in the Barnsley Chronicle's Education Supplement on 11th May, Stephanie wrote about apprenticeships. She discussed the need for high-quality apprenticeships in tackling an increasing skills shortage across the UK, and her employment of a local living-wage apprentice in her constituency office. You can read her full comments here.   

Column: Austerity and Life Expectancy

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 11th May, Stephanie's recent column focused on her the growing evidence linking austerity with the UK flat-lining - and in some cases decreasing - life expectancy levels. You can read her full comments here.

Column: Private Members Bill on rights for agency workers

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 27th April, Stephanie's recent column focused on her Private Members Bill. She wrote about how her Bill would expand the rights of agency workers and end exploitative working practices. You can read her full comments here.

Stephanie helps force Government to concede vote on nursing bursaries

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 27th April, Stephanie has helped to force the Government to concede a vote on nursing bursaries.Ministers had already abolished the NHS Bursary, which provided support for most undergraduate nursing courses, and are now attempting to abolish bursaries for postgraduate, part time and dental students. The Government was attempting to pass this change through a 'statutory instrument', a parliamentary procedure which does not allow a debate or vote.However, under pressure from Stephanie and her Labour colleagues, the Government has been forced to concede that a binding vote will take place.Commenting, Stephanie said:'The NHS is short of nurses, and there are many students in Barnsley and across Yorkshire who would love a career in nursing but face huge debts to get qualified. They would be absolutely astonished to hear that their MP could have been refused a meaningful vote on such an important issue.'The Tories are attacking our public services and now they threatened to undermine our democracy to do it.'It's good news that they have withdrawn the regulations but I will be fighting every step of the way until we get this on to the floor of the Commons, and make ministers face the facts.'

Stephanie to attend Workers Memorial Day event

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 27th April, Stephanie will be attending the International Workers' Memorial Day event outside Barnsley Town Hall on 28th April at 12:15pm.This event commemorates workers who have sadly died or suffered serious accidents at work over the last year.

Private Members Bill

As reported on PoliticsHome on 20th April, Stephanie is presenting legislation to Parliament on Friday 27th. She discusses her Bill which tackles the unequal workplace rights and pay experienced by agency workers in Barnsley and across the UK, and you can read her full comments here. 

Foodbank Use Increase a National Disgrace

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on 25th April, Stephanie has labelled recently released figures that show a substantial rise in foodbank use over the last year a ‘national disgrace’. Statistics revealed by the Trussell Trust – the UK’s largest foodbank provider – show across the UK there was a 13 per cent rise in the number of emergency food parcels provided in the UK. From April 2017 to March 2018, the Trussell Trust provided over 1.3m emergency three-day food supplies to people in food crisis, up from less than 1.2 the previous year. Of these emergency supplies, nearly 500,000 were given to children. In the Barnsley East constituency of the MP, who has regularly visited foodbanks throughout the area, 4,322 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people facing crisis by the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, 1,552 of which were for children. Across the Yorkshire and Humber region, there was a rise from 69,280 to 77,411 over the last year. The figures don’t include independent foodbanks – estimated to be over 650 across the country – meaning the overall number of foodbank emergency food parcels and foodbank users is likely to be significantly higher. Revealing their latest figures, the Trussell Trust have identified low income and insufficient benefits, rather than earning, as the single biggest and fastest growing reason for referral to a foodbank. The Government’s flagship policy of Universal Credit in particular has come under fire. In areas that received a full roll-out of universal credit over 12 months ago, there has been 52 per cent rise in foodbank use. Areas such as Barnsley that transitioned to universal credit less than 12 months but over 6 months ago have averaged a 30 per cent rise in emergency food parcels. Commenting on the figures, Stephanie said: “That in this day and age so many people here in Barnsley and across the UK are unable to afford food is nothing short of a national disgrace. “Foodbank use has grown every year under this Government, and now the largest provider of emergency food parcels in the UK has pointed the finger directly at the Tories’ flagship benefits policy as main reason for this continued growth. “This Tory Government needs to urgently fix their disastrous universal credit policy and act immediately to address this national shame.”

Stephanie Criticises Government's Changes to Housing Support

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 13th April, Stephanie has criticised a Government move to change a mortgage support for those on low income from a benefit to a loan. The local MP has warned the change could cause hardship for homeowners on low income, and create problems for people who want to downsize to move to supported accommodation such as a care or nursing home. On 6th April Support for Mortgage Interest changed from a benefit payment to a loan which will be managed by Serco. Only 14% of claimants had agreed to take out the loan and 30% had already declined the loan. 5,000 people had not even received an initial letter from the DWP just two weeks before the change is due to take place. The DWP had also still not managed to contact over a third of claimants by telephone to explain the change. Opponents of the change claim there is a danger that people who try to manage without taking out a loan could try to manage by cutting back on essentials like heating instead. There are concerns too that many could be at risk of going into arrears. Homeowners can receive support if they find themselves in difficulty with their mortgage payments, usually due to redundancy, disability, or a shortfall in their pension income. The change will affect the lowest earning households, already in receipt of other state benefits such as Pension Credit or disability benefits who may be pushed further into poverty. According to the Government’s latest figures, 90,000 people receive SMI. A large proportion of recipients are pensioners or people of working-age currently receiving benefits for disabled people. People will have to pay back the loan if the property is sold. That may make it harder for people to downsize in later life and it may also be a problem for people who need to move because they need specialist residential care which is expensive. Many SMI recipients have reported poor communications from Serco, with many not having queries answered. Barnsley East’s MP pressured the Government on the issue by tabling a number of Parliamentary questions. She forced the Government to admit that despite six-weeks being deemed a necessary notice period to instruct SMI recipients of changes, 5 per cent of recipients had still not been contacted by this time. Commenting, Stephanie said: “Support for Mortgage Interest is an essential lifeline that helps to keep a roof over people’s heads, and this shows our out-of-touch Government aren’t thinking about the impact on homeownership this will have. “I forced the Government to admit that they had fallen well below their own standards that they set themselves when making these changes, and this is unacceptable. “This Tory Government claim they want to save money, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of pensioners and vulnerable disabled people.”  

COLUMN: Nursing Bursaries

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 13th April, Stephanie's recent column focused on nursing bursaries. She wrote about the Tories' plans to change nursing bursaries to a system of loans, and how this is reducing the numbers of nurses when the NHS needs them most. You can read her full comments here.