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Darren calls for free schools meals to be protected

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, to call for the government to reconsider implementing a threshold for universal credit claimants entitlement to free schools meals for their children.

Darren Jones MP said:

“Universal Credit is coming to Bristol North West in September 2018. The Government is currently consulting on eligibility for free school meals under Universal Credit, and is proposing the introduction of an earning threshold of £7,400 to determine eligibility.

Up to now, the Government has allowed all claimants on Universal Credit to receive free school meals. Introducing this proposed earnings threshold represents a huge step backwards. The Children’s Society have estimated that this would lead to over one million children in poverty, and over 5000 in Bristol, missing out on free school meals. I’ve written to Justine Greening to raise my concerns about this”.

 

 

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Darren supports Breathing Space Debt Campaign

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has written to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay, to back the Children’s Society’s Breathing Space campaign.

The Government has now brought forward a call for evidence on the introduction of a Breathing Space scheme for families in debt.  The Children’s Society and others have been calling for this vital protection for families for a number of years and worked on a Private Members Bill last year to introduce a Breathing Space.  On 14th December, along with a large number of other charities and partners, the Children’s Society launched their latest report on this issue showing the life events that can lead to families falling into debt.  Darren has reviewed the report and written to the Treasury to raise his concerns.

Darren Jones MP said:

“I am delighted to be supporting the Children’s Society’s vitally important campaign.  It is estimated that there are 5437 children living in 3134 families in problem debt in Bristol North West. More needs to be done to help these families”.

 

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Darren to open Westbury Christmas Fair

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones will be getting into the festive spirit by opening Westbury-on-Trym’s Christmas Fair on Saturday 16th December at 11am.

Darren Jones MP said:

“I am really looking forward to opening Saturday’s Christmas Fair. It is sure to be a great event with lots of activities for all the family. Our high street’s provide vital facilities and jobs to support the local economy, I am proud to be supporting such a fantastic community event and hope to see you there”.

 

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Darren calls for family friendly work practices in parliament

Darren said:

Cultures need to move on. One of the things I’m doing in the New Year is looking at how we make businesses more family-friendly because a lot of businesses see it as a woman’s role to look after the children. There are so many men who cannot get the shared paternity leave they are entitled to.

Timings in parliament are not family-friendly at all. My work is never done, but if everything is wrapped up for the day, I can take the decision to go home, cook and have a family life – I would much rather do that than hang around in the pub.

You can read the full article here:

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MP visits annual Foodbank collection in Horfield

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones dropped-in to support volunteers and those donating at last weekend’s (2nd December) annual Foodbank #everycancounts collection.

Darren said:

“I stopped by North Bristol Foodbank’s annual collection in Tesco on Golden Hill in Horfield and it was heart-warming to see the generosity of shoppers and volunteers – over 2522kgs of donations were collected in three days. Whilst at the store, I met some of the Foodbank management and trustee team as well as new and experienced volunteers to find out more about the Foodbank’s work. Whilst I would prefer we lived in a country that did not require foodbanks, sadly more and more people are reliant upon them each year so it is good to see so many people supporting those in need”.

To find out more about North Bristol Foodbank please visit: https://northbristol.foodbank.org.uk/

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MP backs Meningitis Now Campaign

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has signed up to promote meningitis awareness and vaccination take-up with GPs, following a Parliamentary reception organised last week by charity Meningitis Now.

The charity is campaigning to increase the take-up of the lifesaving Men ACWY vaccine, which is available free to school leavers aged 17 to 18 and first-time university students up to the age of 25. Take-up is currently around 33% and 1.5million young people are at risk.

Darren said:

“ The low uptake of the Men ACWY vaccine is very worrying, especially as we move towards the peak season for bacterial meningitis. I’ll be writing to local GP practices to urge them to do more to promote awareness and encourage young people to have the vaccination.

It is vitally important that students protect themselves with the Men ACWY vaccine and learn the signs and symptoms of the disease. It only takes a few minutes and it could save theirs or their friend’s life.

You can find out more about the symptoms and signs to look out for here“.

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MP responds to Council’s Library Consultation News

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has responded to the news that Bristol City Council has delayed a decision on library closures across Bristol until further research has been undertaken.

Darren said:

“I am pleased the council will be taking more time to review the best way forward for Bristol’s libraries.

Following the Libraries Conference I hosted in September, I wrote to the Mayor with feedback from groups representing Bristol North West libraries. We advocated for further time and research before any irreversible decisions were made. I am delighted further time has now been given to support a longer-term strategy.

The council are under enormous financial pressure to make savings however, libraries play such a vital role in our communities we must look to safeguard them for future generations”.

 

 

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MP backs Universal Credit Reform Ahead of Budget

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones is encouraging the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, to make changes to Universal Credit in advance of tomorrow’s budget (22nd November).

Darren said:

“Universal Credit, as it stands, is a cruel and shambolic system forcing many into debt – it is coming to Bristol North West next year. The Child Poverty Action Group have advised in their new report ‘The Austerity Generation’ that working families stand to lose £930 a year on average from cuts in the tax credit system and £420 a year from cuts to Universal Credit – these are losses across the population, so the losses for tax credit and UC recipients would be much higher.

Families containing someone with a disability will be £300 a year worse off due to Universal Credit cuts; families containing someone with a severe disability will be £530 a year worse off.

I fully support the changes my colleague Debbie Abrahams has urged the Chancellor to adopt ahead of tomorrow’s budget. Austerity politics needs to get real before the country is unable to recover from the sustained impact on our most vulnerable”.

Amongst the changes backed by Darren include a significant reduction in the waiting period before claimants are awarded benefit, reconsideration of the payment of fortnightly benefits (rather than monthly), easier housing payments direct to landlords and  income level measurement for the self-employed.

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Darren comments on foodbank use and homelessness in Bristol

A number of reports have been released this week in relation to rising foodbank use and homelessness in Bristol.

Yesterday (7th November) the Trussell Trust and North Bristol Foodbank released figures showing the continued rise in foodbank use. Data showed that 722 children required emergency food parcels and overall use of North Bristol Foodbank increased by 9% in the last 6 months.

Today (8th November) the countries leading housing charity, Shelter has released their ‘Far From Alone’ report on homelessness in Britain in 2017. Shelter has calculated that 307,000 are now homeless in Britain with 1 in every 170 people in Bristol now homeless, the highest level recorded in the city.
Read more

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Darren receives response from HMRC on childcare vouchers fiasco

Darren has received a response from HMRC after he raised concerns about problems parents were having applying to governments’ new 30-hours free childcare. With the website crashing and problems with HMRC’s own phone line, parents were finding it difficult to apply before the 31st August deadline. Darren challenged this with HMRC direct.

The response from John Harrison, Chief Executive of HMRC told Darren “where parents have experienced persistent technical difficulties and the 31st deadline, we provided them with a 30 hours free childcare code manually. We continued to issue these codes into early September so that those parents who applied before 31st August, but were unable to speak to us before the deadline, could get a code”.

In response to the letter Darren said:

“Whilst it is good news that parents who were not issued a code by 31st August, because of faults with the HMRC website, can use codes sent to them in September, I still have widespread concerns about the government’s flagship childcare scheme.  Parents are struggling to make the 30 hours per week childcare (over 38 weeks of the year) support their year-round, and often full time, employment. It has also been widely publicised that the cost of childcare is rising far above increases in earnings. To strengthen our economy, we need a childcare system that supports working families, I will continue to raise these issues with government. Just today a new study by Admiral Loans has found Bristol parents are hit the hardest of any city when childcare costs are considered against average earnings –  costs account for a staggering 55% of average earnings – this is unacceptable and certainly not a sustainable situation for working families”.