Helen challenges the Secretary of State on soaring childcare costs

Childcare costs have soared over the past decade putting  a huge strain on the cost of living. Instead of a bold plan to fix the broken and complicated system, the Government has announced plans to increase the number of children early years staff can look after.

Parents and providers don’t want this plan, it won’t deliver the high quality early years education young children need to recover from the pandemic.  Today the Secretary of State couldn’t even confirm that it would bring down costs for families >>

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Windrush Day 2022

I was delighted to join the Windrush Day celebrations in Brixton this morning. Today we celebrate the immense contribution the Windrush pioneers and their descendants have made and continue to make to our local community, economy, culture and public services since the arrival of the Windrush at Tilbury docks, 74 years ago.  

It is also an important moment to reflect on the racism and injustices they have faced over the past 74 years, and the on-going struggle for justice of those who became victims of the Windrush Scandal.  We celebrate, but we also stand in solidarity and we will continue to fight for justice and compensation and for the culture change we need to ensure that such a scandal can never happen again #windrushday #brixton #windrushjustice

https://www.youtube.com/shorts/5KUGxWxrBRg

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Independent Review of Children's Social Care statement

The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, which is published today, highlights the urgent need for a ‘total reset’ of children’s social care. I was pleased to respond to the review for Labour from the despatch box.

The review makes 80 recommendations, including on the need to take profit out of the care of children, and bring an end to the scandal of 16 and 17 year olds being left without support in unregistered care homes and private accommodation.

Our most vulnerable children have been failed by more than a decade of Conservative government. Since 2010, the numbers of children in need and entering the care system have soared whilst outcomes for care-experienced young people have worsened. At the heart of this failure is the Government’s erosion of early help support for struggling families, demonstrated most clearly in the closure of 1,300 Sure Start Centres.

This review is a vital opportunity to reset children’s social care and deliver better outcomes for our most vulnerable children and their families.  It is an opportunity that must not be missed.  Labour will always put children first.  We did so in government, and we will do so again.  In the meantime, we will hold the government to account every single day on the urgent need to transform children’s social care. You can see part of my speech here>>

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Queen's speech and the cost of living

This year’s Queen’s Speech is desperately lacking in ambition and exposes a Government out of ideas. It should have been an opportunity to announce the legislation needed to address the cost of living crisis and rebuild resilience in our communities but it failed even to mention some of the biggest challenges facing our country.

Far too many people are now facing impossible decisions between eating and heating, with parents worried about how they will feed their children and pensioners forced to wear coats indoors to keep warm. The consequences of the cost of living are appalling and unacceptable.

Our country needs and deserves so much better.  The Labour Party has a plan. We would introduce an emergency budget to address the cost of living crisis and provide relief to people suffering hardship at this time.  You can watch my contribution to the Queen’s Speech debate here >>

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Helen calls on the Minister to fix children's mental health services

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, children and young people’s mental health services were stretched to breaking point, and the situation is now even worse.  Far too many young people face an agonising wait for months or even years for the mental health treatment they need.

The Government has consistently failed to treat mental health with the same urgency as physical health or to act on the mental health crisis young people are facing. Today I called on the Secretary of State to listen to the Labour Party and provide open access mental health hubs in every community>>

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Helen asks the Prime Minister about the Government's response to the appalling treatment of Child Q

The degrading strip search of Child Q, which has caused anger and distress across the country, happened two years ago. The lack of immediate and urgent action from the Government is very troubling.
 
Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister when he knew about this case and why there is no urgency from his government in relation to the safety of children>>
https://youtu.be/G-1EttQqmpo
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Helen speaks in debate on rape convictions and the safety of women and girls

The shocking failure to prosecute the appalling offence of rape is one of the clearest manifestations of how this Government is failing women and girls. Shamefully, perpetrators of rape will only face any consequences in fewer than 2% of cases. Government Ministers have responded to this shocking record with warm words but have consistently failed to take meaningful action to tackle sexual violence against women and girls.

Reform is urgently needed to ensure that women’s experiences are taken seriously and when crimes are commitment perpetrators are brought to justice.  Women and girls must be able to feel safe on our streets and in our public spaces. This must mean a change in the culture of policing and reform of the justice system.  We also a need a much greater focus on prevention to address the root causes of misogyny and the casual every day harassment which erodes women’s confidence and forces us to adapt our behaviour to stay safe. You can see part of my recent speech here >>

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SEND Review

The need for Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), which set out the additional support children with special education needs and disabilities should be able to access, has grown every year since 2015. However, the Government has been far too slow to respond leaving children without the support they are entitled to. In 2020, a staggering 26,683 families were forced to wait more than five months for their child to get an EHCP assessment. This is almost half of the total number of plans issued.  One in five requests are refused, yet 95% of refusals are overturned by the tribunal.

Families shouldn’t need to fight for the support their children are entitled to but the current crisis is forcing more and more parents to turn to the courts to access the support they need. In 2020/21, 733 requests for EHCPs were only accepted after parents took their cases to court. This can be an expensive and lengthy process, and it shouldn’t be necessary.

Last week I visited Manor Green College in Crawley.  It was a pleasure to see the excellent education Manor Green provides for their students and the care and attention which goes into keeping EHCPs up to date. Every child with additional needs should be able to access the support they need, yet the current system is leaving many students struggling without vital support.

The government has promised that the SEND Review will address these failings, but it has already been delayed three times while families are being systematically let down. The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a terrible toll on disabled children and their families, and the review should have been prioritised.  It is long overdue and there is so much work to do.

The Government must end this agonising uncertainty and finally bring forward the SEND Review without delay, so that every child can flourish at school.

https://youtu.be/ZP4ZXHajZN0

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Helen calls on the Minister to urgently open a scheme for refugees from Ukraine

It was extremely moving to listen to President Zelenskyy address the House of Commons.  His leadership, courage and resolve is extraordinary and humbling. 

The war in Ukraine has already led to millions of civilians being displaced. In recent days we have seen shocking scenes of barbaric cruelty by Putin’s forces and people across Ukraine are fleeing to safety. The UK Government has been too slow to respond to the humanitarian crisis, issuing just a tiny fraction of the number of visas issued by other European countries, with Ukrainians seeking to be reunited with family members in the UK, with no scheme currently open for those who do not already have family members here.

The Government has announced that a community sponsorship scheme will be set up but has yet to provide details to sponsorship groups across the country.

Community sponsorship is a valued and important route to sanctuary in the UK and I am proud that our local area has welcomed several families through the current scheme. However, it can take many months for community groups to raise the required funding and for applications to be processed. Today I called on the Immigration Minister to confirm when the scheme would open and what he is doing to ensure it is fit for purpose for the current emergency in Ukraine >>

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Statement on Lambeth Site Allocations Development Plan Document (SADPD)

Lambeth Council has recently consulted on new planning policy for a number of locations in my constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood in a draft document called the Site Allocations Development Plan Document (SADPD).

I have been contacted by many local residents who have concerns about the proposals for some of the locations covered by the SADPD, and this week I have submitted my detailed response to the consultation to Lambeth Council.

In my response to the council I have set out my concerns about the very limited options for residents and community groups to engage in this process, and I have asked the Council to pause the process until after the local elections in May to allow more time for local people and businesses to have a say on the future of their area. This document should set out a clear vision based on a local consensus on areas of the borough that are likely to experience change or development in the coming years, but it can only do this if is based on a collaborative process that fully involves local people and community groups.

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