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Portsmouth support to feed children over the school holiday

In the UK today, 4.2 million children live in poverty. 2.5 million children live in “food insecure” households – without access to the food they need to learn, play and grow.

On Wednesday, Conservative MPs blocked a Labour plan to provide Free School Meals over the school holidays, that would have ensured the poorest children in our society have at least one healthy and nutritious meal a day.

Stephen voted for this plan for the most vulnerable in Portsmouth, sadly the Government did not.

Since then, there has been an outpouring of people in our city looking for ways they can help children who don’t have enough food, and from parents struggling to make sure that their children have enough.

Stephen Morgan MP said: 

“I want to thank all those who are helping Portsmouth families at this challenging time for our city.

With the number of free school meals rising again, sharply to over 7,000 in Portsmouth alone, this has been a growing issue for some time. The steep rise will only get worse.

With Government failing, we will work together here in Portsmouth to ensure everyone has the support they need”.

Below are just some initiatives and charities based in Portsmouth, that help provide the basics to those who need it, and are always looking for volunteers or donations to keep their vital work going.

No food bank voucher needed:

The Life House
Address: 153 Albert Road, Southsea, Portsmouth, PO4 0JW
Services: Serves Breakfast / Brunch each Wednesday from 9am / Serves Hot Dinner each Thursday from 6pm
Food parcel if available
Opening times: Every Thursday 8pm-6pm Wednesday morning 9am-11am

Free My Meal – Portsmouth
Address: Private Facebook group set up by residents https://www.face book.com/groups /freemymealports mouth/
Services: Group intends to connect free meals with recipients. Recipients looking for a meal to feed their family during this time of hardship.
Opening times: Ongoing

The Lord John Russell – Food Bank
Address: 12 Albert Road, Southsea, PO5 2SH
Service: Food bank drive on Monday (26/10/20) to support the Life House and those who haven’t got enough on their plates
Opening times: Monday (26/10/20)

St Margaret’s Community Church
Address: Highland Road, PO4 9DD
Service: 2 day food parcel
Food needed: Cereals, tinned & packet soup, pasta and pasta sauce, tinned meat, tinned vegetables, tinned fruit, crisps, biscuits, UHT milk, long life juice
Opening times: Monday, Wednesday, Friday (8am-11am for donations, 10am-11am for people needing food

Haven Community Centre
Address: Lake Road, PO1 4HA
Service: No voucher needed for first 3 visits 3-day food parcel
Opening times: Tuesday 1-3pm and Friday 10am-12pm

Food bank voucher needed:

From PCC website (https://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/services/coronavirus-covid-19/advice-for-residents-coronavirus-infor mation/work-and-money-coronavirus-information/):

Advice Portsmouth – the drop-in centre is closed. For advice, ring 023 92794 340, text 07789 550593, email ​advice.portsmouth@theyoutrust.org.uk​ or contact via ​Facebook
Citizens Advice Help To Claim (for advice on new Universal Credit claims) – there is currently no face to face advice, so for advice ring 0800 144 8 444 or use the ​online webchat
City council tenants – ​ring your housing office​ for money advice
Housing association tenants – contact your customer service team for money advice

Harbour Church

Address: St. George’s Square, PO1 3AT
Service: Food bank voucher or email referral required, 3-day food parcel
Opening times: Monday 11am-12pm, Tuesday 11am-12pm, Wednesday 11am-12pm and Thursday 11am-12pm and 4-6pm

King’s Church Hall
Address: Fraser Road Southsea PO5 1EE
Service: Food bank voucher or email referral required 3-day food parcel
Opening times: Monday 12-2pm Wednesday 12-2pm Friday 12-2pm

North End Baptist Church
Address: Powerscourt Road Portsmouth, PO2 7JH
Service: Food bank voucher or email referral required, 3-day food parcel
Opening times: Tuesday 5-6pm and Thursday 1-3pm

Paulsgrove Baptist Church
Address: 1 Woofferton Road Portsmouth, PO6 4DW
Service: Food bank voucher required, 3-day food parcel
Opening times: Thursday 12-2pm

Family Church Caring Hands
Address: Empower Centre, 83-87 Kingston Road, PO2 7DX
Service: Caring Hands food bank voucher or email referral required, 3-day food parcel, Home delivery preferred
Opening times: Thursday 10.30am-12.30pm

If you can please make a donation to Portsmouth Foodbanks at the following supermarkets: 

  • Tesco Extra (Pompey Centre Fratton) – Front of store near exit
  • Tesco Extra (North Harbour) – Front of store near exit
  • Waitrose, Southsea – End of tills

 

 

 

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Stephen Morgan votes to end holiday hunger whilst neighbouring MPs vote against

Responding to the Government voting down Labour’s motion in the House of Commons to extend free school meals during holidays for children in need, Stephen Morgan MP has called for Tory MPs to ‘reflect again’ after they voted against the measure to support the most vulnerable in society, unlike the city MP who voted in support of the plan.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“For me, politics is about making sure people have a roof over their head, families have food on the table and that they know support for their children is there when they need it.
Yesterday, those who voted with the government, denied families and their children of that. Here in Portsmouth, that’s over seven thousand children, and rising.
I will continue to hold the government to account on this, but I really urge other MPs in our region who voted otherwise to seriously reflect again on what the most vulnerable in our communities need”.
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Portsmouth MP urges government to fix ‘broken’ pension credit scheme for over-75s TV licences

Stephen Morgan MP has outlined fresh concerns over the 3.7 million pensioners that are now required to start paying for TV licences, after the government’s delay to removing the concession for all over-75s expired on 1st August 2020.

In 2019 it was announced the universal free TV licence would be scrapped, except for over-75’s in receipt of Pension Credit from 1st June 2020.

This comes as many pensioners are reportedly either unaware or unable to access their pension credit, or fall just outside the requirements to qualify for the scheme, but are by no means living comfortably.

According to national charity Turn2us, an estimated 1,716 pensioners in the city of Portsmouth are not claiming their pension credit – which entitles them to a free TV licence.

Stephen Morgan MP commented,

“The government’s decision to force a political decision upon a BBC that is already receiving serious cuts to funding is completely unacceptable.

“But to then set up a pension credit scheme that is bureaucratic, ill-communicated and that still leaves many pensioners exempt from the scheme that are nowhere near living comfortably is just incredibly poor governance and lacking in vision.”

In addition, during lockdown and beyond, the importance of access to amenities for pensioners has been underscored.

According to Age UK, over 950,000 people aged 70+ in England (12% or one in eight) were shielding from the virus. Meanwhile, 38% of over-75s (2.1 million people) agreed that television was their main form of company, and 40% of over-75s (2.2 million people) live alone.

Mr Morgan added,

“During lockdown, now and in the months to come, TV will be incredibly important to help reduce loneliness for pensioners and to also ensure they remain updated on latest developments – particularly on Covid-19.

“The government needs to revisit this scheme urgently as weenter the winter period and I will be taking further action in Parliament to challenge them on this important issue.”

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South is set to table a range of parliamentary questions and look to arrange a cross-party Westminster Hall debate to challenge on the government’s TV licence policy, on behalf of pensioners in Portsmouth.

Mr Morgan has previously written to two Culture Secretaries lobbying for government on this issue, spoken out in favour of keeping the benefit during parliamentary debates; grilled Ministers in the House of Commons during relevant questions; submitted a string of targeted written questions to the department responsible; and written a joint letter with the Portsmouth Pensioners Association to the Prime Minister.

The government’s pension credit team can be reached on 0800 99 1234.

 

 

 

 

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City MP marks first generation’s access to Child Benefit Fund and demands Government continues access for every young person

Stephen Morgan MP has called for the government to continue access for young people to the Child Benefit Fund (CTF), as people turning 18 today will for the first time be able to access their Child Trust Fund accounts.

The innovative government-funded savings scheme was introduced by the last Labour Government but was abolished by the current government in 2011.

The scheme was introduced with the aim that every young person had access to savings which could then be used to build on for later in life, such as: putting down a deposit on a flat, buying a car, starting a business or whatever else they chose. 

Before its abolishment, the Labour Government invested at least £250 in a fund that only the beneficiary can access, and only when they turn 18.  The money went into an account their parents could open with a financial services provider, using a voucher sent out by the government – and for children whose parents didn’t use their voucher, the Government set up an account for them.

Parents and others could pay more money into the account too, subject to an annual cap. Children with disabilities were entitled to extra annual payments into their Trust Fund from the Government, because of the extra needs young adults with disabilities face.

Around 55,000 children every month will come of age and benefit from the scheme, from now until January 2029, but only if they know about the scheme and know where their account is.

Stephen Morgan MP commented:

“Child Trust Funds were an innovative and bold policy introduced by the last Labour government to ensure every child could have the best possible start to their adult life.

This scheme will prove incredibly vital for young people both across Portsmouth and the country over the next decade, and the government must now continue to keep this in place as we navigate our way through the economic recovery, to ensure a generation is not left behind.”

According to HMRC, around 6 million children hold a CTF with an estimated value of ‘over £7.4 billion’ in 2015-16. Meanwhile consumer group Which? has estimated that this could apply to as many as 3 million children and young people for accounts containing as much as £2.5 billion.

However, with the scheme effectively dormant for the best part of a decade, many children (and their parents) may be either unaware that their account exists, unsure how to access their account, or have lost the details of their account.

Mr Morgan added:

“We know this is an incredibly difficult period for both young people and their families, so schemes like CTF are a real lifeline for young people both now and in the long-term, with many setting off to university later this month.

It’s why it incredibly important the government provides all the support and guidance it can for young people who are eligible for the scheme, as many will understandably be unaware of this vital initiative.”

 

 

 

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“Just 24 hours to save jobs” says city MP in response to new regional furlough data

“Fresh stats reveal marked deterioration in South East jobs market and economy, even compared to data released three weeks ago” says city Stephen Morgan backing Labour’s 5-point plan.

24 hours to save jobs – new analysis shows high street still under strain in South East, including Portsmouth as 1,216, 600 furloughed workers start losing support in a matter of hours.

Three weeks ago, Stephen Morgan MP released a statement outlining his response to damning stats showing how many people have fallen through the gaps in government support across the region. New data today shows that even in the short time since then, things have become markedly worse.

Analysis released today by the Labour Party shows:

  • Footfall for key high street businesses is still down 40% on pre-pandemic levels in the UK
  • 7% of businesses in the hardest hit sector still report being temporarily closed
  • 1,216,600 furloughed workers in the South East begin losing support in a matter of hours – making it a 7.1% increase in just a few weeks

New analysis by the Labour Party shows many businesses in the South East still face significant challenges due to coronavirus.

Google mobility data shows that footfall for retail and recreation businesses, including restaurants, cafes, museums and cinemas, is down 45% in Portsmouth compared to pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, footfall on public transport and around workplaces is still down 18%.

Meanwhile, the latest ONS data shows some firms have still not reopened, whilst a large number of those that have report lower turnover.

A fifth of businesses in the food and accommodation sector have still not been able to reopen, including nearly 30% of SMEs. 43% of businesses in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector are also still temporarily closed, including nearly half of SMEs.

Meanwhile, of those that have opened, 84% in food and accommodation and 72% in arts and entertainment report reduced turnover from pre-pandemic levels.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Hardworking Portsmouth people, through no fault of their own, have fallen through the substantial gaps in government support. From the self-employed to new businesses, people from a variety of occupations are facing financial turmoil.

The marked deterioration of the state of employment in our region, even just over the last two weeks, is a testament to the fact more must be done.

The government was too slow into lockdown, too slow on testing, now its too slow to protect jobs. That is why I support Labour’s 5-point plan that will fight for jobs, back our businesses, leave no-one behind, keep workers safe and drive up job creation”

In under 24 hours, these firms begin losing support from the Job Retention Scheme and will have to start meeting some of the cost of non-working hours for any retained employees (either fully or partially furloughed).

This change risks handing furloughed workers In the South East their P45;

  • 1, 216, 600, people have been furloughed an increase from 1,035,400 – equivalent to 29% of the workforce
  • 203, 400 workers in the food and accommodation, equivalent to 72% of the workforce
  • 73, 500 workers in arts, entertainment and recreation, equivalent to 69% of the workforce

While the arts and food sectors have seen an increase in output over the last few weeks, this is solely down to an easing of lockdown restrictions. Many still reserve concerns that businesses will not survive unless more comprehensive support is offered by government.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds MP said:

“The Chancellor’s refusal to abandon his one-size-fits-all withdrawal of furlough is an historic mistake that risks a python-like squeeze on jobs in the worst-hit sectors. The reward for months of hard work and sacrifice by the British people cannot be a P45.

It’s not too late for the Chancellor to see sense, change course and support the businesses and sectors that need it most. But even if he does, there is still much to do.

That’s why Labour is today launching the Jobs Jobs Jobs campaign – to offer concrete, constructive proposals that would protect the economy and people’s livelihoods.”

Labour is calling on the government to reverse course and extend the furlough scheme so that it supports jobs in the worst-hit sectors and targets aid to struggling industries.

This would put the UK in line with other major developed democracies, with many extending their versions of the Job Retention Scheme or similar wage subsidy schemes:

  • France announced in July that their emergency wage subsidy scheme would operate for up to two years.
  • Germany already benefited from an existing wage subsidy or ‘short-time’ work scheme, introduced after the financial crisis to prevent unemployment during downturns. The scheme was expanded in March, with these changes lasting until the end of the year. Workers can receive a subsidy for up to a year, meaning the government will be subsidising wages well into 2021.
  • Australia recently announced that its Job Keeper wage subsidy scheme would be extended until March 2021 for the worst affected firms. The scheme was due to end in September and is still open to new claims.
  • Ireland announced last week that its temporary wage subsidy scheme would remain in place until March 2021.

 

 

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Decision to axe free TV licence for over 75s ‘stripping away vital lifeline amid pandemic’ says city MP

After a two-month delay due to Covid-19, plans to scrap the universally free TV licence for the over-75s are once again underway. The decision to scrap the vital benefit for older people was first made in 2015 when the Conservative Government forced the responsibility onto the BBC.

Since then, Stephen Morgan MP has consistently been vocal in his opposition to government snatching away this popular benefit, working alongside the Portsmouth Pensioners and Age UK as well as hundreds of constituents. The move announced today has angered many especially as the Tories stood on a 2017 election manifesto pledge not to roll back benefits for older people.

The Portsmouth South MP has undertaken a series of actions lobbying for Portsmouth pensioners including seeking the views of all constituents affected; writing to two Culture Secretaries lobbying for government to revoke the decision; speaking out in favour of keeping the benefit during parliamentary debates; grilling Ministers in the House of Commons during relevant questions; submitting a string of targeted written questions to the department responsible; and writing a joint letter with the Portsmouth Pensioners Association to the Prime Minister.

On today’s announcement, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government has not only snatched away this vital lifeline for some older people, it has then cowered away from ownership of the decision and tried to shift blame onto the BBC.

That means more than three million households will be asked to start paying the £157.50 fee. I know from speaking to hundreds of local residents that for some that will mean choosing between loneliness and hunger.

Of those set to lose out we know that 900,000 are veterans who have served this country, 500,000 suffer from Alzheimer’s and 1.3 million are eligible for pension credit but unable to claim it. This means those losing out are truly the most vulnerable in our society.

Today’s announcement is hugely disappointing for thousands of Portsmouth’s pensioners who have contributed so much to society. This is a simple benefit giving back to those who have contributed a lot”.

Free TV licences for the over-75s had been provided by the Government since 2000, but responsibility for the provision was passed to the BBC as part of a fee settlement.

The cost of continuing to provide free licences to all over-75s could have reached £1bn a year over time with an ageing population and would have accounted for one fifth of their overall budget, meaning government left the BBC no choice.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens MP said:

“The refusal of the government to fund this vital service after promising to do so is nothing short of betrayal.

Many over-75s have spent months at home with TV providing an invaluable source of company during the pandemic. For the government to blame the BBC who are having to contend with huge cuts is simply passing the buck.”

 

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‘We needed proper plan and real investment in Portsmouth from Government today’ and instead we’ve been let down

Today the Chancellor made a financial statement to the House of Commons, responding to the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis.

Labour has been calling for full and urgent ‘Back to Work Budget’ to protect UK jobs at a crucial phase of the coronavirus recovery warning that the country cannot afford for the government to make the same mistakes on the economy as during the coronavirus health crisis.

Arguing that the Government’s slow health response to coronavirus has worsened its economic damage, the Shadow Chancellor has warned that without swift action from the Treasury the UK risks falling even further behind other nations.

Other countries, including Germany, have already announced stimulus packages to support the post-Covid economic recovery. The measures announced by the Prime Minister last week fall well behind many other countries’ commitments.

Responding to the Chancellor’s Financial Statement, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Coronavirus is the biggest crisis of most our lifetimes. That is why my priorities have been protecting the health of Portsmouth people and protecting our city’s economy.

Although it is still too early to know the exact size of the economic shock caused by the crisis, initial signs show a sharp and deep recession. We also know the Government’s slow health response to coronavirus has worsened its economic damage, risking the UK falling even further behind other nations.

That is why I have been calling for a real budget to respond to the scale of the challenges our country faces, not a mere brief financial statement we got today from the Chancellor instead.

Whilst there are a number of measures in the statement today that I welcome – including support to the hospitality sector – we must ask what is in this for Portsmouth’s future? The sacrifices made by us all must be followed up with a targeted recovery plan that gets the economy back on its feet, brings real investment to our city and boosts local jobs and businesses. Instead we have been let down again.

We need a proper plan from Government not a one-size-fits-all approach dictated from Westminster. With all the challenges our communities now face, our city’s economy can ill afford to wait until the autumn for that”.

 

 

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‘We need a real budget focused on jobs, jobs, jobs’ says Portsmouth MP

Speaking ahead of the Chancellor’s summer update this afternoon Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Instead of a limited financial statement, what our city and our country needs today is a real Back to Work Budget – focused on preventing unemployment, supporting the unemployed and creating the jobs of the future.

Listening to constituents and local businesses who have fallen through the gaps in support, I have been calling for Government to abandon its one-size-fits-all approach and wind-down of the furlough and self-employed schemes.

Rather than waiting until the autumn to help those affected by this crisis and indebted small businesses, government should work out solutions for them now and present them today”.

Labour has called for a real budget focused on protecting and creating jobs. To deliver on jobs the Chancellor’s statement the official opposition has said the Government must meet four key tests:

  1. Projects must involve local firms, upskill the local workforce and lead to material improvement in the quality and availability of local employment.
  2. The Chancellor must rebuild economic resilience right across the entire country – and protect those institutions, like local authorities, that can help deliver that resilience.
  3. Every single project must be consistent with the drive to net-zero – so we can build the green jobs of the future
  4. Any benefits of investment now must not be cancelled out by poor decisions later. The Tories promised at the last election there would be no rises in income tax, National Insurance or VAT. We need the economy to bounce back from this crisis, so there’s money in the coffers to protect public finances.

 

 

 

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‘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.”

 

 

 

 

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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.