, , , , , , ,

‘We need a back to work budget for Portsmouth’ says City MP

Analysis of new labour market data from the ONS shows the scale of the economic challenge facing the south east as claimants for Universal Credit and other unemployment benefits rose by 178.12% to 325,199.

Although an imperfect measure of unemployment, these figures show a severely strained jobs market and an urgent need for a Back to Work Budget.

The Government has reportedly postponed its next full budget until autumn, raising concerns a slow and muddled health response is now being followed by a slow and muddled response to saving jobs.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Government show 23.38 % of the workforce are furloughed in the South East whilst 352,000 of the workforce are using the Self-employed Income Support Scheme.

Vacancies also fell by 60% across the UK between February and May, with steeper falls in some sectors. This includes:

  • 80% fall in construction, employing 5.3% of workers in South East
  • 94% and 70% falls in motor trades and retail, employing around 16.7% of workers in the South East
  • 94% fall in accommodation and food services, employing 7.3% of workers in South East
  • 85% in arts, entertainment and recreation, employing 2.5% of workers in the South East

Figures reveal that:

  • There were 325,199 people claiming universal credit and other unemployment benefits in the South East in May 2020, up 178.12% from February
  • This is equivalent to around 6.7% of the workforce
  • 23.38% of the workforce are furloughed, whilst 352,000 are using the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“These figures show the Government cannot afford to delay its next full budget until after the summer and must urgently bring forward a Back to Work Budget to protect jobs and livelihoods here in Portsmouth and across our region.

The government must also ensure the vital support provided by the JRS and SEISS are not withdrawn too soon, and that any withdrawal is tailored to the specific needs of firms and sectors in our city and for the south east.”

 

 

 

 

, , , , , , , ,

Government U-turn to fund free school meals is the ‘decent thing to do’ says Portsmouth MP

Government have a committed a major U-turn and today agreed to fund free school meals during the summer holidays. A move welcomed by Stephen Morgan MP, who has been lobbying the Prime Minister to reverse his original decision.

In Portsmouth, over 5,000 children were at risk of going hungry this summer if government were to withdraw support for the provision of free school meals. This prompted action from the city MP who wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister which gathered just shy of 600 hundred signatures in less than 24 hours.

With the added financial strain of coronavirus and social distancing measures, many Portsmouth families were deeply concerned by the prospect of losing holiday lunch schemes. It is expected that an additional 200,000 children will fall below the poverty line due to the pandemic, making this food provision a vital lifeline for families across Portsmouth and the UK.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

‘’Children were at a heightened risk of going hungry this summer as the Covid-19 crisis hits family incomes while charities and food banks struggle to provide the same level of holiday support.

There was always a simple solution to this, and that was for the government to continue funding free school meals throughout the summer holidays. Their refusal to do so until today was a deeply callous move. It is encouraging that they have taken heed of warnings from MPs, public figures, charities and the Labour Party. However, we should not be at a point where we have to fight to feed the children of struggling families.

That is why I launched a campaign, with local people, to help force the reversal of the Government’s decision and will continue to speak out in favour of maintaining support for all those struggling amid this pandemic.”

The Government today caved in on their decision to stop free school meals over the summer after a passionate plea from Manchester United footballer Marcus Rushford, pressure from a number of MPs and ahead of an opposition day debate in Parliament headed up by Labour. The Government were planning to vote against the motion to restore the scheme for the holidays.

On the Prime Minister’s U-turn, the city MP added:

“Some are calling this a major U-turn by Government. I’m calling this a victory for common sense and decency.

The untold hardship faced by families at this time of uncertainty requires government to be looking at increasing support, not stripping it away. What really matters is no one should ever go hungry over the holidays. While the immediate threat of holiday hunger may be in hand, we now need to look at the root causes.

Holiday hunger is not new. Longer term, the Government must address the underlying cause of holiday hunger: child poverty, low wages and insecure work.”

Ahead of the government’s decision reversal, the city MP had written an open letter garnering hundreds of public signatures, backed Labour’s “Holidays without Hunger” campaign, and supported the Opposition Day Debate on the issue. He has vowed to continue taking action to combat child poverty throughout Covid-19 and beyond.

 

 

, , , , , ,

City MP urges Portsmouth people to help put pressure on PM over Free School Meal removal

In response to the Prime Minister’s plans to take away meals from the children of struggling families, Stephen Morgan MP has orchestrated a mass signed letter urging the Government to reconsider.

In England, 1.3 million children rely on free school meals. Normally children only get free meals from school during term-time but eligible pupils received food vouchers over Easter as the country coped with the Covid crisis. Government is threatening to take away this vital lifeline which is helping feed hungry children from family’s struggling amid the pandemic.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“This government has presided over a decade of inequality and injustice that has only been enhanced by Covid-19.

To now risk taking food away from hungry children because term time has ended is counterproductive and only kicks struggling families while they are down.

Hunger doesn’t stop when kids get home. Parents know how important a healthy diet is for children – and for children from struggling families, these meals are a lifeline. Once school is out, these families’ kids will get left behind unless the PM changes his mind.”

The Department for Education said the scheme will not continue in the summer holidays, but campaigners say children in vulnerable families will go hungry. This has prompted high profile individuals such as Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford, to also write to all Members of Parliament about the matter.

Sustain and the Good Law Project, led by the campaigning lawyer Jolyon Maugham have also pledged that they will challenge the government’s decision in the courts if necessary, something that Stephen Morgan MP has also pledged support for.

Mr Morgan added:

“This pandemic has made the serious structural inequality in this country unmissable.

In the long-term we need the Prime Minister to lead efforts by Government to tackle the causes of child poverty. Right now, we need him to step up, show leadership, and make sure the 1.3 million children don’t go hungry this summer.

I know how important this issue is to constituents. That’s why I am urging fellow Portsmouth people to sign my open letter urging the Government to act.”

You can sign Stephen’s letter to the Prime Minister, here: http://www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/holidayhungercampaign/

 

, , , , , , , ,

Sign: Letter to the Prime Minister to stop holiday hunger

Many constituents have got in touch after reading Marcus Rashford’s open letter to all Members of Parliament. Stephen welcomes this letter and supports calls for Government to make sure no child goes hungry this summer by funding Free School Meals.

Please add your name to Stephen’s letter to the Prime Minister to lobby Government to stop kids going hungry:

 

 

Thank you for signing the letter. Stephen Morgan and the Labour Party will use the personal information you provided for the purpose of the Holiday Hunger campaign. Where you have opted in, Stephen and the Labour Party may contact you via the communication channels you have chosen and for the purposes specified. We may also contact you by post using the electoral register, which Stephen is entitled to use as an MP and the Labour Party is entitled to use to further its objectives as a political party. You can opt out of communications from us or manage your preferences at any time. For more information about how we use personal data please click here

 

 

, , , , , ,

Covid-19: Report reveals surge in city’s unemployment claims even greater than previously thought

Independent research conducted by the House of Commons Library has found that ‘unadjusted’ unemployment claims amid Covid-19 in Portsmouth South have drastically risen.

The unadjusted claimant count includes those who were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or were claiming Universal Credit and are required to seek work.

The figures show that in Portsmouth South, unadjusted unemployment claimants were a staggering 123% higher in April 2020 than April 2019. They also reveal that there was a 66% surge between March 2020 and April 2020. The stats also reveal that Portsmouth has been hit 8% harder than the UK national average.

Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The fact we are in a crisis means that we should allow for a slight increase in unemployment claimants, but there is truly no excuse for a 123% surge within just a year. These figures also reveal that Portsmouth South is being hit harder than the rest of the UK. Time after time, our community bears the brunt of Tory austerity.

Behind each figure is a family forced to live on far less and people struggling under the financial pressures of this crisis.

Countless constituents have got in touch with me to express that they aren’t eligible for government support. From not being covered because they are paid in dividends to not being eligible for furlough, people are falling through the gaps.”

These unadjusted figures include those who were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or were claiming Universal Credit and are required to seek work. Unlike the ‘alternative count’ the ‘unadjusted count’ is not adjusted to consider the roll-out of Universal Credit.

This gives a more accurate picture of how the number of claimants has changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and shows the scale of the problem is actually far greater.

Labour is calling on the government to agree five urgent social security measures to provide immediate support to people affected by the coronavirus crisis:

  • Convert Universal Credit advances into grants instead of loans, ending the five-week wait
  • Remove the £16,000 savings limit which disqualifies individuals from accessing Universal Credit
  • Suspend the benefit cap
  • Abolish the two-child limit in Universal Credit and tax credits
  • Uprate legacy benefits to match the increase in Universal Credit, providing an immediate increase in Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance

Mr Morgan added:

“I have already written to the Chancellor twice, submitted a string of written questions, backed Labour’s calls for urgent social security measures and continue to help individuals with casework relating to a lack of financial support.

We all want government to get this right. We all lose if they do not. I will continue to constructively highlight where gaps in their support exist and lobby hard for more far reaching financial packages. My work goes on in parliament holding this government to account for its substandard social security record.”

Figures for both series (unadjusted and alternative) are available on the House of Commons Library’s dashboard:

https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/social-policy/welfare-pensions/benefits/constituency-data-people-claiming-unemployment-benefits/

 

 

, , , , , , , , ,

Emergency action needed to protect renters say Labour

The official opposition are today setting out a five-point emergency action plan to prevent people from being forced from their homes as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Current measures set out by the Government in the Coronavirus Act fall well short of adequately protecting people from homelessness when they cannot pay their rent. Shelter reports an estimated 1.7 million people living in rented accommodation expect to lose their jobs in the next three months due to the coronavirus crisis.

Most people in rented accommodation have no savings and when the current freeze on evictions expires in June, an estimated 2.6 million people are likely to be in rent arrears, according to Citizens Advice.

Labour’s measures would use temporary legislation to protect people from bankruptcy and homelessness due to rent arrears, providing the kind of protection to people living in rented homes that is already in place for commercial tenants and owner-occupiers.

Labour’s five-point plan to protect people from eviction:

  1. Extend the temporary ban on evictions for six months or however long is needed to implement the legal changes below.
  2. Give residential tenants the same protections as commercial tenants, by protecting them from being made bankrupt by their landlords for non-payment of rent.
  3. Bring forward the government’s proposal to scrap Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and outlaw evictions on the grounds of rent arrears if the arrears were accrued because of hardship caused by the coronavirus crisis.
  4. Once evictions are prevented, grant renters at least two years to pay back any arrears accrued during this period.
  5. Speed up and improve the provision of Universal Credit, as Labour recently called for, and consider a temporary increase to the Local Housing Allowance to help prevent risk of homelessness.

Responding to the plan, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

Labour wants to make sure people are not made homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of the coronavirus.

That is why we have urged the government to make temporary changes to the Universal Credit system which would help more people, and to the system of government assistance under the furlough and self-employed support schemes and we want them to make further temporary changes to the laws on eviction to protect people who struggle with rent.

The five point plan announced today, if adopted by Government, will help protect Portsmouth people during this time of crisis”.

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, added:

“Current protections for people renting their homes are woefully inadequate. Unless the Government acts now, many thousands of tenants will be at risk of losing their homes.

The Government has paused evictions for three months and answered Labour’s call to increase the Local Housing Allowance. Both are welcome, but do not go far enough. It will take time for people to recover from this crisis and they need all the support we can give them to prevent what would be an unprecedented and devastating spike in homelessness.

In the long term we need to fix the housing crisis – with stronger rent regulations and much more affordable and social housing – so that everyone has a home that is safe, secure, environmentally sustainable, and that they can afford to live in. What we need right now is an emergency package to set us on that path.

Every Thursday we clap for key workers but many of them live in homes that are overcrowded, unsafe or expensive. When we emerge from this public health crisis, we cannot go back to business as usual.”

 

, , ,

City MP keeps pressure on to suspend removal of free TV licence for over 75s amid Covid-19

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan has made renewed calls on government to halt the withdrawal of the TV licence for the over 75s, joining a cross party group in sending a targeted letter to the Culture Secretary.

The action follows the city MP’s successful campaign urging government to delay the removal of the benefit on the 16 March.

The group is seeking an indefinite suspension of the benefit roll back, citing the fact elderly people are currently confined to their homes due to the pandemic as the driving force.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“While I welcome government taking heed of our action and postponing the roll back of this vital social benefit for the over 75s, this does not go far enough in solving the issue.

Current projections suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic could go on for some time. We cannot have a situation where government is confining over 75s to their homes but taking away, what is for some, their only source of information and contact with the outside world.

Government must accept that removing a benefit from the group most at risk during a pandemic is unacceptable. I will continue to work with others, from across the House, to be a voice for our older community members.”

In 2017, the Conservatives stood on a manifesto that pledged not to touch benefits for the elderly. In November 2019, they went back on this promise and Government forced through policy that saw the free TV licence snatched away from over 75s.

The results are 1.3 million of the poorest over 75s left with another big bill to contend with. 3 million households worse off, and 500,000 people living with dementia facing a new difficult bill.

Mr Morgan added:

“Prior to Covid-19 I listened to organisations such as Age UK and Portsmouth Pensioners Association, as well as wrote out to 10,000 people locally affected.

The reports then suggested that taking away this vital benefit would plunge more older people into social isolation and cause financial difficulty for those forced to choose between food and company.

These factors are now even more relevant as people are confined to their homes, community meetings suspended and loved ones prohibited from visiting relatives who are not in their household.

I will continue to fight for the continuation of the universally free TV licence for the over 75s on the grounds that it is a vital lifeline for many valued older community members.”

Stephen Morgan MP has been taking action on this issue since government first suggested the removal in 2019. Since then Mr Morgan has written out to constituents, hosted meetings with local organisations and Age UK, written to three separate government Culture Secretaries, raised the issue in parliament, conducted survey research in Portsmouth and joined cross party lobbying.

, , , , , ,

“Social Isolation and loneliness don’t stop when the Christmas tree comes down” says Stephen Morgan MP

As many headlines warn, Christmas can see loneliness and social isolation heightened, especially amongst older community members. However, newly re-elected MP Stephen Morgan has spoken out saying society must do better year-round to tackle the issue.

Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“While I welcome the recognition that social isolation and loneliness receives over Christmas, I believe we cannot afford to let the issue fall when the festive season finishes.

Loneliness doesn’t stop when the Christmas tree comes down, there is work to be done. Since being elected in 2017, I have had the opportunity to work with organisations such as Age UK, The Good Company and The British Legion in tackling these social problems.

I am committed to continuing this vital work now that I have been re-elected to parliament and look forward to continued cooperation with organisations both in Portsmouth and in Parliament.”

The Jo Cox Commission started a national conversation on loneliness and successfully encouraged the Government to accept many of its recommendations with the appointment of a Minister for Loneliness to take forward the work.

However, the Government has failed to implement some of the policies and has gone against previous commitments to safeguard benefits that help to combat loneliness.

Stephen Morgan said:

“Through work with Age UK and Portsmouth pensioners, I know how important certain benefits are in combatting isolation and loneliness.

That is why It is an outrage that this Government is overseeing the scrapping of free TV licences for 3 million older people, leaving a Tory manifesto promise in tatters.

We know that around 1.3 million over-75s are eligible for Pension Credit but do not or cannot claim for the benefit. This means at least 650,000 of our poorest pensioners facing an ominous new annual bill they simply can’t afford.”

The extensive work Mr Morgan has done for to combat isolation and loneliness is not limited to action on the free TV licence. He has worked hard on increasing bus routes, called for a veteran’s railcard, regular meets with Age UK and has a close relationship Portsmouth Pensioners to ensure they have a voice in parliament.

 

, , ,

Stephen Morgan backs Labour’s game-changing social care plan

Labour has announced its game-changing plans to head off the social care crisis through introducing free personal care and increasing the number of care packages provided to working age adults and older people each year.

Recent Labour Party research has also revealed that since April 2017, over 9,200 people have approached their local authority for help to pay for their social care, after running out of money.

Free personal care will ensure people with dementia receive the same care as those with other conditions, reduce the burden on unpaid carers and benefit the NHS by reducing delayed transfers of care from hospital and admissions to care homes and hospitals.

Stephen Morgan said:

“Portsmouth City Council has been far from exempt in terms of local authority cuts with local services we all rely on slashed by 48 percent since 2011, equating to £73m. This means that care services are in crisis.

I am proud to stand on a manifesto that sets out a strategy for real change and will properly fund social care for our older community members and reform the way we think about caring for people I need.“

Stephen Morgan has a record of delivery when it comes to standing against the social care crisis. He has worked with Alzheimer’s UK to call for funding for dementia care, held officials to account while working in the Public Accounts Committee and constantly grilled Ministers in Parliament to fund local authorities properly.

Labour’s National Care Service will provide publicly funded care to all those that need it.

The next Labour government will:

• Introduce free personal care for older people
• Fund social care properly with £10 billion of additional funding by 2023/24
• Cap care costs
• Reform provision of care by ensuring care providers meet ethical standards of care
• Support the care workforce better to ensure people receive support from trained staff
New Labour research reveals that:
• 9,290 people have approached their local authority for help with their social care costs after running out of money to pay for it themselves – called ‘self-funders with depleted funds’ – since April 2017.
• 5,385 people – almost 15 a day – approached their local authority for help in 2018/19, an increase of 38% on the previous year.
• Based on the average cost of a home care package being £16 an hour and the average recipient of free personal care in Scotland receiving 8.8 hours of free personal care a week, free personal care will save older people £7,321 a year, drastically reducing the number of people depleting their savings to pay for their care.

, , ,

Stephen Morgan backs Labour’s pledge to offer free dental check-ups for all following long running action over patient access in Portsmouth

Labour is announcing plans to provide free NHS dental check-ups for everyone in England. Stephen Morgan has a record of delivery when it comes to taking action over patient access to dental services in his city, following the closure of 3 city practises and has welcomed his party’s announcement.

Scrapping band one dentistry charges will give everyone a free teeth MOT with their dentist, including checks for oral cancers, while also taking pressure off GPs and hospitals.

Stephen Morgan said:

“Access to dental services is vitally important and to use the British Dental Association’s words, we are in crisis.
21 million people have not seen a dentist for over 2 years, around just 50% of dental practices are able to admit new NHS patients and in Portsmouth, the number of children being admitted to hospital for tooth decay has doubled.

With the Government making real term cuts to dentistry of nearly 30% since 2010, more people are finding themselves unable to get treatment which is putting pressure on other NHS services.

I welcome Labour’s pledge to offer free check ups to everyone which will both benefit the health of Portsmouth people and save people going to the NHS A&E departments with preventable issues.”

The measures, are part of Labour’s plans to focus on prevention and provide a truly universal NHS and moving towards providing dental services free at the point of use. Labour’s full pledge on NHS England funding will be laid out in our forthcoming fully-costed manifesto and this funding will come in addition to the £26bn announced by Labour earlier this week.

Stephen Morgan said:

“This Government’s incessant will to sell off bits of our NHS and leave it in the hands of companies like Colosseum in Portsmouth, owned by a swiss investment bank, is irresponsible and puts profit before Portsmouth people.

I have a record of delivery when it comes to standing up for Portsmouth patient access. Hosting urgent meetings with NHS England to get to the root of the closures in Portsmouth, meeting the British Dental Association in parliament, grilling Ministers in Westminster, visiting dental academies in our city.

Labour and I have pledged to do more for oral healthcare, but do that we need your support on the 12 December.”

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“It’s shocking that so called ‘DIY Dentistry’ is becoming so common with people resorting to doing their own fillings and seriously risking their teeth deteriorating further.

With 135,000 patients presenting at A&E with dental problems every year, it’s time we put prevention at the heart of our approach to dental health.
“People should not be risking their teeth because they can’t afford the care. With Labour, dental check-up fees will be scrapped as we help people live healthier lives.”