Column: tackling child poverty and holiday hunger

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 19th February:This week I visited FareShare Yorkshire at their centre in Wombwell, to make a donation and see how they were continuing to cope and support local residents in the current climate.FareShare is the UK’s largest food charity, made up of a network of 17 independent food redistribution organisations, which take surplus food from the food industry and deliver it to charities such as foodbanks, homeless hostels, domestic violence refuges and day centres.Foodbanks have become an all-too-common sight in our communities over the past decade. I am sure you will share my frustration that in one of the globe’s leading economies, we’ve reached a point where people have to rely on the charity of others to feed their families. This is a harsh reality that began long before COVID-19, with stark increases in poverty over the last ten years under this Government. It is very worrying that nearly four million children are living in poverty in the UK, with that number only set to rise. No child should go hungry, and I have consistently voiced my support and commitment to introduce free school meals for all primary school children, which would make a huge difference to both health and educational attainment.Sadly, organisations such as FareShare have become necessary as poverty and hunger have increased, and their work has become even more important during the pandemic. This past year has been incredibly difficult for our community. We’ve just had a winter where we have had to witness the heart breaking almost Victorian scenes of people having to queue in the snow for food, and FareShare have already seen their demand increase three-fold over the period.Campaigns to tackle and alleviate child poverty and holiday hunger are something I have supported for a long time. In my previous role as a teacher, I saw first-hand the negative impact that hungry children can have on their learning and as such will continue to support FareShare and all efforts to ensure local residents don’t go hungry.I would urge you to donate to your local foodbank if you are able to do so. Every pound you donate helps them provide four meals for people in need across the area, and you can find more information on the Barnsley Foodbank website about the items they particularly need.In 2021, no one should be struggling to put food on the table. We need a proper strategy to tackle this issue, and I will continue to press the Government to take urgent action to tackle child poverty and holiday hunger both during the pandemic and as we recover from this crisis in the years ahead.

Workshop for charities with the People's Postcode Lottery

I’m hosting a workshop for Barnsley charities with the People's Postcode Lottery.The People’s Postcode Lottery have funded grants totalling £30,500 to organisations in Barnsley East.The event aims to share best practice applying for funding so more charities can benefit.If you are a local charity sign up by emailing: [email protected] details can be found below.

HeartUnions Week 2021

This week is HeartUnions week, which recognises the amazing work unions do week in week out to give people a voice at work.If you aren’t a union member I would encourage you to join.There is power in a union: tuc.org.uk/heartunions

Urgent Question: UK shellfish export ban

I was granted an Urgent Question in Parliament to ask the government for clarity on the EU ban on UK shellfish exports. The UK shellfish industry is facing collapse and without urgent action to resolve the situation many businesses will not survive. Issues such as this will affect communities up and down the country and not only fishers, but also other supply chain jobs will be affected by this situation. What the fishing industry needs now is clarity from the government on what steps the Government will take to support them. Watch my UQ here.

Dearne Valley Parkway speeding update

Since our public meeting in July last year on speeding and anti-social behaviour on the Dearne Valley Parkway, I have been working with South Yorkshire Police, Barnsley Council, and John Healey MP to address the concerns raised, and I just wanted to provide a short update on where things stand.South Yorkshire Police and Barnsley Council’s Highways Department have informed me that they are continuing to actively monitor this issue. There are regular South Yorkshire Police patrols in the area as part of their daily patrol plan, and a number of drivers have been spoken to about their behaviour in recent months.However, there will be times when the Police aren’t in the area, and it’s important that residents continue to report issues as and when they arise, so the Police are aware of what is happening and when the problem times are, and can react accordingly. You can report incidents through 101 or online: https://www.reportingcrime.uk/I’m also aware of long-standing issues at Cortonwood, and I’m pleased that the retail park has agreed to close its barriers each evening to prevent car meet ups at the site. This will be monitored by Rotherham Council’s out-of-hours team. Alongside this, John Healey is pushing Rotherham Council to ensure that preparations are in place for a cross-boundary injunction to be introduced to prevent certain anti-social activities, if this is deemed necessary.Speeding and anti-social behaviour on the Dearne Valley Parkway is something that residents have had to put up with for far too long. I know how disruptive this is, and I will continue to push for further actions to address these problems. I will make sure I keep residents updated moving forward, and if I can support you with anything in the meantime, please do email me at [email protected]

Times Radio interview with Johnny Wood on dangerous driving

Johnny Wood and I spoke to Times Radio about our campaign to get justice for his sister Jackie.We are still waiting on the Government to introduce the changes that they promised to increase maximum sentencing for people who kill by dangerous driving.

Column: World Cancer Day

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 5th February:This week we marked World Cancer Day. This initiative was established by the Union for International Cancer Control and is vital in giving a voice and saying thank you to the nurses, doctors, researchers, volunteers, advocates, and other caregivers in oncology from around the world as well as government agencies who support the fight against cancer. This year in particular, we also pay tribute to those around the world who have worked tirelessly these past 12 months through the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past three years the World Cancer Day theme has been “I Am, and I Will” which was chosen to encapsulate the extraordinary spirit and the strength of those facing cancer. The theme is all about each person and their personal commitment to reduce the impact of cancer. No community is immune from the devastating impact of cancer. We all know of someone who has lost a loved one, family member, or neighbour to this devastating disease. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death across the globe with the number of new cancer cases worldwide expected to rise to 30 million by 2040. This year has been particularly trying for international and domestic cancer research as cancer organisations around the world have experienced sharp declines in funding and operational resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And whilst it is vital that we tackle COVID-19 head on with all the resources that we can muster, we must not risk a further crisis down the line regarding funding for cancer research. Last November, I spoke in parliament on the importance of a cancer recovery plan to deal with the backlog in breast cancer screening tests. Over the past few months, we have seen spiralling wait lists which has had a devastating impact on people’s health. In response to a parliamentary question that I asked, the Government revealed that nearly 10,000 women were waiting for a breast cancer screening in Barnsley alone, and more than 30,000 women in South Yorkshire. It is important that we all play our part in continuing to regularly check ourselves for lumps and bumps across our bodies and encouraging friends and family members to do so too. I know many people are uneasy at attending hospital appointments due to the pandemic, but I would encourage those of you who are given an appointment to still attend. The NHS is still open for business and will continue to be available for all those who need it.

World Cancer Day 2021

Today, on World Cancer Day, I met with Cancer Research UK to discuss the incredible work that they do and the importance of tackling the backlog in cancer treatment. Whether it is our friends, our family, or personally, cancer touches all of us. This year has been devastating for cancer treatment and organisations, with thousands of treatments being postponed, whilst NHS staff have treated hundreds of thousands of coronavirus patients. Nearly 10,000 women are currently waiting for a breast cancer screening in Barnsley alone. In November, I spoke in parliament on the importance of a cancer recovery plan to deal with the backlog in breast cancer screening tests. Most of all, this World Cancer Day, I want to encourage everyone to continue to check for symptoms and to make an appointment if you have any concerns or find anything out of the ordinary. The NHS is still open for business and will continue to be available for all those who need it.

Sammy's Law

We need to end the criminalisation of victims of Child Sexual Exploitation. Having met Sammy Woodhouse this week, I am asking the Government to introduce Sammy’s Law - the right for survivors to have their criminal records as a result of grooming reviewed and removed.You can watch part of my comments in Parliament here.

Meeting Mineworkers' Pension Scheme trustees

I met with the Mineworkers Pension Scheme trustees to discuss the next steps in our campaign for a fairer deal for miners.Read more about the issues here.