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Covid-19: City MP lobbies accommodation providers to release students from contracts amid pandemic

Stephen Morgan MP has today welcomed news that the University of Portsmouth will release third term accommodation contracts due to the Covid-19 outbreak and urged others to follow suit.

The city MP consulted with the University of Portsmouth, the Students Union and individual constituents on the issue before writing directly to 6 providers in the city.

Increasingly the university’s tutorials and lessons will be completed online due to Covid-19. Accommodation provided by the university itself has therefore offered a release from third term contracts, but some private accommodation providers have so far failed to match this.

Mr Morgan said:

“With lectures cancelled and new measures to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, students are best placed with their families and at home wherever possible.

The close proximity of students to each other while in accommodation also presents a health risk to those enrolled at the university and the general public in Portsmouth.

With large numbers leaving the city, the university has shown leadership in removing additional financial strain from the students. Now it is time for other providers to follow suit.

That is why I have written out to 6 providers in the city urging them to act in the interest of the community during these trying times and offer a release to students.”

The university has acknowledged that a great deal of financial hardship may stem from the Covid-19 pandemic and has released all students from their accommodation contracts for the final university term.

However, the choice to remain has been offered to students due to the number of people who live overseas and cannot return home due to travel restrictions. This is the stance that Mr Morgan has urged other providers to adopt.

Mr Morgan added:

“If we are all in this together then student accommodation providers have a responsibility to put public health, student safety and financial stability first.

I will continue to lobby all major student accommodation providers, that have failed to offer this release so far, to take steps to support students and act in the interest of our community.”

Stephen Morgan MP continues to work closely with the University and Students’ Union on this issue. He is also advocating on behalf of a number of individual students who have contacted him regarding non university provided accommodation providers refusing to follow suit.

 

 

 

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Portsmouth MP backs Bill to reduce cost of school uniform

A proposed new law that will reduce the cost of school uniforms for hard-pressed families has won the backing of Stephen Morgan MP.

The MP for Portsmouth South has pledged his support for the Bill, introduced by fellow Labour MP Mike Amesbury, that would aim to strengthen existing guidance encouraging schools to keep down costs.

The Bill is gaining cross-party support and has won the backing of the government.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“According to research by the Children’s Society, families are spending an average of around £337 per year on uniform for each child at secondary school, while parents of primary school children spent £315 on average.

This is having a hugely detrimental impact on many of my constituents and I really hope that we can get this bill passed into law and alleviate what has become a financial burden for so many families.”

Mike Amesbury MP added:

“I’m delighted to receive the support of Stephen Morgan MP.

His backing is crucial if this bill is to become law and I firmly believe it will have a hugely beneficial impact not only to those people in both of our constituencies, but to families right across the country too.”

Mr Morgan was present in the House of Commons today as the bill had its second reading. It now must gain the support of MPs if it is to become law.

The Bill is progressing as the Children’s Society today launched the latest in their ‘The Wrong Blazer’  series of reports, making the case for action to tackle the cost of school uniform.  The organisation supports the Bill.

The Portsmouth South MP added:

“School is a place where young people should be able to aim high, work hard and achieve. They should be able to pursue their goals free from any additional pressure around uniform.

I know many Portsmouth families work relentlessly to support their children in their academic endeavours but when 1 in 8 families get into debt trying to keep up with uniform costs, change needs to happen.

I will continue to support legislation that works to this end.”

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City MP takes local child poverty concerns to very top as he delivers searing question in Parliament

Stephen Morgan MP has forced the Work and Pensions Secretary to answer concerns over child poverty in Portsmouth.

Mr Morgan’s line of questioning comes amid a bleak backdrop of 4.1 million children now growing up in relative poverty. A figure 500,000 larger than it was in 2010-11.

Mr Morgan said

“The Child Poverty Action Group published a study of children and food in low-income families. It detailed movingly the lives of children who go hungry and the impact on their health, education and friendships.

It showed that some children were ashamed to invite friends home because they had no food to offer them.

Under this government’s watch cases of this nature have been allowed to reach unprecedented levels. Today I put these heart wrenching accounts to the Minister responsible and demanded action over this grave injustice.”

The proportion of children in poverty who are under the age of five has risen from 51% to 53% (over 2 million children). The figures also reveal that 70% of children in poverty were living in working families in 2017-18 – up from 67% the previous year.

Mr Morgan added:

“In Portsmouth South we know that nearly 37% of children are living in poverty. In areas such as Charles Dickens, this is as high as over 50%.

Child poverty is one of the most potent drivers of ill health, not just in childhood but throughout life.

If government is letting down Portsmouth people at the beginning of their lives, this will adverse effects for decades to come. People in our city deserve better.”

Mr Morgan’s work on this issue follows a report by The Children’s Society detailing the hundreds of pounds parents are having to find for uniform costs, sometimes at the expense of food. The MP is backing a new law that would introduce statutory guidance for schools that would help to rein in the soaring costs of school uniforms and save parents money.

This is not the first time Mr Morgan has taken action over child poverty. The city MP backed a Private Members Bill tabled by a colleague, raised the issue in ‘Challenge Poverty Week’ and has highlighted the link between the benefit cap and poverty. 

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“Young people have most at stake in this election, I urge them to take control of their future and register to vote” – Stephen Morgan speaks out to urge voter registration

Stephen Morgan joins the ranks of international celebrities in promoting the latest social media “challenge”, as Labour launches Youth Manifesto with votes for 16-17 year olds and new £1 billion pledge for youth services

Stephen Morgan and Amanda Martin joined Lily Allen and MIA today by getting involved with the latest social media “challenge”, the #VoterRegChallenge.

Mr Morgan said:

“This election will shape not just the future of our city but our nation.

Brexit, climate change, funding for our NHS and Schools. This is what is at stake. For first time voters, the generation of tomorrow, this is the opportunity to directly influence the world they live in.

I urge every young person to get out, register and be part of the biggest general election this nation has faced in modern times.”

Social media users on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have been posting 15 second videos telling their followers why they’re registering to vote, before nominating three friends to do the same.

The Labour Party has published “The Future is Ours” – a manifesto for young people which will include an additional £1 billion of investment in youth services and the party’s commitment to votes at 16.

Labour has announced an additional £1 billion in annual revenue expenditure for youth services, twenty times the £50 million previously announced by the government. This will build a properly funded, professionally staffed National Youth Service, and will guarantee every young person has access to local, high-quality youth work.

Labour will double the annual capital expenditure for youth services that the government has committed to, investing an additional £250 million to build up to 500 new youth centres.

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Portsmouth MP sets out changes needed to combat climate change during Queen’s Speech debate

Stephen Morgan MP has delivered an impassioned speech to parliament today setting out what needs to be done to tackle climate change and applying scrutiny to the Government’s ropey track record on the issue.

The MP spoke out on the 4th day of debates relating to the Queen’s Speech and called on his colleagues to regard climate change at the top of the parliamentary agenda and to work together to achieve progress.

While delivering the speech, Mr Morgan said:

“The mildly technical nature and distant-sounding threat of ‘climate change’ may not be enough to invoke people to come out fighting from their beds.

But pretty much all of us would do so to protect our loved ones, our homes and our livelihoods, and to build a better world.

Why should defending against climate change be any different?

So, let’s be honest about the challenges we face, let’s tackle it together, and let’s redouble our efforts.”

Responding to Ministerial statements after the speech, Mr Morgan highlighted the Government’s poor track on climate change.

Mr Morgan said:

This Government, led by an ambassador of climate change indifference, is falling far short of the mark.

Failure to deliver on 24 out of 25 emissions-reducing actions recommended by the climate committee in 2018.

Just 7 of 24 indicators showing the UK’s underlying progress towards its climate goals being met.

Missed targets for the fourth and fifth Carbon Budgets, even more than predicted in last year’s official update.

We need to see a party in power that set aside serious proposals for tackling the world’s most pressing issue.”

Mr Morgan has also stressed the need for robust legislation and binding agreements, which experts such as Friends of the Earth have warned are essential in formulating an appropriate climate change bill.

On the introduction of a new environment change bill, Mr Morgan said:

“We must see an environment Bill strong enough to create change throughout Government, industry and society.

Allowing this Bill to be consumed by the Brexit shadow would be a fatal mistake and it is integral that we see an end to toothless scrutiny and non-binding legislation.”

The MP’s actions in parliament today are part of a broad campaign aimed at raising the profile and rate of action over tackling climate change. Mr Morgan regularly meets with Friends of the Earth, lead the Labour Group locally to declaring a climate emergency, has consistently voted in favour of climate legislation, hosts meeting with local activist and speaks out regularly in Parliament.

Mr Morgan also used the opportunity to lobby Government over illegal air pollution levels in the city and need to meet in Southsea Sea Defence Scheme.

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City MP continues calls to Raise the Rate as Love our Colleges week begins

Stephen Morgan MP has renewed support and made fresh calls on Government to ‘Raise the Rate’ of funding for 6th form colleges. The campaign seeks to urgently address underfunding in further education by increasing the basic rate from £4,000 to at least £4,760 in line with inflation.

The MP’s actions come amid the Colleges Week which is taking place from Monday 14 October to Friday 18 October 2019 and is part of the ‘Love Our Colleges’ campaign. It is an opportunity to highlight the brilliant work that goes on, and the brilliant staff that tirelessly work within the sector.

Mr Morgan said:

“I went to Portsmouth college and therefore know they are transformational for people, communities, places and employers.

They help people make the most of their talents and ambitions and drive social mobility. They help businesses improve productivity and drive economic growth. They are rooted in our communities and drive cohesion and well-being.

It is essential that they are properly supported, currently the Government is failing in this capacity.

Colleges have had to deal with an average 30% funding cut in the decade from 2009 to 2019, teachers in colleges are being paid about 20% less than teachers in schools and we have seen a drastic drop in adult enrolments.”

After making great efficiencies over the last decade, there is a strong consensus amongst the Education Select Committee, HM Inspectors and other experts that colleges need major investment to put them in a position to be able to thrive and maximise the benefits they have on communities.

Mr Morgan said:

“I took part in this event last year and sadly, I find myself making fresh calls on Government to raise the rate and show colleges the respect they deserve.

We need to see anincrease to the 16-to-18 rate in stages to £5,000 and fund 18-year-olds in further education at the same level as younger sixth formers so that colleges can continue to educate future generations of skilled workers and ensure the UK economy is fully supported by a capable workforce.

I will continue to stand in solidarity with Association of Colleges and make sure that the voice of these vital educators always has a platform in Parliament.”

This is not the first time that Stephen Morgan MP has worked with Association of Colleges, he has taken part in a rally with college Head’s, met with local colleges and pledged his continued support for the campaign.

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City MP and University of Portsmouth continue actions over Stanhope House crisis

In his latest in a series of actions to assist students affected by the accommodation crisis at Stanhope House, working alongside the university the city MP is demanding more answers from Prime Student Living (PSL), the provider in question.

Today’s letter follows a string of actions taken by the MP with local ward councillor Cal Corkery, student campaigners and in consultation with the vice-chancellor of the university.  So far including demanding an urgent meeting with the Government Minister responsible, hitting out at PSL, speaking with students affected, meeting with the university and visiting the site to see the problem first hand.

On his latest action Mr Morgan said:

“While dealing with the provider in question directly is just one of many ways to address this issue, I hope that the stern letter sent to PSL asking them to outline responses to my concerns will shed light on what the provider is doing to assist students affected.

PSL have in some instances been vague about certain aspects of their response to the situation, including reimbursement mechanisms, transparency about when they knew the project would not be finished and what support was offered, if any, to the 54 students who had their contracts torn up.

I will not leave any stone left un-turned when it comes to students’ academic futures, the Portsmouth community and the tax payers’ purse.”

Mr Morgan has advocated for an encompassing approach to this issue and has suggested that the problem lies with a regulatory gap that falls short when dealing with the private sector.

This is an issue he is addressing in Parliament after submitting a series of written questions and writing to the minister by urging Government to act and close the gap.

The Portsmouth South representative said:

“While individual private accommodation providers are at the surface level of the problem, this issue is much bigger.

The problem is this. The Office for Students (OfS) regulates universities but has no regulatory power over private student accommodation providers. There is a clear gap that needs closing.

A similar, albeit less severe, problem occurred last year with Crown Place and my information is that there are over 20 similar problems around the country this year.  We need to do more to protect students.

So far, I have spoken with students affected, met with the university, written to the regulator, corresponded multiple times with PSL, written to the relevant Minister and raised the issue through parliamentary questions. I will continue to take action until a solution is found to the wider problem.”

Mr Morgan’s letter today is in response to a letter sent to the MP on 4 October 2019 and was written with the support of the University of Portsmouth.

 

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City MP demands meeting with Minister over Stanhope House student accommodation crisis

On 9 September, Prime Student Living (PSL), who are managing a new student development named Stanhope House on Commercial Road, failed to provide accommodation for over 250 students at the start of term. 

Since then, Stephen Morgan MP has submitted written questions to the Department for Education, written to PSL directly, written to the regulator, visited the site, met with the university, spoken out in the media, spoken directly with students affected and worked alongside Cllr Cal Corkery.

In Mr Morgan’s latest bid to bridge the gap in regulation and help affected local students, the city MP has written to the Government Minister responsible demanding an urgent meeting.

Mr Morgan Said:

“I have spoken to students impacted by this issue and I am deeply concerned about the effect that the PSL failure is having on them.

Some have been rehoused miles away from lectures and friends, others in places with no wi-fi. The opening weeks of university play a crucial role in academic life and career path, I will not allow private accommodation providers to recklessly gamble with Portsmouth students’ futures.

When I submitted parliamentary written questions to the Minister, he regrettably said that this was not a Government matter. I refuse to accept this and have written demanding a meeting so that we can work together to stop this from happening again

I look forward to continuing to work alongside Cllr Cal Corkery in standing up for Portsmouth students and ensuring they have a platform to be heard on”.

There have been widespread reports of students affected are feeling anxious about their living conditions. Many have outlined deep-set disappointment with the £150 that they have been issued which does not even cover one week’s rent.

In response to Mr Morgan’s written questions, the Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation replied:

“Higher education (HE) providers are autonomous bodies, independent from government; government plays no direct role in the provision of student residential accommodation” (full response in public domain).

Another key point raised by the Portsmouth South MP is that the taxpayer is essentially bankrolling these developments and therefore it is in the public interest to ensure they are of an acceptable standard.

Mr Morgan said:

“No matter which city you enter in the UK, you will notice an everchanging skyline continually infiltrated by new blocks of student flats.

While these are often private investments, make no mistake this funding comes from the tax payers’ purse via student maintenance loans.

Transparency, honesty, and continuity. This is not too much to ask of Government when it comes to regulating student accommodation.”

Mr Morgan and the University of Portsmouth are both in consensus that there is a clear regulatory gap exists. The Office for Students (OfS) regulates universities but has no regulatory power over private student accommodation providers. This clear gap in regulation is leaving students open to exploitation

On how he wants to see this resolved, Mr Morgan said:

“A similar problem occurred last year with Crown Place and I have seen that there have been 20 alike cases around the country this year alone.

The Government has a responsibility to our students, and it is not good enough to simply shift blame to private companies.

This is not the first time that this has happened. I want to make sure it is the last.

There is essentially inadequate regulation of purpose build student accommodation and we need to see more inclusive legislation that gives students more protection.

I look forward to the Minister responding to my meeting request so that we can get on with taking action over this matter.”

Stephen Morgan MP is in regular and constant communication with the University of Portsmouth over this matter and has vowed to submit a Westminster Hall debate on the topic if the Government Minister refuses to accommodate a meeting.

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Ahead of “Challenge Poverty Week”, City MP slams DWP Minister over Government’s ‘abysmal’ record on child hunger

Ahead of “Challenge Poverty Week”, City MP slams DWP Minister over Government’s ‘abysmal’ record on child hunger

During today’s Oral Questions to the Department for Work and Pensions in the House of Commons, Stephen Morgan MP hit out at Government over record highs in child poverty, specifically holiday hunger.

The city MP has cited his recent visit to Dadz Club in Buckland, Portsmouth as inspiration behind today’s action and has expressed thanks to members of the organisation whose discussions helped shape the narrative of his line of questioning.

The MP’s actions come as The Trussell Trust announced that it distributed nearly 600,000 emergency food parcels to children last year and as Government figures show child poverty figures are 500,000 higher than in 2010.

Mr Morgan said:

“To not make any progress in nearly 10 years on reducing child poverty would be an outrage, the fact the Government has actually created a country where child poverty has increased is a testament to their abysmal track record.

Despite the continued government rhetoric that work is the best route out of poverty, 70% of children in poverty now live in working families – up from 67% last year. To allow this problem to escalate shows both that they are not taking this issue seriously and their strategy needs reworking.

It is a shameful stain on our nation’s reputation that the welfare of our children in Portsmouth is being actively ignored by Government and these figures have been allowed to get so out of hand.”

The Portsmouth South representative followed up his initial question on child poverty with a targeted point holding the Minister to account over holiday hunger.

A recent report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger found that children were returning to school in a worse educational, health and developmental state than that in which they had left in the summer. That report found that as many as three million children face the risk of food insecurity in summer holidays.

Child poverty is the one of the most potent drivers of ill health, not just in childhood but throughout life. The fact that absolute child poverty is rising by 300,000, severe child poverty is rising by 200,000 and there are 600,000 more children in severe poverty than five years ago is putting lives at risk.

The city MP said:

“While many children from low-income families are entitled to free school meals during term time, there is currently no provision during holidays.

In Wales, the Assembly Government has taken action to ensure that all local authorities make provision for those at risk of food poverty as part of a national ‘Food and Fun’ programme. Similarly, in London, the Mayor’s Fund has launched a ‘Kitchen Social’ project this year which helps children during the holidays who would be entitled to free school meals.

It is high time that the Government takes notice of the ingenuity and leadership demonstrated by our devolved governments and local authorities and steps up to support vulnerable children. “

When hit with the question on holiday hunger, the Minister tried to shift blame on other Government departments.

This is not the first time Mr Morgan has taken action over child poverty. The city MP backed a Private Members Bill tabled by a colleague and has made previous spirited calls on Government to tackle the child poverty.

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“A stain on our society” City MP brands new figures showing 80% rise in homeless children

New national analysis on the number of children in temporary accommodation has highlighted the complete failure of the Tory Government to deal with this important issue despite the Conservatives saying their success will be judged by how ‘we care for the weakest and most vulnerable at home.’

Figures buried in the website of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that since the Tories took office the number of children in temporary accommodation accepted by local authorities has increased by 80%.

The latest figures also reveal that the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by 74% from 2010 to 2018.

City MP Stephen Morgan has contacted the Local Authority in a bid to find out exactly how many have been affected in his patch.

Mr Morgan, commenting on these figures, said:

“When this Conservative Government ends, the national shame of rising homelessness will be on its political tombstone.

Homelessness fell at an unprecedented rate under Labour, but under the Tories even more children will be homeless this Christmas.

This is a direct result of Conservative decisions to slash investment for affordable homes, cut back housing benefit, reduce funding for homelessness services, and deny protection to private renters.

I hope the city council shares with me the detailed city-wide data so that we can see the extent of the problem locally and draw up plans to hold the Government to account over their neglect.

The fact that we have homeless children is stain on our society. It must be addressed.”