Column: the Cost of School Uniforms

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 12th October, Stephanie wrote her recent column on the increasing costs of school uniforms. With some compulsory uniforms for schools in Barnsley costing over £120 for each children, Stephanie discussed the impact this can have on families and what should be done to help out. You can read her full comments here.   

Stephanie's Meeting with Northern College on Modern Slavery

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 12th October, Stephanie recently held a meeting at the Northern College regarding funding for education for survivors of modern slavery.The meeting, which involved the Department for Education and tutors from the Northern College, discussed the Northern College’s ‘Free Thinking’ Programme, which provides education and support to help survivors of modern slavery reintegrate into society.The meeting also focused on the broader issues around funding for survivors of modern slavery, who are often ineligible for public funds, a difficulty which has led to the Northern College largely funding its course from its own reserves, and possible ways to make progress so that survivors of slavery are able to access education. Following the meeting, Stephanie spoke in Parliament about the ‘Free Thinking’ course, discussing the words of the survivors themselves to demonstrate the importance and success of the course.  Commenting, Stephanie said:“Survivors of modern slavery have already suffered work without pay and life without freedom, yet under current rules, many are cruelly denied access to education and a route back into society.“That’s why I felt it was so important to arrange this meeting.“Denying survivors of modern slavery an education is grossly unfair.“Empowered with skills and knowledge, they could reintegrate into society and make a great contribution – and we can address a terrible injustice.”

Schools Minister Yet to Visit South Yorkshire, Reveals Stephanie

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle on 12th October, Stephanie has forced the Government to admit that Nick Gibb MP, the Minister in charge of South Yorkshire’s schools, has yet to make a single visit to the region. In answer to her parliamentary question the Government also revealed the entire Ministerial contingent for the Department for Education have made just 13 visits between them to Yorkshire as a whole. This compares to the 31 visits they’ve made to London, and 23 to the South East. Stephanie  – a former teacher who even before her election brought Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary to visit Barnsley’s schools – claimed that, following the admission, it was no surprise that the Government was out-of-touch with the problems facing schools in Barnsley and South Yorkshire. The news follows a recent revelation that the Government spent two years and £40,000 of taxpayers’ money attempting to hide how little the Minister in charge of their ‘Northern Powerhouse’ project actually visited the North in his role. Said Stephanie: “Our schools are facing unprecedented pressure, with budgets slashed, resources cut, and teachers leaving the profession in droves. “Yet how would the Minister in charge of our schools 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 and students, 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.”  

When Will the Government Get a Grip on Northern Transport?

As reported in ITV News, the Barnsley Chronicle, Hallam Fm News, the Star and the Lancashire Post, this week Stephanie demanded the Government get a grip on transport infrastructure in the North. Questioning the Secretary of State for Transport in the House of Commons this week, the Barnsley MP referenced the delays, costs and overcramped conditions for commuters travelling between Barnsley and cities like Leeds and Sheffield. Stephanie suggested the trains used were so old they instead 'belong in a museum'. She demanded the Government get a grip, and properly invest in transport in the North.  You can see Stephanie's full question to the Government here.   

Stephanie's Armed Forces Experience

As reported in the Barnsley Gazette and Barnsley Chronicle on 5th October, Stephanie is undertaking an official programme with the British armed forces as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme (AFPS).The AFPS is a year-long course that gives parliamentarians the opportunity to learn more about the armed forces alongside service personnel in one of the branches of the military.The local MP will spend a number of days – mainly during Parliamentary recess time – in training with the army, spending time with frontline personnel, visiting bases, observing forces on deployment and at some point embedding with a unit for a longer period.Having already spent several days at the Defence Academy at Shrivenham being familiarised with the workings of the military, the Barnsley East MP is hoping the time spent working alongside serving personnel will give her a greater insight into the armed forces.Commenting, Stephanie said:“As a proud supporter of our armed forces, it’s a privilege to be taking part in the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.“It’s a great opportunity to spend time working with the army in particular, and learn more about the crucial issues facing our armed forces and those serving in them.“I’m looking forward to getting stuck in over the next year and seeing first-hand the vital role our armed forces play in the UK’s defence.”  

Column: Online Fraud and Scams

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 28thth September, Stephanie wrote her recent column on online fraud and scams that have been affecting some of her constituents. She spoke of the changing nature and sophistication of fraud, incidents she has head of, and encouraged people to take every precaution online. You can read her full comments here.   

Stephanie On the Importance of Trade Unions

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on 25th September, Stephanie recently spoke at USDAW’s Summer School at Wortley Hall. She talked about her role as an MP, the current political situation and the importance of trade unions. Said Stephanie: “As a proud trade unionist and Labour MP, it was great to speak at the Summer School on the role of our unions. “Strong trade unions are so important in fighting for and safeguarding workers’ rights, and standing up to the damage this Tory Government’s policies are doing to Barnsley.”

The Civil Liabilities Bill

As reported in the Barnley Gazette and Barnsley News and Sport on 18th September, Stephanie has challenged the Government on new legislation she claims will penalise people injured at work. The changes are made under the Government’s Civil Liabilities Bill and other associated changes which will amend the personal injury claims process. In the Bill, the Government will drastically cut the amount awarded in compensation by insurance companies to people injured on the roads. The Government also plans to increase the threshold at which people injured in the workplace through no fault of their own can access free legal aid and advice, meaning fewer people who have suffered injuries at work will be able to bring claims against the employers at fault. The changes are expected to save the insurance industry a further £1.3bn a year, following the £11bn in savings made since the previous changes under the Conservative government in 2012. Commenting in the House of Commons on the changes, the local MP demanded the “Government make clear what these changes represent – a capitulation to the interests of the insurance industry at the expense of working people.” Following on from her comments in Parliament, Stephanie said: “These changes will have a devastating impact on working people here in Barnsley who are injured through no fault of their own. “Instead of being able to bring claims against the unscrupulous employers whose negligence has caused thousands of pounds worth of pain and suffering, the Government will be removing legal help for many workers and making it harder for them to tackle dodgy employers. “This Tory Government are reducing compensation and access to justice for people to help boost the already eye-watering profits of their friends in the insurance industry; it’s clear where their priorities lie.”

Chronicle Supplement: Education

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 13th September, Stephanie wrote the foreword to the Education Supplement on the importance of education and the current state of the education system after years of slashes to budgets and resources. You can read her full comments here.  

Government Foot-Dragging on Modern Slavery

As reported in the Huffington Post on 12th September, Stephanie has accused the Government of dragging their feet over attempts to tackle Modern Slavery, after it was revealed the key independent role established to address this practice will be left vacant for half a year. Commenting, Stephanie said: “To lose one independent commissioner might be unfortunate, but to have two entire commissions vacant for the best part of a year starts to look careless.  “They give every impression that they’d rather dodge independent scrutiny than welcome it, and no wonder when the Tory austerity is so badly damaging the very services that tackle modern slavery, protect the vulnerable and support the victims.”  Stephanie also called on the new anti-slavery commissioner to make a priority of ensuring victims were given access to free education - something she has said Home Office bureaucracy was blocking.  She said: “Ministers should end the cuts to the agencies that defend vulnerable workers, and listen to the calls for survivors to be allowed access to education, which will benefit both them and the whole community. That is an issue that I hope the new commissioner will look at, whenever they are appointed.” You can read Stephanie's full comments here.