Helen questions the Minister on funding for Lambeth and Southwark's vaccine projects

Covid-19 has brought so much heart break and hardship across Dulwich and West Norwood, but vaccines now offer us a real chance to safely end the pandemic. It has been so uplifting to hear from many constituents sharing their positive experiences of accessing the vaccine, and of the successful start to the vaccines rollout locally.

Both Lambeth and Southwark Councils are working hard on projects to reach out to communities, including Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, who may be more hesitant about vaccines or have questions about their efficacy and safety. This work is vitally important to ensure that the vaccine roll out is fair and does not leave any group at increased risk from Covid-19 in the future.

Yesterday, I challenged the Secretary of State on the Government’s decision to exclude Lambeth and Southwark from a list of councils invited to bid for funding for outreach work to tackle vaccine hesitancy. This work is vital, and our local communities must not be left behind. You can see my question and the Secretary of State’s very poor response below >>

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Royal Mail services in Dulwich and West Norwood

Residents across many parts of Dulwich and West Norwood have reported significant problems with postal deliveries since last year.  Although there have been problems in the East Dulwich SE22 postcode area since Royal Mail closed the SE22 delivery office on Silvester Road two years ago, these problems have worsened even further since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.  Since late 2020, residents in SE19 and SE27 have also experienced serious delays, with some problems in other postcode areas too.

I have been in constant communication with Royal Mail about these problems and it is very disappointing that they are still unresolved.  I am clear that the problems are not the fault of postal workers, who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, and have been a vital lifeline for many people.  It is very concerning to hear that many postal workers have fallen ill with coronavirus and that sickness rates at Royal Mail have been very high.  I am grateful to every single postal worker for their vital work at the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.  Notwithstanding the hard work and commitment of postal workers, there are serious problems at Royal Mail.

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Helen support's British Gas Fire and Re-Hire Strike

Earlier this week, I met with my constituent Richard who has worked for British Gas for over twenty years. British Gas are shamefully using fire and re-hire tactics to reduce pay, increase staffs’ working hours and water down their rights. I stand with British Gas workers and GMB Southern Region members on strike across the country. #StopTheBritishGasFire

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Helen calls on the Minister to increase Statutory Sick Pay

In order to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, it is essential that anyone with symptoms or who is contacted by the test and trace system self-isolates fully for the advised period. However, Statutory Sick Pay is just £95.85 per week – which doesn’t even cover rent for a single bedroom in London, so for many people who are unable to work from home, self-isolation will lead to a devastating loss of income. 

Earlier today the head of the government’s Test and Trace programme admitted that at least 40% of people are refusing to self-isolate and many are too scared to get tested in case they lose work. I asked the Minister for Work and Pensions what is being done to ensure that Statutory Sick Pay is sufficient to enable everyone who needs to self-isolate to do so >>

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Helen calls on Ministers to ensure every child is fed and supported whilst schools are closed

The coronavirus pandemic has been hugely disruptive for children’s education and mental health.
From the start, I have been calling on the Government to ensure that no child is left behind. Yet across my constituency, children are still unable to access online learning because they don’t have the laptops and broadband they need, while last week we saw the shameful photos of meagre food parcels being distributed by private contractors in place of free school meals.
The Tories are allowing coronavirus to widen the disadvantage gap in education, and it isn’t acceptable.

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Helen calls on the Government to #CancelTheCut to Universal Credit

The Tories are planning to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week, or £1,000 a year.  The pandemic has been devastating to household incomes across Dulwich and West Norwood.  11,190 households in my constituency are now supported by Universal Credit and we know that this number will continue to rise in the coming months.  With so many people struggling to make ends meet, pay the bills and put food on the table the Government shouldn’t be making people on the lowest incomes shoulder the burden of this terrible pandemic.  Unfortunately I wasn’t called to speak in the debate today, but I will be voting against this cruel and shameful cut. #CancelTheCut

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Statement on national lockdown - January 2021

Yesterday, Parliament voted to confirm the new lockdown regulations. Unfortunately, the debate ended before I was able to speak, but I am in no doubt that these new measures are necessary. In London we have seen the rapid rise in cases in December sadly translate into increasing hospitalisation and deaths. It is imperative that we all follow the restrictions, which you can see in the image below, and urgently suppress the spread of the virus.

I am deeply disappointed that the Government has wasted the past nine months and have not prepared for the widely expected winter surge. We have seen decisions taken far too late creating confusion and distress for people across Dulwich and West Norwood. In the past six weeks, London has gone from national lockdown, Tiers 2, 3 and 4 and now returning to national restrictions. The Government now must drastically increase the speed of the vaccine roll out and get a grip on this virus.

I am in regular contact with King’s College Hospital and our local health care providers. Staff across our NHS are continuing to work relentless hard in exceptionally challenging circumstances, and my heartfelt gratitude goes to every single one of them. Due to the surging numbers of serious cases of Covid-19 and increasing numbers of staff needing to self-isolate, local services are incredibly stretched. I know many residents will be concerned about reports that non-covid services including cancer surgery have been disrupted. Such decisions are only taken as an absolute last resort and are the clearest illustration of why these new restrictions are needed. If you are in need of care please call 111 or your local GP for advice and only attend A&E in an emergency.

The new lockdown is very hard, and will be devastating for many residents’ livelihoods. I am continuing to call on the Government to close the gaps in financial support and provide businesses with what they need to survive. I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of some business support, but this did not mention the millions of employees and self-employed people who will be impact by the new restrictions. The Government must ensure these groups are supported and extend the £20 uplift in Universal Credit which is currently due to end in March.  It is also completely unacceptable that the government is refusing to reinstate the ‘Everyone In’ programme of emergency accommodation for rough sleepers at a time when both the weather and the risks of coronavirus are much worse than they were during the first lockdown when this scheme was introduced; or extend the eviction ban currently due to end on 11th January.

I also know that the closure of schools will have a severe impact on the education and wellbeing of children and young people across Dulwich and West Norwood. Although, I agree that this closure is sadly necessary, the Government’s last minute announcement gave teachers no time to prepare for remote learning and left many working parents unable to make childcare arrangements. I am deeply concerned that children across our area have still not been provided with the laptop devices and broadband services they need to access learning from home, and that the Government is continuing to refuse to reimburse local schools for their costs. I am in contact with local headteachers and I will be following up on their concerns with the Department for Education.

As the mass roll out of vaccines is getting underway, we can now begin to see a way through this crisis. However, the threat from Covid-19 to our health and to the NHS remains very real. It is important that we all continue to follow the restrictions to relieve pressure on the NHS and save lives whilst the vaccination programme is rolled out.

Please keep safe at this difficult time. Along with my small team, I am working hard to support everyone in my constituency who needs help.  Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to support you.  I am still receiving an exceptionally high level of correspondence, so please bear with me and my small team as we work hard to get back to everyone as quickly as possible. 

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Helen writes to the Secretary of State for Education on the reopening of schools in Lambeth

As MPs representing London boroughs excluded from the delayed primary schools return we’ve written to the Education Secretary to ask him to explain the decision & think again.

It makes no sense to schools or parents for Southwark schools to be delayed but not Lambeth or Lewisham

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Statement on the EU-UK Trade Deal

Today the House of Commons has been given just five hours to debate and scrutinise the trade deal that Boris Johnson has negotiated with the EU and the implementation legislation.  Fewer than one in ten MPs have had the opportunity to speak in the debate on legislation which will have profound implications for our economy and national life for years, if not decades to come.  I was not successful in the ballot to speak in the debate, so I have published the speech that I would have given here, setting out why I cannot support the bill and have therefore chosen to abstain.

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Norwood and Brixton Food Bank

This Christmas will be especially difficult for hundreds of families in our area who have seen their income drop due to coronavirus and are struggling to make ends meet. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, food poverty was rising in the UK, a shameful fact in one of the richest countries in the world. 

We need major changes in government policy to put an end to food poverty, policies which ensure that people are paid a real living wage, and that meaningful support is there for everyone who needs it.  I will keep campaigning in Parliament for this change.  But in the meantime I am so grateful for the tireless work of the staff and volunteers at Norwood and Brixton food bank.

This Christmas they are busier than ever, currently delivering hundreds of food parcels each week to people who need extra help, and doing so with real love and care. Please help our local foodbanks ensure that no-one in our communities has to go hungry this Christmas.  You can give £5, £10 or £20 by texting DINNER (eg to give £10 text DINNER10) to 70085.  More details are at the end of my short film.  Thank you!

 

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