Helen supports #DontZapTheZip

At the start of the lockdown in March, when people were told to stay at home, Transport for London saw drop of 90% in its income from fares and charges. Instead of working with TfL and the Mayor of London to protect London transport, the Tories want to force TfL to scrap free travel for under 18s as part of a package of harmful conditions attached to emergency funding.

This will mean thousands of families having to pay an extra £15 a week for each child who catches the bus to school.

At a time when so many families are hard pressed and food poverty is increasing, this is entirely unacceptable and for the poorest families it will undoubtedly lead to some children missing out on time at school. I support the Child Poverty Action Group’s #DontZapTheZip campaign and calling on the Government to reverse this damaging decision. 
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Royal Mail issues in SE22

Many constituents have contacted me regarding disruption to their postal service during the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has undoubtedly been very challenging for Royal Mail staff who have faced illness, and the need to adopt new working practices to be safe in the workplace, while the number of parcels for delivery has increased hugely in many areas as residents have stayed at home and ordered online.  I know that Royal Mail staff have been working tirelessly to sustain delivery services, East Dulwich residents in the SE22 area have experienced particular difficulties with deliveries.  I have been raising these issues with Royal Mail and last week I visited the delivery office for SE22 which is now based in Peckham following the closure of the SE22 delivery office in 2017. 

Throughout the pandemic many SE22 residents have gone weeks without post and parcels, and this is not acceptable.  It is clear that the closure of the Silvester Road delivery office has been disastrous.  The SE15 office is too far away from the further reaches of SE22 on foot, and there is too little space for both postcode areas to be sorted with adequate social distancing, contributing to delays. Royal Mail has sold the Silvester Road delivery office for millions of pounds and it is now being developed as luxury flats.  They must provide a fit for purpose delivery office in the SE22 postcode area so that their hardworking staff can provide the service residents rely on.

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Helen challenges the Secretary of State on Covid-19 testing for schools

An effective test, trace and isolate system is absolutely essential in enabling us to live as normally as possible while coronavirus is still circulating in our communities. As schools return and many children suffer the inevitable round of colds which the autumn brings, it is vitally important that testing is available so that coronavirus infections can be identified and isolated quickly to stop infection spread and to enable anyone who doesn’t have coronavirus to return to work or school as soon as possible.
The past week has shown the Government’s testing regime is not fit for purpose and is close to collapse. Some of my constituents have been asked to travel as far as Scotland for walk-in testing. Coronavirus cases are sadly going up across the country and testing has never been more important and the Government must act to sort the system out. I asked the Secretary of State today when children, teachers and school support staff will have reliable access to testing and results – he simply didn’t have an answer >>
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Helen challenges the Prime Minister on youth violence

Last week 18 year old Donnell Rhule was tragically murdered with a knife on the Kingswood Estate, leaving his family utterly devastated and the close-knit Kingswood community reeling. I have spoken with members of Donnell’s family and many local residents to offer my support at this unbearably difficult time.

Today I asked the Prime Minister to accept in full the recommendations of the cross-party Youth Violence Commission and implement a cross-government public health approach to serious violence, investing in our youth services, mental health services, early years support and community policing, and reforming the criminal justice system to stop more families from having to face the unbearable pain of losing a young person to knife crime. The Prime Minister chose to play politics instead. You can watch my question here >> 

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Helen speaks in debate on the NHS and Social Care

Today marks the 72nd anniversary of our precious NHS, appreciated and valued this year perhaps more than ever. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, health and social care workers have been on the frontline caring for vulnerable people and saving lives.

I pay tribute to their tireless work, and my thoughts are with the families of the health and care workers who have tragically lost their lives to coronavirus. Shamefully, the Government’s testing regime has been poorly planned and slow to scale up to the challenges of the virus. This left far too many health and social care workers exposed and allowed the virus to rapidly spread through care homes.

Last week, I called on the Minister to bring forward to meaningful reform needed to ensure staff are properly paid and to take action to give care homes and providers access to frequent, regular testing.

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Coronavirus and the arts

Lambeth and Southwark are both home to world leading theatres, and British theatre is one of our most successful exports abroad. I have been contacted by many constituents working in theatre and the performing arts.

Theatres and other performance venues in England receive very little public funding, unlike in other European countries, and rely on ticket sales to stay viable. With no clear date or plan to allow theatres to reopen, many performers, designers and technicians face the threat of redundancy.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to call for immediate action to help theatres throughout the closure but little support has so far been announced.

Last week, I wrote again to urge the Minister to consider acting to ensure British theatre survives. You can see my letter here>>

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Helen speaks in debate on Covid-19 and inequalities

Yesterday marked the third annual Windrush Day, on which we celebrate the enduring contribution of the Windrush generation to life in the UK. This celebration must never be sentimental, it takes place in the context of the reality of the structural racism and injustice that BAME people still experience today. Whether the government’s failure to deliver justice and compensation for the victims of the Windrush scandal, or the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on BAME residents in the UK, Windrush Day is a celebration but it must also be a time for deep national reflection, a redoubling of our commitment to address racial inequality once and for all and an urgent call for action. I spoke last week in a debate in Parliament on the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on BAME communities.

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Update on Nour Cash and Carry

Many local residents have been involved in the campaign to save a wonderful local independent shop in Brixton, Nour Cash & Carry. I’m delighted to share that yesterday Nour Cash & Carry reached an agreement with their landlord which means they have a secure, long term future in Brixton at a level of rent they can afford.

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Helen speaks in debate on free school meals

I pay tribute to the powerful work of Marcus Rashford and other campaigners in forcing the Government to act to stop the 1.3 million children eligible for free school meals in England from going hungry over the summer holidays. It is shameful that childhood hunger is such a huge issue in the UK after ten years of austerity, made worse by coronavirus. This problem has been getting worse for many years, but the Tories have refused to act.

As we begin to rebuild our country following the coronavirus, there cannot be a return to business as usual. Our recovery strategy must reform housing and social security, address low pay and insecure work and ensure that no child has to go to bed hungry again. You can watch my speech here>>

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Statement on Southwark Metal's Windsor Grove planning application

I have been contacted by many constituents in Gipsy Hill and West Norwood about the planning application by Southwark Metals for a large metal recycling centre on Windsor Grove. I share residents’ concerns about this application and believe that Windsor Grove is an entirely unsuitable site for a large waste facility. I have written to Lambeth Council to object to the development.
My concerns focus on the impact this application would have on traffic and air pollution in the local area. Windsor Grove is a narrow cul-de-sac, bordering a housing estate and visited frequently throughout the day by pedestrians visiting the Royal Mail delivery office to collect post and parcels. The high number of heavy goods vehicles visiting the recycling facility throughout the day would increase risk for pedestrians and cyclists including residents of Windsor Grove Estate entering and leaving their homes.
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