Column: holiday hunger

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 3rd August, Stephanie wrote her recent column on the importance of tackling holiday hunger. She wrote about how the number of children going hungry as they're forced to go without their usual free school meal is unacceptable, and we need to do so much more to make sure the summer holidays are a happier time for all our children. You can read her full comments here.

Stephanie Calls for End to Tip Scandal

As reported in the Independent, Stephanie has called on the Government to end the tipping scandal that sees companies snatching tips meant for workers.  She accused Ministers of breaking their promises to low-paid workers amid claims they have quietly dropped plans to ensure restaurant and bar staff are not being exploited. Stephanie, who recently introduced a Commons bill on protecting workers’ rights, commented: “This month marks two years since the government closed its consultation on fair tips. The Tories promised it would lead to action, yet they now admit that they haven’t even started drafting a response. “While ministers drag their feet, workers and customers alike are being ripped off by rogue bosses who are grabbing tips that were intended for staff. “It is appalling that staff, often in precarious employment, are going into another busy summer season without the basic protection they deserve, with workers at TGI Fridays worked to take strike action to demand their share. “Government inaction will only fuel the suspicion that they have quietly abandoned their promises and want to let rogue bosses off the hook. Ministers should come clean, and if they’re going to take real action to stop this scandal, they need to get on with it.” You can read more on this issue and Stephanie's comments here.

Column: fair pay for care workers

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 20th July, Stephanie wrote her recent column on the need for fair pay for care workers here in Barnsley and across the UK. She wrote about how many care workers are appallingly underpaid, and how a fair wage for care workers who look after some of the most vulnerable in our society is long overdue.

Stephanie Celebrates NHS' Birthday

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 13th July, Stephanie recently visited Barnsley hospital to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS. Commenting, Stephanie said: “The NHS is Labour’s proudest achievement, guided by the belief that all citizens, regardless of where they were born and regardless of their wealth, should have access to healthcare, free at the point of access.“I want to pay tribute to our dedicated NHS staff and all who’ve come before them.“They are the lifeblood of our health service, and whenever I meet them I’m humbled by their skill, professionalism and dedication. Thank you to all our NHS staff for all that you do all year round.“As we mark 70 years of our NHS, let’s celebrate our health service, and renew our commitment to defending an NHS that’s universal and free at the point of access.” You can read more about her visit here.  

Stephanie Champions Local Initiative to Tackle Modern Slavery

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on 12th July, Stephanie stood up in Parliament to champion Northern College’s new ‘Free Thinking’ course that seeks to help survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking. The initiative was set up at the local college to help those who have recently been helped out of modern slavery; where people are literally used as a slave labour – facing not just work without pay but life without freedom. Over 5,000 people were identified as victims of this practice in 2017, along with human trafficking – an increase of over a third. The College’s course – set up by Cllr Chris Lamb – seeks to equip survivors with functional skills and knowledge, confidence and trust so that they can live and work in the UK, or return to their home country if they wish. With the first course commencing last May, 14 students from 11 countries were welcome to the college. However, following funding concerns due to Government rules that prevent the college using their education grant – possibly meaning the course is limited in future – local MP Stephanie championed their cause in Parliament. Speaking in the House of Commons, the MP paid tribute to the fantastic local initiative and demanded a meeting with the Education Secretary to discuss the funding issues the college faces with its modern slavery course. She has since secured the meeting, and will be putting forward the problems faced by Northern College to the Education Secretary in the hope of securing financial security for the course. Stephanie said: “In this day and age, it can seem almost unbelievable that slavery exists in a country like ours, but unfortunately this is the case. “However, the course provided by Northern College is a fantastic local initiative that admirably seeks to help survivors of this barbaric practice, along with the appalling system of human trafficking, by providing them with the means to commence their normal lives again. “But due to Government regulations the college has financial concerns for the course, and I took the opportunity in Parliament recently to champion its cause and push for secure funding. “After pressing the Government on this issue and pushing for a meeting, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to discuss Northern College’s modern slavery course further with them.”

COLUMN: NHS' 70th Birthday

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 6th July, Stephanie's wrote her recent column on the National Health Services' 70th Birthday. She commented on the impact it has had through the ages, the state of our NHS today, and what is needed to ensure it can continue for decades more. You can read her full comments here.

Stephanie meets with Guide Dogs charity in Parliament

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 29th June, Stephanie recently met with the Guide Dogs charity in Parliament.Representatives from the charity visited Parliament last week to show MPs the difficulties caused by overgrown trees and bushes and cars parked on the pavementGuide dog owners informed Stephanie that they are sometimes reluctant to go out knowing they will be impeded by cars and other obstacles.Commenting, Stephanie said:'The display in Parliament by Guide Dogs was a great way to experience first-hand the problems faced by people with sight loss.'From overhanging trees, to cars parked on pavements, clutter on our streets that many of us pay no attention to can provide real obstacles to people in our community.'It was valuable to drop by, take part and learn more about what we can do to help people with sight loss.'

Stephanie speaks on insecure work and the gig economy

As reported in the Yorkshire Post on 28th June, Stephanie recently spoke in a parliamentary debate which she secured on insecure work and the so-called gig economy.The following appeared in the Yorkshire Post as an edited version of Stephanie's speech in the debate:'A changing economy over the past decade has led to a boom in new jobs, which have combined to create a worrying picture of employment rights across our economy. Often under the pretence of offering flexibility, employers have exploited working practices to maximise profit at the expense of workers.The experience of being trapped in a low-paid job with no guaranteed hours, wages or security of employment, and of being unable to plan past this week’s rota or pay cheque, with fewer rights and lower pay than colleagues, is all too familiar for people across the country.It is notoriously difficult to measure insecure work, which is in itself part of the problem, but some estimates put the number of people trapped in insecure employment well into the millions.The number of people in zero-hours or agency contracts alone is near the one million mark, while nearly three million people are underemployed and left seeking more hours than they secure week after week.Areas such as my own in Barnsley are disproportionately affected. Former industrial towns and coalfield areas have been left behind by the economy and are taken advantage of.Where average wages lag far behind national levels, unemployment is higher and social mobility is appallingly low. Unscrupulous companies can offer insecure, low-paid work where the alternative is often nothing.In Barnsley, the switch to gig employment and short-term work in ​areas such as distribution warehouses and our public sector means that too many people in my constituency simply cannot be certain that their job will last longer than the next rota. No matter how hard they work, their precarious employment leaves them with no chance to save up or plan for the future.It is not just workers who suffer. Companies’ widespread avoidance of the minimum wage, holiday pay and sick leave is estimated to cost the public purse £300m a year in lost National Insurance contributions.Such practices undermine the many employers who play by the rules, the companies that invest in their workers’ skills and training, the family-run businesses that pay their staff a decent wage, and the employers who pay their taxes and make pension contributions. In one way or another, we are all footing the bill for the businesses that take advantage of precarious work. Action is long overdue.It is a little over a year to the day since the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street after the election and noted that people who have a job do not always have job security.Sadly, the Government has kicked the Taylor review’s recommendations into the long grass. Will Ministers commit to take action to ensure more and better workplace inspections to ensure that the scant, bare-minimum ​protections that workers are currently afforded are actually enforced, and that swift action is taken against abusive employers?On companies that make profits off the backs of agency workers, will Ministers ensure that, from day one, agency workers are afforded the same rights and pay as permanent staff doing the same roles in the same company?That is another issue that I sought to address in my recent Private Member’s Bill. Cases brought against Uber and Pimlico Plumbers show that such workers are employees; they are not self-employed or independent contractors, as was claimed. In view of such cases, will the Government act now, rather than wait for every single worker to undertake judicial proceedings against their employer? Those are not just legal judgments against individual employers, but damning indictments of employers in the gig economy as a whole.I have heard from an Amazon worker who has seen women colleagues tragically miscarry in a warehouse, and fights break out on the packing floor because the competition for work is so high. I have heard the heartbreaking story of a care worker whose employers forced her to provide a urine sample to prove she was too sick to work.Another care worker’s agency refused to give her work as soon as it found out she was pregnant.I have heard from a Hermes worker who gets only one day off a year to spend with his family, which has a damaging effect not just on him but on his wife and children.Those workers are the real face of the gig economy. It is simply not good enough. We urgently need an economy that works for everyone. We need well-paid jobs that offer long-term security and give people the chance not just to get by, but to succeed and prosper. We need genuine action that addresses the employment loopholes that unscrupulous employers use to exploit vulnerable workers. Many people across the UK need action now.'

Stephanie attends RSPCA's parliamentary drop-in

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on 27th June, Stephanie recently attended the RSCPA's annual parliamentary drop-in, where she heard directly from RSPCA Inspectors about their frontline work to protect animals in Barnsley East and across the UK. At the event, the scale of animal cruelty complaints across South Yorkshire was revealed. In 2017, the RSPCA investigated 4538 complaints about animal cruelty in the county, with the charity’s nationwide 24-hour cruelty line receiving over a million calls. The RSPCA has been investigating and prosecuting animal welfare offences since its foundation in 1824, and they are increasing their work to prevent cruelty occurring in the first place and to educate the next generation of animal lovers. Said Stephanie: “I’m proud to support the RSPCA and the work that their Inspectors do to protect animal welfare in Barnsley East and across South Yorkshire. “It was fantastic to meet some of their hard-working Inspectors and to thank them on behalf of the animal lovers in our area for all that they do. “However, I am saddened that the RSPCA’s latest statistics show animal cruelty complaints are continuing in South Yorkshire. We all have a duty to be vigilant against abuses of animal welfare and I will continue to work closely with the RSPCA to help improve standards of animal welfare in South Yorkshire and across the UK.”

Column: Great Get Together 2018

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd June, Stephanie's recent column focused on the Great Get Together 2018. Stephanie wrote about how the Great Get Together is part of the More in Common celebrations in the memory of Jo Cox, the MP who was killed on 16th June 2016, and about the importance of Great Get Together events in bringing people and communities together to celebrate all that we have in common.