Work and Pension Questions - February 2022

The cost of living crisis will push many struggling families deeper into poverty. Already more than half a million children are living in destitution, and child poverty for with more than two children is now at levels not seen since 1997. This government has no plan for child poverty.  Today, I called on the Minister to ensure all families have the support they need  at this very difficult time >>

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Helen visits Southwyck Pantry

It was great to visit Southwyck Pantry on Somerleyton Road last week.  The pantry is run by local residents who are doing a great job building community and providing support.  Southwyck Pantry operates on a membership model.  For a weekly payment of £5 members can choose 10 pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables and 10 cupboard items from surplus donations. The pantry aims to provide a good choice and members have a say in what food is stocked with favourites including okra, yams, plantain and sweet potatoes.

At this time, the cost of living is increasing rapidly and many people are struggling to make ends meet.  The pantry is helping to alleviate the pressure on household finances by providing fresh, healthy food and other essentials at a very low price.

A second local pantry has just opened in Myatts Field North Community Centre. If you would like to learn more you can contact the pantry by emailing [email protected]

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Helen introduces Georgia's Law to Parliament

Later today I will be introducing Georgia’s Law to Parliament. I’ve seen far too many constituents lose their secure social housing tenancy because they have had to move in an emergency after they or a member of their family has been threatened with violence. No one should face homelessness because they, their child or another member of their household has been threatened.

Georgia’s Law would ensure that housing associations and local authorities would have to work together to find a new permanent home for families who need to move to stay safe. It would also prevent people from entering the homelessness system because their secure tenancy has been ended while they wait in temporary accommodation.

I’m delighted that Georgia’s Law has the support of Shelter, the National Housing Federation and a cross party group of MPs.  I hope the Government will choose to support it too, so that we can get this much-needed protection on to the statute book.

You can learn more about #GeorgiasLaw in the film below>>

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Helen calls on the Minister to act to prevent the harassment of women and girls

In December, the Law Commission recommended that the Government should review the need for a specific offence to tackle public sexual harassment. This is a vital first step in ensuring that the vast scale of these offences can be properly recorded and those who harass women and girls in our streets and public spaces every day can be prosecuted.

The Prime Minister is as out of touch on this issue as he is on everything else and has indicated that he believes existing laws are sufficient despite the overwhelming evidence of widespread harassment, the frustration of so many women at the lack of action and support and the recommendation of the Law Commission. Last week, I called on the Minister for Women and Equalities to commit to a review so that action can be taken without further delay. You can see my question here>>

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Royal Mail Survey

Thank you to everyone who has contacted me regarding Royal Mail’s appalling local service. Residents in many areas of Dulwich and West Norwood constituency have been experiencing severe delays and missing parcels and post in recent weeks.  It is clear that Royal Mail have not had robust contingency plans for sickness absence over the busiest time of year, and services have been stretched far too thinly.  Our posties are working flat out, but they are being let down by the management of Royal Mail.

This disruption has serious consequences for residents and I’ve heard appalling stories of important and irreplaceable documents being lost, medical appointments missed, and bills mounting up because they haven’t been delivered.  I am continuing to raise these issues with Royal Mail and with Ofcom, and to call on Royal Mail urgently to invest in our local services to restore reliability as soon as possible.

Services have been particularly disrupted in the SE22 postcode area, compounded by the decision to close the SE22 delivery office on Silvester Road in 2018.  Along with local Labour councillors, I led the protests against this decision at the time, warning that it would prove impossible for reliable services to be maintained for SE22 residents if staff were based on Highshore Road.  Sadly we have been proved right, and we continue to campaign for Royal Mail to open a new delivery office in a location which is accessible to SE22 residents.

Along with local Labour councillors, I have created a survey to gather evidence on the experiences of local people of postal delivery services, to help us to demonstrate the extent of the problems to Royal Mail and the government. Please tell us about your experience here


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Helen challenges the Minister on Downing Street parties during lockdown

Ruby Fuller was a remarkable young woman and former Head Girl at Charter North Dulwich secondary school, who lived by the motto ‘Live Kindly, Live Loudly’.  Ruby tragically died from cancer aged 18 on 15 May 2020. As a result of the tight lockdown restrictions in place at the time, Ruby’s friends were unable to say goodbye in person and only ten people were allowed to attend her funeral.

On the day that Ruby died, the Prime Minister and his wife sat in the garden at 10 Downing Street enjoying cheese and wine with colleagues, and Just five days later we now know that more than 100 staff were invited to a party, encouraged to bring their own booze. Such events were unequivocally in breach of the Covid regulations at the time, which so many people across the country, including Ruby’s family, adhered to despite enduring unimaginable personal grief and distress. 

The Prime Minister was too cowardly to show his face in the House of Commons today to answer questions about the parties in his home, so I asked the Minister he sent to represent him, what he had to say to Ruby’s family and friends >>

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Helen visits the Norwood and Brixton Food Bank

Food poverty in our local area is shockingly high directly because of this government’s shameful policies, including the £20 a week cut in Universal Credit. I’ll keep challenging this unacceptable approach, which is leaving more and more of my constituents unable to make ends meet.

The staff and volunteers at Brixton and Norwood Foodbank are working harder than ever to ensure no-one goes without food and other essentials this winter.

Last week, I visited the foodbank to see their extraordinary efforts. You can see a short film from my visit and learn how to support the food bank below.  Please do support our local foodbank if you can >>

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Hondo Tower - December 2021 Objections

I have been contacted by many constituents who are concerned about the planning application for a 20 storey tower on Pope’s Road in Brixton submitted by Hondo Enterprises.

This application will be decided by the Mayor of London and I have written to the Mayor on behalf of my constituents to set out my objection to this application.

The proposed tower is more than twice the height of other local buildings.  There is no planning policy justification for such a tall building in central Brixton, which would dominate the skyline and overshadow existing homes and businesses. 

The design of the building is bland. It does not celebrate or enhance the identity of Brixton, and it is not designed to the highest possible environmental standards.

I urge the Mayor to refuse this application. It isn’t good enough for Brixton.

You can read my full letter here>>

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Helen calls on the Minister to work with the Mayor to save TfL services

There is now just one day until Transport for London’s emergency funding runs out.

London is the only capital city in Europe with a public transport system so overwhelmingly reliant on passenger fares to operate. 

Not a penny of the Vehicle Excise Duty paid by Londoners being spent on London’s roads or public transport. The reduction in passengers throughout the pandemic has led to a dramatic fall in revenue and this is now putting London’s public transport at risk.

The Mayor of London has been working hard to engage government Ministers to provide the support TfL needs, but the Government has only ever given piece meal temporary packages with terms which punish Londoners reliant on public transport.

The Government must stop playing politics with TfL and urgently work with the Mayor and agree a package which works for London to save tube and bus services, which are vital for London’s economy and vital for tackling climate change.

You can see my question to the Secretary of State for Transport here >>

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Helen challenges the Minister on the delayed SEND review

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