Helen writes to the Home Office ahead of return flight to Jamaica on December 2nd

Many of my constituents have contacted me to express their concern about the Government’s planned return flight of 50 people to Jamaica. I am alarmed that the Government is pushing ahead with deportation flights when they have still failed to implement the recommendations of the Windrush Lessons Learned review in full. Many of the people who are booked on this flight have lived in the UK since childhood and do not have any family or connections in Jamaica, and more than half have children in the UK.  Previous deportation flights have included Windrush citizens and people whose cases are still going through the judicial process.  Until the Lessons Learned Review has been implemented in full, there is a serious risk that further injustice will be done. I have written on behalf of my constituents to the Home Secretary to urge her to cancel this flight >>

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Helen calls on the Foreign Secretary to act in support of the #EndSARS protests

The brutal repression of peaceful protestors in Nigeria is horrific and unacceptable. Independent observers have documented the violent actions of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protestors’ call for the abolition of SARS officers, an independent investigation into their use of torture, and for wider reform in Nigeria must be heard. I have written to the Foreign Secretary and you can see my letter below:

 

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Cineworld and Picturehouse Cinemas and furlough scheme

In October, Cineworld announced that all of its Picturehouse cinemas, including three sites in Dulwich and West Norwood, were to close indefinitely. Staff were offered an impossible choice between redundancy or unpaid leave whilst others resigned in order to be able to reclaim unpaid holiday leave. This left them facing months without pay or looking for a new job in the middle of a further lockdown. I wrote to Cineworld at the time to oppose this decision and have been in regular contact with unions representing staff. I am dismayed to hear that, whilst staff on unpaid leave will be furloughed, Cineworld is refusing to rehire & furlough staff who were made redundant prior to the extension of the furlough scheme denying them vital support. I have written again to the Chief Executive of Cineworld to urge him to reconsider >>

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Helen challenges the Minister on outsourcing during the pandemic

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Tories have awarded large government contracts to their friends and donors. We have expertise in our local NHS and public health teams, but companies with no track record of delivery have been hired for billions of pounds to run Test and Trace and supply PPE, leading to chaos. You can see my question to the Minister here>>

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Support for families over the school holidays

Earlier this week, the Government finally gave in to pressure and committed to providing much needed support for low income families through the school holidays. I welcome the increased funding for food charities and local authorities and the expansion of the holiday food programmes, but this came too late for many families abandoned by the government over the October half-term. The Labour Party brought forward a plan a month ago to continue funding for families eligible for free school meals through the holidays, but the Government shamefully voted this down, whilst Tory backbenchers treated families in poverty with contempt.

Our local councils, Lambeth and Southwark, and many community groups across Dulwich and West Norwood, inspired by Marcus Rashford’s campaign, stepped up to fill the gap in support. But in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, feeding hungry children should not be up for debate and it should not be a postcode lottery. I will continue to call on the Government to reverse their damaging cuts to welfare support and tackle the growing levels of child poverty in our country.

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Remembrance Sunday 2020

This Remembrance Sunday it has not been possible to gather for public acts of remembrance in the usual way. I laid wreaths at several of the memorials in my constituency of Dulwich & West Norwood. Our history is rich, varied and full of many moving collective and individual stories.
The memorial in the garden of St Stephen’s South Dulwich commemorates parishioners who lost their lives in both world wars.
The memorial at Herne Hill station was installed last year by the Herne Hill Society to remember residents of Herne Hill who died in WW1, the culmination of a history research project involving students from Charter North Dulwich which uncovered individual stories street by street.
The sundial memorial on the Vincennes Estate commemorates those who served with the French Resistance during WW2 including Violette Szabo an extraordinary young woman from Lambeth who was murdered in the Ravensbruck concentration camp.
The African and Caribbean War Memorial on Windrush Square in Brixton commemorates the thousands of men and women from Africa and the Caribbean who served with British armed forces in WW1 and WW2.
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Helen leads debate on Royal Mail services in SE22

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March, I've received so many reports from constituents in the East Dulwich area who have not been receiving regular postal deliveries, sometimes for two or three weeks at a time.
When Royal Mail announced the closure of the Silvester Road delivery office in 2017, I warned that this would be a disaster for residents in the SE22 postcode area. The company put profit before public service and sold the Silvester Road delivery office for more than £7m.
I pay tribute to all our postal workers who have been working very hard throughout the crisis in very difficult circumstances. They are being let down by working conditions which are not fit for purpose. This week, I took this issue to Parliament.
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Helen speaks in debate on Black History Month

I am proud to represent one of the most diverse constituencies in the UK. This month is Black History Month, and as we celebrate the immense and enduring contribution of black people to the UK over two thousand years, I am continuing to call on the Government to reform the history curriculum. Every student should learn the UK’s history of migration, including colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade; so that every child can find their own story in the history they learn.

Black Cultural Archives, the only national organisation dedicated to the collection, preservation and celebration of black British history is based on Windrush Square in Brixton in my constituency. BCA should be afforded the status of a national museum and archive, and I called on the government to make this commitment.  Black history is British history and it should be taught all year round.  You can watch my speech here >>

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Helen challenges the Prime Minister on financial support for workers in lockdown areas

Today I challenged the Prime Minister on the inadequacy of the support provided to people who are unable to work due to coronavirus restrictions, which sits in stark contrast with the vast sums of money he is happy to spend on private companies delivering failing services. The Government’s Job Support Scheme will only provide two-thirds of wages to staff if a business has been forced to close. But families are still required to pay 100% of their rent or mortgage and bills. In London, I know that many businesses will be facing difficult choices as Tier 2 restrictions lead to a loss of customers and many are desperately worried about how they will pay staff if they are forced to close.

At the start of this crisis, the Government promised to do whatever it takes to see the country through this crisis, but the Chancellor has now decided to abandon viable sectors across the country. We will face a tsunami of unemployment with all of the hardship and desperation that brings, unless the government urgently changes course and delivers the support families and businesses need. You can watch my question here>>

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Helen speaks in debate on planning reform

Our planning system has a vital role to play in tackling the housing crisis and addressing the climate and ecological emergency, but instead of seeing planning as a valuable toolkit for these critical challenges, the Tories see planning as red tape to be swept away as far as possible.  The Government has announced plans which amount to a devastating overhaul of our current planning system. These proposals would end the democratic voice of residents in decisions on planning applications, whilst extending the range of building that can take place without any planning permission at all, allowing developers to turn offices and shops into cramped, substandard housing.

Across Dulwich and West Norwood, there is an urgent need for high quality and genuinely affordable social housing. This can only be delivered through a planning system which establishes an ambitious vision for our country, sets high standard for design and environmental performance, and protects the buildings and spaces which local people value. Here is my speech from last week’s debate on planning in Parliament >>

https://youtu.be/shHA1VXuMbQ

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