• Government’s U-turn on ending free school meals

    I strongly welcome the Government’s U-turn on ending free school meals for 1.3 million vulnerable children this summer holiday, a move which would have affected nearly 5000 children here in St Helens borough.

    Manchester United player Marcus Rashford has done an inspirational job in showing leadership and generating support for the Covid Summer Food Fund, and it is only thanks to him, local & national campaigners and action in Parliament by Labour MPs that Ministers changed course.

    St Helens North has seen a 72% rise in unemployment since March, indicating the growing burdens Covid-19 has forced on households across our communities. For countless families feeling the squeeze, free school meals are a real lifeline – ensuring many of our children don’t go hungry.

    It’s only right this isn’t taken away from those who need it most.

  • Post Office Horizon scandal

    The revelations exposed by last week’s BBC Panorama programme, which uncovered the Post Office Horizon scandal, are deeply shocking, and now we must see swift answers provided for all those who were unjustly wronged.

    For years, sub-postmasters tragically had their lives ruined by being falsely accused, pursued and imprisoned due to a faulty IT system, all whilst Post Office bosses refused to accept computer glitches were causing problems, and spent tens of millions of pounds defending its position.

    This appalling scandal has had a profound impact on many Post Office workers, and sadly I know some in St Helens North were affected. Clearly, a thorough investigation and compensation are urgently needed to restore public confidence and ultimately deliver justice.

  • British Airways

    The shocking announcement that British Airways is to make up to 12,000 employees redundant – a quarter of its workforce – is devastating news for all those affected, and highlights the uncertainty facing airline staff across St Helens borough and the North West.

    With 1.6 million jobs dependent on the UK’s aviation industry, it’s clear from my discussions with Unite and local trade unionists that a robust sector-wide package is needed to mitigate the intense financial pressures caused by coronavirus, with taxpayer funding conditional on companies safeguarding jobs, staff salaries, workers’ rights and environmental protections.

    There’s little question that the sector, trade unions, and above all workers are crying out for leadership, urgency and clarity. So far, the Government has failed to provide either.

  • Volunteers’ Week

    This week marked a Volunteers’ Week like never before, when more than ever we should show our appreciation and thanks for the millions of people across the country who generously give their time to help others and keep our communities flourishing.

    As the local MP, I am fortunate enough to meet so many dedicated volunteers across St Helens North and see their fantastic work in action, whether it’s as individuals, clubs or organisations. They are the backbone of our communities and we are all very grateful for them and their work.

    During these difficult times, their contribution has shone brighter than ever, from collecting and distributing food to the vulnerable and those shielding, to befriending the elderly and working with local charities. Through St Helens Together, St Helens Council and St Helens VCA, hundreds of constituents have come forward to help out during this crisis; acting as street champions, dropping off medicines and much more.

    I know all local residents appreciate the valuable work they do, but this week has been an excellent opportunity to say another huge thank you to all our local volunteers for the time they give, and the real difference they make to so many.

  • the killing of George Floyd

    Following the killing of George Floyd and the disturbing scenes from the USA, the Steve Prescott Bridge was lit in purple to show solidarity from St Helens in support of justice and equality, and opposition to racism, in the US, UK & everywhere else.
    At a time like this when there is such a burning sense of injustice there is a need for far sighted, healing and unifying leadership.
    I joined the Labour Party and became politically active to fight all forms discrimination and injustice: social, economic and racial. I’m proud of our record but I know that we all still need to do more to recognise the racism that black people and BAME communities experience.
    We shall overcome, some day.

  • 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

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