Column: International Women's Day 2021

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 5th March:On Monday we celebrate International Women’s Day. Each year people ask if International Women’s Day is still relevant and the answer is that yes, it definitely is. We have come a long way in the last 50 years but there is still a lot of work to do.During the pandemic, it has been women more than men who have had to put their careers on hold or work long hours juggling the demands of a job alongside home schooling and childcare. The bulk of the childcare responsibilities fell to them when the schools closed, with the Office for National Statistics reporting that women were carrying out on average two-thirds more of the childcare duties per day than men. This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is ‘Choose to Challenge’. To speak out when faced with discrimination is often difficult but if we all take small steps to challenge where we see inequality then the collective voice would help to forge an inclusive world.Since being elected as the first female MP for Barnsley East I have championed many causes for women. From speaking in Parliament about the gender pay gap, pushing for better support in the workplace for women who suffer from endometriosis, supporting Barnsley charities, IDAS and the Rape Crisis Centre to speaking to high school girls, encouraging them to pursue their career goals.I also strive to be a voice for those who would otherwise not be heard. Last year I spoke in Parliament on the Domestic Abuse Bill, highlighting how our justice system lets down domestic abuse survivors while handing abusers the tools and means of exerting control over partners long after they have left.Tragically, over the course of the various lockdowns, the charity Refuge has reported an increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline saying that although the lockdown itself “does not cause domestic abuse”, the measures can “aggravate pre-existing behaviours in an abusive partner”. I have also challenged the government on the appalling practice of some GPs charging Domestic abuse victims for letters to prove their injuries were indeed caused by abuse. This practice remains appalling and needs government intervention to ensure it stops.Women have stood at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and leaders in combating the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted both the importance of their contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry.We have come a long way in the fight for gender parity, but this recent crisis has proven that we, sadly, are still not there yet. International Woman’s Day exists to highlight this fact and bring both women, and men, along in the fight for full equality.

Remembering Joe Green and David Jones

This week we will be remembering Joe Green and David Jones who lost their lives during the 1984 Miners’ Strike.I have laid a wreath at the NUM in Barnsley in their memory.

Meeting with the Barnsley Pharmaceutical Group

I met with a representative from the Barnsley Pharmaceutical Group. We discussed the challenges they face & the vaccine rollout.Community Pharmacies have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic. The Government should give them the resources they need. Read more here.

Questioning the Government on support for victims of domestic abuse

It’s a disgrace that domestic abuse victims are being charged to ‘prove their injuries’ to be able to access vital support.I am calling on the Government to end this outrageous practice.Watch my question in Parliament here.

Speaking to Politics North about the cladding scandal

Hayley Tillotson has shared how she became the first person in the UK to be made bankrupt because of the cladding crisis.Her story is one of many lives that have been turned upside down by incorrect cladding on their homes. Action is needed from the Government.Watch here.

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]