My latest monthly e-newsletter has just gone out to thousands of homes across Hornsey & Wood Green. You can read a copy below. If you’d like to receive my e-newsletters, and you don’t already, you can sign up here.
Welcome to my February e-newsletter
The ongoing successful vaccine rollout brings hope that we are slowly coming through the worst of this crisis.
If you are over 65, or clinically extremely vulnerable, or a frontline health or social care worker and you haven’t yet had the vaccine you can now book an appointment directly here.
Please get vaccinated when your turn comes. The vaccine is safe and has been rigorously tested, but I’m still worried about the lower take up particularly in some BAME communities. This month, I joined with Haringey’s Mayor Cllr Adam Jogee and faith leaders locally to promote vaccine take up in hard to reach groups.
After such difficult months, there is real relief that an end may be in sight. But people have paid a heavy price for this Government’s ineptitude. Johnson’s team have been a lot quicker to award lucrative Covid contracts to their mates than they’ve been to protect the vulnerable, support our businesses or secure our borders.
We will come out of lockdown with one of the highest death tolls in Europe and the deepest recession of any major economy.
It’s also very clear that the burden of the last 11 months hasn’t been shared equally. Far from being the great leveller, Covid-19 has lain bare the deep inequalities within our society. The families experiencing lockdown in overcrowded homes, the children struggling to home-educate without the internet, the gig economy workers who can’t afford to stay home because they won’t get paid. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission have been urged to investigate the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and a powerful report by Inclusion London highlights the impact on disabled people who have made up 6 out of every 10 Covid deaths.
There must be no return to Tory austerity as we come out of this crisis. It didn’t work last time and it won’t again. Instead we need to build a fairer society, with support for our most vulnerable and investment in retraining workers, rebuilding businesses, creating a zero-carbon future and tackling our housing shortage. That’s what I will keep fighting for.
Here are some of the other things I’ve been doing this month. If you know anyone who would like to receive these updates, please share this link:
Register here: women’s health zoom chat
My third in a series of zoom chats with constituents on key issues will take place on Friday 26 February from 12-1pm on the subject of women’s health. Register here to join me.
I want to hear constituents’ thoughts, not only on how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted women’s access to and experiences of healthcare services, but also more broadly. Last month saw the launch of an inquiry to look at alleged racism in maternity care and last year’s Cumberlege Review was damning about the failure to listen to women’s experiences or take what were dismissed as “women’s problems” seriously. I’ll be joined by Yinglen Butt, Associate Director of Nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, local paediatrician Dr Sara Hamilton and Cllr Peray Ahmet will be chairing the discussion. I hope you can join us.
**Look out soon for my plans for an International Women’s Day event on Monday 8 March celebrating inspirational women campaigning for change.**
I took part in Labour’s Opposition Day debate calling for the Government to do much more to help people caught up in the cladding and fire defects scandal. Watch my full speech here. I shared the stories of some of the constituents who’ve contacted me – from the family suffering through lockdown in a tiny, overcrowded flat they can’t sell to the pensioner terrified he’ll be made homeless because the bill for remedial fire safety works would bankrupt him.
The Secretary of State’s announcement of funding to fix cladding on high-rises is some progress for some leaseholders, but it’s nowhere near enough as it doesn’t include lower-rise buildings or other fire-safety defects. It betrays the promise that leaseholders will not pay for the crisis and instead pushes further financial misery, and possible bankruptcy on people who have already suffered so much. Labour will keep fighting this injustice – it is the dodgy developers who must pay the price.
Green Homes Grant
My written Parliamentary Question on the Green Homes Grant helped draw widespread attention to the serious problems in what was supposed to be one of the Government’s flagship schemes. Huge delays in agreeing grants and giving out payments has left 95% of the £1.5 billion pot unspent yet incredibly in response to my question the Minister confirmed that this wouldn’t be rolled over into the next financial year. Taking away this promised green cash will be devastating for businesses, for home owners and makes a mockery of the Government’s supposed commitment to the green transition we so desperately need. The Government need to think again and reverse this short-sighted decision.
Shadow Ministerial Update
Earlier in February I held my first meeting as Labour’s shadow Europe Minister with the newly appointed Ambassador to the UK from the EU. We both expressed our appreciation for the need to work together on areas of joint concern to the UK and the EU, and I emphasised Labour’s intention to work closely with our European partners in Government and that we remain an outward looking Party in our foreign affairs.
I’ve written here for Politics Home on the need for the UK Government to work to help find a lasting settlement on the island of Cyprus
In my time as a shadow Foreign Office Minister I have been working closely with the Trade Union Congress and their international partners to explore issues of concern to them and the union movement across the world. Although frustratingly the ongoing pandemic limits the opportunities to raise concerns in Parliament, I’ve been working with them to plan events and activities in the coming weeks and months, including events on Turkey and south America.
Digital Excellence for our Schools
10 months since the start of the pandemic and seven weeks into this third lockdown, hundreds of thousands of kids are still waiting for promised laptops to be delivered. It’s not good enough. The Tories slow response and failure to close the digital divide in children’s learning risks failing a generation of young people. Labour’s got a plan to get every child online:
I held an evidence session with Shadow Early Years Minister Tulip Siddiq, health visitor champions and paediatricians to look at issues affecting the under 5s including delays in agreeing vital Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs) as a result of Covid. Whilst young children have the lowest risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19, they have nevertheless been severely affected over the past ten months as lockdowns have limited infant and adult socialising with consequences for their health, including mental health, and well-being.
I’ve been asking the Government to publish the assessments they said they’d carried out on the impact of lockdown on the youngest children – yet after waiting four months for a reply I’ve finally received one saying “no”. It’s not good enough and I’ll be pursuing in Parliament. I’ve also requested a meeting with the Early Years Minister, Vicky Ford MP, to discuss what actions are being taken to support the youngest children and their families as we come out of the pandemic.
Open Our Pools
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Swimming, I’ve written to the Prime Minister urging him to recognise the essential nature of swimming pools for the nation’s physical and mental health and allow swimming pools to reopen at the earliest possible opportunity as part of the roadmap for leaving the national lockdown. Read my full letter here.
Tories mustn’t push the Covid financial burden onto struggling families
Unemployment has soared by almost 200% locally since last March and many thousands of families are struggling. This is no time to pile more pressure on and in Parliament I spoke out against the Tories short sighted plan to force Council’s to hike up Council Tax. It’s a regressive tax and with local government finances under severe strain it should be the Government stepping in to cover vital services. Watch my intervention here.