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Darren Jones: “It’s time for a social broadband tariff to end digital poverty”

MP calls for new ‘social tariff’ for broadband for children on free school meals.

Today in Parliament, Darren Jones is introducing the Internet Access Bill. This Ten Minute Rule Bill could extend access to an affordable social tariff for broadband to 1.4 million children on free school meals.

On Wednesday 20th January, Darren Jones MP (Labour, Bristol North West) will introduce a Ten Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons that demands the Government use existing powers to introduce a social tariff for broadband that is affordable for low-income families.

The Bill will also call for the eligibility for a broadband social tariff to be extended to include every household with a child on free school meals, which, according to January 2020 data from the House of Commons Library, means over 1.4 million children could be entitled to receive low-cost broadband.      

The Secretary of State for Digital Culture Media and Sports already has the statutory powers (UK Statutory Instrument: The Electronic Communications and Wireless Telegraphy Regulations 2020) to require Ofcom, the broadband regulator, to set up a social tariff for broadband. Ofcom would define what ‘affordable’ is and Internet Service Providers will be required to provide it.

So far, this bill has the support of three former DCMS Secretaries of State, Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP, Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, and Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP and dozens of other MPs including the official spokespersons for the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and Plaid.

Commenting, Mr Jones, who chairs the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said: 

“Temporary uplifts to mobile data and free access to certain educational websites during the lockdown are important, but temporary. We need a long-term solution to digital poverty in our country, especially for children who need internet access for educational purposes. My Bill merely highlights the powers that already exist in law to introduce a social tariff for broadband. It doesn’t ask for new legislation or money from the Treasury.”

The broadband regulator, Ofcom, estimates that one in five UK households frequently struggle to pay monthly telecoms bill and nearly two million children are missing out on education because their household lacks broadband or a computer.

Commenting Helen Milner OBE, the Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation, said

The Covid pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated an existing inequality in access to the internet. We support Darren Jones’ call for a social tariff for broadband, which we believe will make a fundamental difference to this issue for many children and low-income households across the country. By offering routes to low-cost internet access, we can ensure that no parent will have to choose between feeding their children or helping them to learn online.”

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Fix Free School Meals and implement a child poverty action plan, Darren Jones writes to Prime Minister

Following the latest Free School Meals scandal which revealed widespread problems with child food parcels, Darren wrote to the Prime Minister demanding action. With millions of children asked to learn from home during the winter spike in COVID cases, families across the country have been supplied with inadequate and unnutritious food parcels by outsourced catering companies, instead of supermarket vouchers.

Parents are the best judge of which foods their children will eat, and the Government’s approach to Free School Meals shows a disregard for the serious issue of child poverty in the UK. The standard of food parcels offered to some families is not only a national embarrassment but deeply offensive to parents struggling to provide for their children during a pandemic that has cost one million jobs so far.

An example of a 10-day food parcel received by parents.

During the previous Labour governments, two million children were lifted out of poverty. Yet since 2017, there has been a 52% increase in children living in destitution in the UK. Darren raised the lack of a child poverty strategy in any of the Chancellor’s economic policies during the last Financial Statement and this admission remains unaddressed.

Darren followed up his letter to the Prime Minister by giving an assessment of the Government’s dismissive attitude towards child poverty on Channel Four News, January 12th. You can read Darren’s letter in full below:

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Darren welcomes Bristol University’s COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook

The successful roll-out of the COVID19 Vaccination is critical to saving lives, halting the pandemic and getting our lives back to normal.

As with every important scientific advancement and high-profile Government initiative, concerns have been raised about the safety of the vaccine and the Government’s roll-out plan. The vaccine is safe, and Bristol University has published a handbook about the vaccine and how to identify vaccine misinformation. There is an overwhelming global scientific consensus among medical experts that vaccines are the best way to fight infectious diseases and each of the approved COVID19 vaccines successfully passed rigorous tests of safety and efficacy during their development process. The COVID19 Vaccines are highly effective at protecting against the virus, and a speedy, fair roll-out is in the public interest.

Darren has been briefed by medical and scientific experts about the Coronavirus and the vaccines throughout this pandemic. You can see information about the roll-out of the vaccine below, and a guide to COVID19 Vaccine misinformation. If you have not yet received your vaccination appointment, please wait to be contacted by the NHS. Darren is working with Labour colleagues to ensure that everyone who needs a vaccine gets one, and the NHS has committed to a nationwide vaccination roll-out.

nhs vaccine roll out

 

Where and how will vaccinations take place?

In Bristol, vaccination sites have been set-up throughout the city. This includes a super-vaccination centre at Ashton Gate Stadium.

You’ll be invited to book an appointment for vaccination when it is your turn. If you’ve already received your letter confirming eligibility, you can book online here.

Vaccinations appointments will be carried out at:

  • GP Surgeries
  • NHS Hospital Hubs
  • Care Homes
  • At super centres, including conference centres and sports stadiums.

You can find information about the safety of the vaccine and the mild side-effects you may experience here (NHS).

How to spot and deal with vaccine misinformation.

Unfortunately, vaccine misinformation has been created and spread by fake-experts. This is a common and expected reaction to medical advancements, like vaccinations.  There’s a lot of money to be made in spreading misinformation and it can be hard to spot. Below is a guide on common myths about the COVID19 Vaccination, and how to counter them.

You can access the full handbook on the COVID19 Vaccine here– it’s designed for parents, nurses, journalists, students, policymakers and anyone that wants to know more.

 

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Darren Supports Shire FC Development

Shirehampton Football Club has been a source of community pride for decades and now seek to invest in their sporting grounds. The development plan includes additional seating and lighting so that more people can enjoy watching their local team. This infrastructure may also support the club’s ambitions to progress through their league.

Darren Jones voiced his support for the community project as increasing access to sporting facilities is a priority for Bristol and our local communities. Shirehampton has seen a decline in community assets, including the closure of its swimming pool and sports centres, so investment in its remaining facilities is especially important. It’s also important that this development balances community needs alongside environmental concerns, including light pollution.

You can read Darren’s full letter below: