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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Children's Mental Health Week debate

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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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