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Darren visits Henleaze Singing for the Brain Group

On Thursday 31st May, Darren – a registered Dementia Friend –  visited the Henleaze group of Singing for the Brain.

Singing for the Brain is a group activity which has been carefully designed by the Alzheimer’s Society for people with memory loss and their carers, in order to receive the many health benefits that are woven into the fun of singing. It is an enjoyable, friendly and uplifting activity giving many people a much-needed boost in confidence, all led by a trained facilitator.

The group meet for light refreshments and a chat beforehand to help people relax and get to know each other. Once the session starts, the group sit in a circle and do some exercises to warm up the voice. Then the fun really begins by singing a range of songs, either unaccompanied or sometimes using musical instruments.

If you wish to join the group, please note they meet on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursday of each month

You can find out more about the Singing for the Brain’s fantastic work here and more general information from The Alzheimer’s Society here.

Darren said after the visit:

“I signed up to become an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friend shortly after becoming an MP – I did this as I feel it is crucial there is wider understanding of dementia and how to support those with it.  I was therefore delighted to meet the local Singing for the Brain group and find out about the great work this group are doing with those suffering from dementia as well as their families. This community and person-to-person support is paramount and I know many of my constituents rely on it. I wish this group continued success and hope their numbers continue to grow as more people with dementia choose to access this invaluable support”.

If you think you or a family member may have Dementia talk to your GP who will refer you to the Dementia Wellbeing Service. They will allocated a navigator to take you through the system and provide support for you. You can also call the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 11 22.

 

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Darren welcomes Google and Youtube to Southmead to provide online safety training

Darren welcomed Google and YouTube to Southmead. The companies were there to train teachers and youth workers about online safety and digital citizenship for the young people they work with.

Gaps in young people’s online safety is a significant issue. According to the NSPCC, last year  there were 12,000 calls made to Childline concerning online issues, and one out every four children have experienced something upsetting online. Darren was therefore more than happy to speak at the event, and contribute his thoughts as a technology lawyer and member of the Science and Technology Select Committee.

 

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Darren speaks on Grandparents’ issues, and supports Bristol Grandparent Support Group

Currently, there is no legal right for grandparents in the UK to see their grandchildren. That can lead to some grandparents having contact with grandchildren completely halted. That’s what happened to Jane Jackson – but she used the experience to build a support group for people in a similar situations to her, and to speak out and campaign on this issue. Darren spoke in Parliament in support of her and her work.

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Darren votes for government to release Windrush scandal documents

The government have been trying to deport UK citizens. Members of the Windrush generation, who came to Britain from the Commonwealth before 1971 and were granted UK citizenship, have been threatened with deportation because they couldn’t find the right documents from when they moved to Britain.

What’s more, the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, designed to make life difficult for anyone even suspected of being an illegal immigrant, will have harmed the Windrush generation.

This is because it takes benefits, housing, NHS treatment and bank account access from anyone whom the Home Office thinks can’t find the right documents.

Darren voted for the release of government documents relating to the deportation of the Windrush generation. The government voted against this.

You can read the full motion below:

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to give directions that the following papers be provided to the Home Affairs Committee: all papers, correspondence and advice including emails and text messages, from 11 May 2010 up to and including 1 May 2018, to and between Ministers, senior officials and Special Advisers relating to policy decisions including on the Immigration Acts 2014 and 2016 with regard the Windrush generation cases, including deportations, detentions and refusal of re-entry, the setting of deportation and removal targets and their effect on the Windrush generation, and action taken within Government following the concerns raised by Caribbean Governments with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office including the original decision by the Prime Minister not to meet Caribbean Heads of Government and officials, and all copies of minutes and papers relating to the Cabinet’s Immigration Implementation Taskforce.

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Darren supports Windrush generation and offers help

Many from the Windrush Generation, people who moved to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s and have been here their entire lives, are now threatened by deportation. On this topic, Darren attended the Parliamentary Urgent Question about this, and said the following:

It’s really sad to hear that people who have been here legally their entire lives might be deported, because of Home Office admin issues. The Government needs to move quickly and give these people the security they deserve. I was happy to support David Lammy MP on this in the House today.

If you’re a constituent affected by this issue and you need help, please get in touch with my office.

Contact details for Darren’s office are available here: www.darren-jones.co.uk/contact

Furthermore, you can read more about this issue here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43780621

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MP visits Shirehampton Nursery to discuss rising childcare costs

Darren Jones (MP for Bristol North West) visited Snap Dragons nursery in Shirehampton on Friday 23rd March to hear from parents and staff about concerns with the Government’s intention to close the Childcare Vouchers scheme, and to move parents to a new Tax Free Childcare scheme.

Today, parents can claim vouchers from their employers to contribute to the cost of childcare. However, in the next financial year the Government will close the Childcare Vouchers scheme and parents will have to use a new Tax Free Childcare system. This will require parents to register on an online system, register each child and then make an online payment for each child per month. The Government will then “top up” the balance by 20% and the system will then pay the childcare provider directly. This change was originally due to take place in April, but following pressure from across the House last week, the Government delayed the roll out to October 2018.

However, Darren wants parents to be aware of the changes now – namely because the system is harder to use, and because many parents will find they receive significantly less childcare support, in effect increasing childcare costs for parents across Bristol. Click here to read more about the changes.

Commenting, Darren said:

“I’ve already had a number of constituents in my surgery at their wits end due to the new tax free childcare system. It doesn’t work, requires parents to re-register every three months and has put my constituents in real difficulties in paying their childcare providers. To make it worse, most parents don’t realise they could lose thousands of pounds in childcare support each year.”

“Supporting families and creating a parent-friendly workplace is one of my top priorities as a local MP. This flawed change by the Government will make it harder for working parents, not easier. And it will make it harder for parents wanting to return to work too. I will continue to call on the Government to get it right. But I also call on parents to get informed as soon as possible, so they aren’t left in difficulty when the childcare voucher scheme closes in a few months’ time.”

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The change from Childcare Vouchers to Tax Free Childcare, and what it means for you

Childcare Vouchers is a scheme where your employer provides childcare vouchers. For new applicants, it’s being replaced by Tax Free Childcare (although this has been delayed from April to October 2018 due to pressure from the Labour party). Tax Free Childcare is where parents put money into a special account for each child which is then topped up by the Government and paid directly to the childcare provider. The schemes offer different levels of support.

Childcare Vouchers will close to new applicants, from 4th October 2018. People already on this scheme will be allowed to continue, but people won’t be allowed to re-join.

After this point, all new entrants to the Childcare system will receive this bit of their childcare support as Tax Free Childcare. It’s worth nothing that Tax- Free Childcare or Childcare Vouchers are on top of any Free Childcare entitlement you have (for example, the 30 hours free childcare provided to some by the Government).

What does this mean for me?

If you’re eligible for both or for only Childcare Vouchers, you could lose a lot of money if Childcare Vouchers is the better option for you and you’re not on it by October 2018.

What am I eligible for? 

If you fulfil the conditions for either scheme, you’re eligible that scheme –

Childcare Vouchers Tax Free Childcare
Who can apply Only those whose employer offers it. This doesn’t include the self-employed. Anyone
Minimum earnings None. One parent needs to work. £120/week –  and if you’re a couple, both of you must be earning.
Child’s maximum age 15 (16 if disabled) 11 (16 if disabled)
Maximum income None Less than £100,000 per parent

 

If I’m eligible for both, what’s better for me? 

This depends on your specific circumstances.

According to Money Saving Expert, if you’re spending less than £6,252 a year on Childcare (or £9,252 if you’re a basic rate Taxpayer household) Childcare Vouchers will always be better.

Above these levels, it depends on how much you are earning and how much you are spending on childcare. You can find out more here.

Note that Tax-Free Childcare cannot be used at the same time as Universal Credit, Childcare Vouchers or Tax-Credits (including both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit). This is different to the Childcare Voucher scheme, and means that Childcare Vouchers might be better for some families who are eligible for both.

 

 

Where can I read more information about this?

Money Saving Expert has a great breakdown of this information – https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/Tax-Free-Childcare

The government information on Childcare Vouchers is here https://www.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs/childcare-vouchers, and that for Tax Free Childcare is here – https://www.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs/tax-free-childcare

 

 

 

 

 

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Darren calls for increased schools funding and continued free school meals

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has backed calls – ahead of today’s spring budget – for the government to rethink schools funding and changes to free school meals under Universal Credit.

New research by the school cuts coalition of unions (NEU, NAHT, ASCL, UNISON, GMB Union and Unite the union) shows that class sizes are rising in most schools in Bristol North West as a result of the Government’s cuts to education.

There is a particular problem in secondary schools because of a shortfall of £500m a year to funding for 11 – 16-year olds between 2015/16 and 2019/20, plus the deep cuts to sixth form funding (over 17% per pupil since 2010).

62% of secondary schools in England have increased the size of their classes in the last two years (2014/15 to 2016/17). In Bristol North West, secondary schools have an average of 1.2 more students in every class. The average income per pupil in Bristol North West’s secondary schools has also dropped from £5995 in 2015/16 to a forecast of £5247 in 2019/20.

Bristol North West’s primary schools are also not immune with average class sizes having risen by 0.6 pupils per class, this comes alongside 46% of primary schools seeing the pupil to teacher ratio decreasing, leaving pupils with less support.

Darren said:

“ These figures show that the Government is failing in its stated aim to even out the differences in education – 100% of secondary schools in Bristol North West have seen a decrease in the Teaching Assistant to pupil ratio, with 50% also seeing a drop-in pupil to Teacher ratio. 31% of secondary school students also currently access Free Schools Meals, which are at risk because of changes to Universal Credit – we can’t stand back and let these cuts happen – the impact they will have on our children and their families will last a lifetime. Children and young people only get one chance at school and college and we know that education cuts never heal.

As a country we should be investing in this, and future, generations of young people. I am continuing to call on the Government to urgently address the funding crisis, protect free school meals and not continue to ignore these very real problems. I will be writing to each Bristol North West school to ask how the lack of funding will continue to impact their staff and pupils – the government must understand once and for all that good quality education is a price worth paying”.

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Darren shares his views on Family Reunification for refugees

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has shared his thoughts on family reunification for refugees ahead of a debate on 16th March 2018.

Darren said:

“ A number of constituents have shared concerns about family reunion rules, the effectiveness of their implementation-  a number of organisations have also called for there to be an expansion of the criteria.  

I agree that more needs to be done to reunite families and I share concerns about the efficiency of the processes in place for those who are entitled to join family in the UK, particularly children. As we know, unaccompanied migrant children are highly vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse.  

At the last General Election, I stood on a manifesto that promised to produce a cross-departmental strategy to meet our international obligations on the refugee crisis, and I hope this is something that the Government will consider. I believe we need effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis and continue to uphold the proud British tradition of honouring the spirit of international law and our moral obligations by taking our fair share of refugees.  

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the debate on the 16th March 2018 due to prior diary commitments. However I did attend the opposition motion on refugees on the 24th January  2018. I also recently attended a fund-raising Ceilidh organised by Westbury Welcome to help refugee families arriving in Bristol North West. 

I will follow the Government’s response to the refugee crisis closely, and will continue to bear in mind the points my constituents raise when this issue is debated in the House of Commons in the future”.

 

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Darren visits Foodbank

Darren Jones MP has visited the team at North Bristol Foodbank. After dropping-in to the Foodbank’s Christmas donation drive at Tesco in Horfield in December 2017, Darren wanted to meet the hard working volunteers, trustees and manager who welcome people to the service and package up the donations.

The Foodbank was set-up in 2012 and offered 3,740 emergency three-day food parcels in the last year.

Darren Jones MP said:

” I was really keen to meet the people who make the Foodbank possible, many are volunteers and they work extremely hard alongside the small number of paid staff and trustees. Childcare voucher changes and Universal Credit are likely to result in even more demand for their services. I urge anyone who can to donate and support their Foodbank.”

You can find out more about the Foodbank, including how to donate and access food parcels here.