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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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Constituency Office Winter Closure

Between December 24th and January 4th, our constituency office will be closed so that my small, hardworking team can take a well-deserved break.

If you need urgent assistance during this time- please contact me directly on email(darren.jones.mp@parliament.uk) with ‘urgent’ in the subject line. We’ll pick up all other enquiries when our office re-opens on January 4th.

On behalf of my constituency office, thank you for your support this year and Merry Christmas!

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Darren urges Government to avoid another Arcadia/Debenhams collapse

Following Arcadia entering administration and putting thousands of jobs at risk, Darren called on the Government to urgently support the retail sector, including retail supply chains.

Darren wrote to the Secretary of State for Business, Alok Sharma, asking the Government to outline their plan to support large retail businesses and their complex supply chain of smaller and independent businesses. The collapse of large retailers like Debenhams has a devastating effect on local communities and both the people directly employed by the stores and those within its supply chain network.

Darren asked Paul Scully, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, to do more to support the small businesses caught in the storm of large retail collapses.

DJ UQ Arcadia BEIS

Commenting on the stress placed on businesses by Government’s COVID induced recession, Darren called for a taskforce to be set up to limit further damage to livelihoods:

“It has been a dark week for bricks and mortar retail in the UK. While many will point to issues relating to the management record and business models at Arcadia and at Debenhams, there is no doubt that Covid-19 has hit the high-street hard and, sadly, looks likely to bring job losses and store closures to many communities across the country. I hope the Secretary of State will come forward with more detail on the support the Government will provide to the retail sector.

The Government should be doing more to bring stakeholders together to find a solution to commercial rent debts as well as support for small businesses in the retail supply chain. I hope the Secretary of State will look again at setting up a Retail Taskforce with tenants, landlords, banks, supply chain businesses and Ministers to find solutions before more damage is caused.”

 

 

 

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Bristol wins multiple NHS Regional Awards

Bristol has repeated its strong performance in this year’ NHS Parliament Awards with 4 regional winners announced!

In November, NHS regional teams across England announced the individuals and teams chosen as regional champions in the NHS Parliamentary Awards 2020.

The champions – including NHS volunteers, patients, local council health teams and the creators of extraordinary digital innovations – will now vie with each other for a national award to be presented at a special ceremony in the Palace of Westminster in July.

Darren nominated individuals and teams across seven categories, with a special focus made to teams that have helped Bristol during this pandemic. Four regional winners were announced with three working at the NHS North Bristol Trust and one team recognised for the successful GP/Community Pharmacy pilot making it easier for patients to be referred over the phone.

You can read details about each nominee here.

From more than 700 entries submitted by almost half of all MPs in England, senior NHS experts have chosen seventy outstanding nominations, which exemplify the best of what the NHS and its partners do day in, day out.

Speaking about the success enjoyed by those nominated this year, Darren praised teams and individuals for their contribution to healthcare in Bristol:

“It is a delight to see so many hard-working teams from the North Bristol NHS Trust being shortlisted for their excellence in patient healthcare; mental health care; future NHS innovation; and primary care. Along with the whole of Bristol North West, I’m so proud to see these contributions recognised once again at this year’s NHS Parliamentary Awards and we wish all of the teams the best of luck for the final awards.”

Well done to GPs and Pharmacists across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire for making the shortlist for this year’s Excellence in Primary Care Award. Successful pilots like the GP Community Pharmacies scheme improve healthcare across the country and I’m proud that the Southmead and Henbury practice in my constituency had completed the most GP to Pharmacist referrals during this pilot. Congratulations to everyone involved, and I wish you the best of luck in the next stage.”

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Stop ignoring child poverty, warns Darren to Chancellor

Following a disappointing Financial Statement from the Chancellor this winter, Darren questioned the Government’s commitment to eliminating child poverty.

Despite rates of child poverty increasing in the UK, the world 6th richest country, this winter’s financial statement does nothing to address the system causes of child poverty. The statement also fails to dedicate budget to helping families during the winter period that are suffering from in-work poverty.

Speaking in Parliament, Darren raised this issue to the Chancellor directly. You can watch the exchange here:

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Darren calls for clarity over COVID-19 Business Rules

Darren, as Chair of the Business Committee, has written to Alok Sharma, Secretary of State, asking for urgent clarifications about the COVID-19 rules and restrictions for businesses once England’s national lockdown ends at the start of December.

Darren and the Business Committee took evidence from Excluded UK, UKHospitality, Marston’s PLC, PureGym and more to understand the effectiveness of support available to businesses and the impact of Coronavirus restrictions. These insights were used to scrutinise the BEIS department’s guidance and support made available to businesses, as well as how taxpayer’s money has been targeted and businesses have been consulted.

Speaking of the importance of delivering clarity of businesses ahead of the Christmas trading peroid, Darren said:

“On Tuesday, business leaders in retail, leisure and hospitality warned of devastated high streets and even higher job losses unless urgent action was taken by Ministers to confirm what will happen after the second lockdown. Businesses need urgent clarity on the rules they will be required to follow under any new tiered system of restrictions so that they can make plans for their staff, sites and suppliers.

“Christmas trading is a crucial period and the Government needs to target support – alongside required public health measures – to help, especially for retailers who have been deemed non-essential during the second lockdown. Specifically, Ministers need to better target support and bring stakeholders together to find a solution to commercial rent debts. Ministers also need to take steps to ensure that businesses and unions are more involved on issues relating to local lockdowns, such as the system of curfews, so that safe and responsible trading can take place.”

You can read Darren’s letter to the Secretary of State below:

 

 

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Don’t struggle alone. Darren launches winter Foodbank appeal

Following his meeting with the Bristol North West Foodbank in October, Darren launched an appeal encouraging those suffering from food insecurity to access their local foodbank.

This year, foodbank usage has increased in Bristol but the Trussle Trust are concerned that many people that need help are still not able to access it. Bristol has a well-established network of foodbanks that are able to meet increasing demand caused by food insecurity and the North West Foodbank has been using local champions to reach people suffering from food insecurity in silence.

Widespread support for the Free School Meal campaign and an increase in local donations to foodbanks shows that foodbank users should not be put off a perceived social stigma. Darren has urged anyone that is struggling to maintain a varied and healthy diet to seek a referral to a foodbank.

To access a foodbank, you simply need to be referred by your local Citizen’s Advice or GP using the voucher system. 

If there is someone in your life that may be struggling with food insecurity, please encourage them to access a food voucher. Help and support is available.

Watch Darren’s appeal here:

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Update on Coronavirus Test Availability in Bristol and the South West.

Constituents, including those providing front-line services, have reported being unable to book appointments to receive a Coronavirus test, this week.

While the South West’s NHS Test and Trace network is actively processing a large number of tests, throughout the country laboratory capacity is being outstripped by demand. Darren has been working with MPs to raise these issues with the Government to urgently address this problem and remove bottlenecks. Public Health England advice is to immediately self-isolate if you have Coronavirus symptoms and you are waiting for a test.

Speaking about the unavailability of test appointments seen throughout the country Darren said:
To those that have contacted me about the unavailability of test appointments in Bristol, please continue to follow the rules that keep our community safe from this virus. If you are waiting for a test and have symptoms, it is vital that you self-isolate immediately. I have spoken with Public Health England and received this update (below) about Test and Trace in the South West.
Fixing the bottleneck currently experienced in our NHS Test and Trace system must be THE priority of Government. I join with MPs across the country in demanding this.