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our public services and now they threatened to undermine our democracy to do it.'It's good news that they have withdrawn the regulations but I will be fighting every step of the way until we get this on to the floor of the Commons, and make ministers face the facts.'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.   

Stephanie Calls for Better Opportunities for Barnsley

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on 11th April, Stephanie made a speech in Parliament calling for a more inclusive economy that would provide better opportunities for people in Barnsley. She took the chance to make the call in a recent Parliamentary debate on ‘Social Mobility and the Economy’. According to the Social Mobility Foundation, Barnsley sits in the bottom 10 per cent of local authorities for social mobility, suggesting people there have a smaller chance of getting on in life than those elsewhere. The local MP commented on the lack of opportunities many children and young people in Barnsley face compared to their peers across the country, citing the huge inequality in both Government education spending and attainment for disadvantaged youngsters. She also suggested that the current economy has trapped people in low paid and precarious employment, rather than equipping them with the tools and opportunities to progress enjoyed elsewhere. Calling on the Government to produce an inclusive economy that works for people in Barnsley, she commented: “It’s completely unfair that even to this day, your postcode can still dictate your chances in life. “People in Barnsley should be given the same opportunities to succeed by this Government as everybody else across the country – but that’s just not the case. “Too many people here in Barnsley are left behind from early childhood and education, then trapped in precarious and insecure employment that pays too little. “We desperately need an inclusive economy that works for people here in Barnsley; that gives our children the same life chances as others, and hard-working people the opportunity to progress and get on in life – and the Government must urgently deliver this.”

Stephanie Reveals Confidence Crisis at Government's Key Lab

As reported in The Mirror and The Independent on the 7th April, Stephanie revealed a crisis in confidence in leadership at the Government's key science lab at Porton Down.  Staff at the Government’s chemical warfare HQ have lost confidence in its leadership as hundreds desert their jobs, an internal survey showed. Experts say a multi-million pound funding cut and the mass exodus of staff have left morale at rock-bottom. Stephanie exposed the alarming findings from an internal staff survey at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. Just 26 per cent expressed confidence in the decisions made by DSTL’s senior managers. Less than one worker in six felt their pay stood up against equivalent professionals elsewhere. And only a third felt motivated to meet the organisation’s objectives. Stephanie said: “As this week has shown all too clearly, Porton Down is in the front line of defending Britain. “But these disturbing results show this world-leading laboratory is being undermined by the Government’s refusal to invest in our services – with millions of pounds and hundreds of staff axed under the Tories. “Our scientists are at the global forefront of protecting people here and abroad from chemical and biological warfare or terrorism. “When ministers’ own civil servants have no confidence in their leadership, it is clear that the Government is letting down the people who work hard to keep us safe. “These figures are just the latest evidence that the Government needs to fundamentally re-think their whole approach to our public services.” Less than one worker in six felt their pay stood up against equivalent professionals elsewhere. And only a third felt motivated to meet the organisation’s objectives. DSTL has seen its income decline by more than 10 per cent since the Tories came to power in 2015. In the same period, it has lost nearly 200 staff. Stephanie said: “The consequences of Tory cuts are being laid bare. On their watch, the morale of defence staff is falling as fast as their budgets.”

Stephanie Discusses Local Authority Budgets

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 9th April, Stephanie said the government must take responsibility for the effects cuts are having on local councils and local services.Speaking in Parliament, Stephanie addressed the government’s new funding settlement will see Barnsley Council lose 29.8 per cent of its grant by 2020.The decrease follows a 49.1 per cent real-terms reduction in grants handed out by central government to local authorities across the UK since 2010.Stephanie said: “Once again, local authorities are being forced to shoulder drastic cuts in funding through this government’s continued obsession with austerity.“Barnsley Council has seen its budgets slashed since 2010, but demand for vital local services in our community continues.“It’s grossly unfair and unrealistic to expect local authorities to continue providing the same level of local services with ever-dwindling resources.“This government needs to take responsibility for their cuts and provide the resources local authorities like Barnsley desperately need to continue providing for local communities.”

Government Heeds Stephanie's Protection Plea

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle on 6th April, the Government have recognised calls including those by Barnsley East MP Stephanie to offer increased protection for victims of terrorism. The local MP has previously called for the closure of an insurance loophole that has prevented businesses affected by terrorism from receiving compensation for economic disruption. As the law stands, only victims with property damages have been entitled to pay-outs – a reflection of the era in which the 1993 Reinsurance Act that covers terrorism compensation was written. But the changes in the targets of recent terrorist attacks has seen areas and independent businesses suffer through closures and reduced custom, often resulting in severe economic losses for business owners. Back in December, Stephanie Peacock called for a change to this law in Parliament, suggesting that a minor amendment could allow economic victims to be properly compensated. Acknowledging calls like the Barnsley East MP’s, the Government has vowed to close the loophole. Pledging new legislation to do so, Pool Re – the Government backed terrorism insurer – will now be allowed to cover business interruption losses such as those suffered during the closures of many Borough Market businesses following the London Bridge attack in 2017. Welcoming the Government’s intent, the Barnsley MP has called for urgent legislation to be immediately brought forward to ensure the change. Commenting, Stephanie said: “As terrorism has changed over the years, our laws have failed to adapt and protect victims. “It’s wrong that innocent victims can be hit financially through the economic disruption caused by the cowardly attacks we’ve witnessed in recent years. “I’m pleased to see the Government had taken my appeals on board and pledged to amend this damaging oversight – something I addressed in Parliament as recently as December. “But it’s still just words and good intentions until legislation to amend the law is brought forward – something the Government must urgently do.”