• stark rise in unemployment

    Last week’s stark figures revealing a sharp increase in people claiming unemployment benefits are extremely worrying and make plain to see the severity of the crisis facing individuals, households and families in St Helens North and across the North West.
    In April, the number of people who claimed unemployment benefits in St Helens North increased by a staggering 72.6% on the previous month, giving a total figure of 3,840 – including 775 claimants aged 18-24, up 65%.
    Towns and boroughs like St Helens faced significant challenges before the onset of Covid-19, which is why we’ll need significantly higher levels of intervention to plan our economic recovery, including an immediate focus on keeping people in employment, getting cash to businesses and ensuring the social security system responds to these unprecedented circumstances to stop families falling into poverty.
    It’s clear we need a national recovery plan – with government, business and trade unions acting together – to get those who’ve lost their jobs back into work, education or training, otherwise we risk long-term unemployment for a whole generation.

  • the re opening of our schools

    As the parent of a Year 1 child at a local primary school and a toddler at a local nursery, I want to be confident that my children and all children in St Helens borough, as well as those who teach and care for them, are returning to a safe environment. We all want our children’s education and enjoyment of normal school life to resume, but this cannot be done at the expense of their health and safety, nor that of teachers and other staff working in our schools.

    Many of our schools have been open throughout this crisis, and I thank all those headteachers, teachers and staff who have provided support for vulnerable children and ensured that key workers have been able to continue in their vital work.

    Unfortunately, the Government’s approach to this announcement, as it has been with their wider communication of how we move forward, has been muddled, and exacerbated anxiety and concerns. It has been made clear that the re-opening of schools is dependent on a number of factors: a lowering of coronavirus cases; a national plan for social distancing; tests available for staff and pupils; for each school to have planned for the safety of all and a plan to protect vulnerable teachers.

    I have been working with my Labour colleagues and frontbench Education team to urge the Government to work collaboratively with trade unions – who I have been in direct contact with – and parents’ organisations to identify and address issues within schools before the Government finally confirms a date for their reopening.

    I have visited a local school – St Cuthbert’s High School in Parr – to see for myself how schools might move towards opening up to more pupils when safe to do so; it is challenging, to say the least. Thank you to Mrs Twist and her excellent team for facilitating this. I have also written to all schools within the constituency asking them their views on the proposed increase in pupils attending.

    Additionally, I have worked closely with St Helens Council, and commend the Cabinet Member responsible for Education, Cllr Sue Murphy, for working closely with schools, engaging with local trade unions, and supporting headteachers in the decisions they come to. It is also important that in these early stages, parents who are concerned and choose not to send their children to school because of concerns they have are not penalised.

    We have many fantastic schools across St Helens borough. Our headteachers and governing bodies will act in the best interests of pupils, staff, parents and the wider community. They will have my full support and confidence in making these decisions in the difficult weeks and months ahead.

  • Mental Health Awareness Week

    Today marks the beginning of a Mental Health Awareness Week like no other, where our collective efforts to stop, reflect, spread kindness and get the nation talking about mental health have never been so important.
    Although we can’t meet in person for now, no one should feel they are alone or without help. Whether it’s the Kind to Your Mind campaign, the OK to Ask initiative, or any of the other support networks available across St Helens borough, I want all local people to know that help is always on hand, no matter what, for those who need it.
    Now, kindness matters like never before, and it’s absolutely vital we each take the time to care for ourselves, our family, neighbours and friends during these extraordinary times and beyond.

  • International nurses day

    On the 12th May we celebrate International Nurses Day and the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

    I want to take this opportunity, on behalf of all residents in St Helens North, to thank and pay tribute to all the amazing nurses in our NHS in St Helens and beyond for their heroic efforts to help, cure and care for us.

    More than ever before, they continue to go above and beyond what’s asked of them to keep us safe from the very frontline. Thank you for all you do!

  • the 75th anniversary of VE Day

    Today we mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, which commemorates the end of World War Two in Europe. It was a day of joy and deep emotions, where the whole nation came together to celebrate victory over tyranny, and remember the sacrifices made by those here in St Helens and beyond.
    A rich and diverse array of events were planned to celebrate this historic anniversary, from street parties to church services, all designed to bring local people together to honour a generation of men and women who gave so much for us all.
    Whilst the Covid-19 crisis has understandably meant some of these events can no longer take place as originally intended, many in our innovative community have found new, exciting and safe ways to mark this important holiday; from virtual meetings, decorating front windows, home concerts, to the ringing of church bells.
    This is a day for us to unite, to remember and to celebrate

  • fighting for the future of rugby league

    I welcome today the Government’s rescue package of £16 million to safeguard the immediate future of Rugby League. It’s great news and a good initial boost for the sport, which is doing so much to help people here in our St Helens communities and across the country.
    In early April, myself and Marie Rimmer MP, as St Helens MPs, wrote to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP to stress the cultural and economic force for good of Rugby League in Northern towns like St Helens, all while highlighting the danger to the game’s survival in light of the Covid-19 crisis, which has seen stadium doors close and revenue streams fall.
    Whilst it’s encouraging to see Ministers now addressing our concerns, it’s equally vital they keep this support under review going forward; responding to the evolving needs of local clubs and the Rugby Football League in order to truly guarantee the longevity of the game.