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Stephen Morgan MP warns that childcare sector is at “risk of collapse without targeted Government support”

Stephen Morgan MP is calling on the Government to target its financial support at nurseries, childminders and other childcare providers at risk of closure.

This follows action undertaken by the city MP in April that saw him write to the Chancellor outlining the pressures on the sector and demanding better coverage for the childcare sector in terms of the Job Retention Scheme.

The city MP has warned about the devastating impact that mass childcare closures would have on working parents, disadvantaged children and our economic recovery. In Portsmouth the number of childcare providers has reduced by 11 in the last five years, and research by the Early Years Alliance suggests that a quarter may not survive nationally. 

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Childcare providers were struggling before this crisis, with thousands closing every year, but without targeted government support the sector is at risk of collapse. The UK Government has consistently ignored the needs of nurseries, childminders and other early years providers in this crisis, and now a quarter fear they may be forced to close nationally with 11 in our community.

This would be devastating for Portsmouth families that rely on childcare, and it would be a huge setback for our economic recovery from Covid-19 which relies on parents being able to go back to work. It’s time the Government recognised the importance of childcare and early education for our economic recovery and brought forward a proper plan to save the early years sector.”

There are concerns that mass childcare closures and a reduction in the availability of vital early years education would hit hardest the poorest families and most disadvantaged children in our society. This in turn would be a huge setback for our economic recovery, which will be reliant on parents being able to get back to work rather than being forced to stay at home because there isn’t sufficient childcare available.

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Covid-19: City MP highlights need for Government action on children’s mental health

With schools not expected to open fully until September at the earliest, educational psychologists are issuing stark warnings about the impacts on children’s mental health.

During today’s education questions in the House of Commons, Stephen Morgan MP pushed the Secretary of State to clarify the Government’s strategy for meeting children’s mental health needs amid Covid-19.

Mr Morgan’s actions follow data revealing calls to Childline are rising and YoungMinds has found that around 4 in 5 children with pre-existing mental health problems have had these problems worsened in this crisis, while referrals for CAMHS have been down by as much as 50% in some areas.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Lack of social interaction, increased risk to vulnerable children, reduced learning and a diminished peer contact is having severe mental health implications for children across the nation.

While demand has increased drastically, statistics show that provision has dropped by up to 50% in some areas. There are two pandemics at play here, Covid-19 and also the impacts it is having on mental health. Both are equally important and potentially dangerous.

I will continue to ask government the tough questions about when and how they will put measures in place to secure mental health provision.”

88% of school staff surveyed by Barnardo’s said that Covid-19 would have a negative impact on their pupils’ mental health and wellbeing. While 78% of respondents to the YoungMinds survey reported that additional pastoral support, such as in-school counselling, would be helpful, in order to support children as they return to school.

The Portsmouth South representative added:

“The looming crisis in children’s mental health comes at a time when provision is already under heavy strain.

Data exposed by The Children’s Society in 2019 found that around 60 per cent of those referred, approximately 110,000 children, were not treated that year for mental health needs.

While I welcome government allocating long-overdue funding to CAHMS services, we need a strategy now that details exactly how Minister’s plan to safeguard the nation’s children from the threat of the mental health emergency.”

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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.

 

 

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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

 

 

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City MP responds to SAGE verdict that it is unsafe to reopen schools on 1 June

On 28 May 2020, the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies stated that it there was not evidence suggesting that it would be safe for schools to reopen. Despite this, Government remains committed to opening early next month.

Alongside teachers’ unions, and after listening to constituents’ concerns, Portsmouth South’s Stephen Morgan MP has taken a number of important actions to hold the government to account for this decision-making.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government continues to repeat that we must be led by science but continues to ignore the advice of Independent SAGE when it comes to school reopening.

Returning to school is a priority for the sake of pupils’ education and well-being however I believe schools should only open when it is safe to do so.

Teachers do a fantastic job in educating our children and young people and have been working throughout this pandemic to support the families they work with.

Whilst I welcome efforts made by the city council in engaging schools and teaching unions, I remain concerned that the Government has failed to provide assurances to parents, school staff, and pupils, only publishing their plans a few days before the end of half term”.

On 28 May 2020 the Prime Minister said the Government will move forward with its plan for some pupils to return to schools in England from 1 June 2020.

On the same day, the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies stated that “decisions on school opening should be guided by evidence that there are low levels of Covid-19 infections in the local community in which the school is situated and the ability to rapidly respond to new infections through a well-functioning, coordinated, local test, track and isolate strategy.”

SAGE argued that it has “seen no compelling evidence that these conditions have so far been met across the country”. They continued to say, “Until they are, it is not safe to open schools everywhere on June 1.”

The city MP added:

“The Government has repeatedly been asked to set up a taskforce of education unions, parents’ organisations and health experts to agree upon a series of practical safety measures that must be met before any date for reopening was confirmed.

It is vital that the Government carries the confidence of trade unions, school staff and parents. It must work closely with them to ensure safety concerns are addressed.

I will continue to hold government to account for, what has been so far, deeply misguided decision-making.

The need to get this right could not be more important, all choices must be informed by evidence and fact. Pupil and teacher safety must come first”.

Stephen Morgan MP has been taking a variety of actions on schools returning for some time, concerns over the safety and well-being of pupils and school staff.

Already he has written out to all schools in the constituency during this crisis, hosted a ‘School Call’ open consultation with parents; liaised with teaching unions and city council; written to the Education Secretary with local concerns; and continues to raise the matter in Parliament.

He continues to join frontbench colleagues in calling for government to set up taskforce. A copy of the report from Stephen’s School Call and the concerns raised by participants can be found on his website.

 

 

 

 

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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.”

 

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Make a Portsmouth rainbow!

Fun family activity by Stephen Morgan MP

All around Portsmouth’s communities we can see colourful rainbows decorated by families offering a sign of hope during this challenging time for our city and our country.

Following the popular constituency colouring competition, Stephen is now encouraging Portsmouth families to turn their minds to making a rainbow for their home window.

Teaming up with University of Portsmouth alumni and graphic design freelancer Dan Mackey, Dan has used his amazing talents to produce a template for people to make a rainbow.

Please feel free to colour it in, cut it out, fold it into shape, and display it in your window!

To download the template click here

If you want to share your completed rainbow, please email a photo to  stephen@stephenmorgan.org.uk

A selection will be put on Stephen’s social media

For more information about Dan’s work click here

 

 

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Looking for something to do this weekend? Then enter my constituency colouring competition!

Looking for something to do this weekend?

Then enter my constituency colouring competition!

All around Portsmouth we can see colourful rainbows decorated by families offering a sign of hope during this challenging time for our city and our country. Teaming up with local graphic designer and friend Sarah Houghton she has used her amazing talents to produce a Portsmouth poster for people’s windows.

Please feel free to colour it in, then scan it or send me a photo of it in your window and prizes will be awarded to the best!

To download the poster click here: Final colouring competition

Open to all. Entries should be submitted to stephen@stephenmorgan.org.uk by no later than Friday 17 April

 

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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 face to face lectures cancelled and new measures to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, you can understand why students would want to be 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 and some accommodation providers have 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 all other accommodation 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.”