News & Press

Stories of the Tory record on Education in Dewsbury

The disastrous Tory record on education
PAULA SHERRIFF MP · MONDAY, 17 JULY 2017

Today the Tories have attempted a U-turn on their damaging school funding formula, following pressure from the Labour Party and the teaching profession. I welcome any extra money for our cash strapped schools, but I am concerned at the lack of detail in today’s announcement.

Last week I was approached by a local primary school teacher who set out the following on what the Tory education cuts would mean in her school. We simply can not stand by and let this happen. I will keep the pressure on the government to ensure that all of our children receive the education that they deserve:

“I rarely discuss politics, especially online and to be perfectly honest, my Facebook tends to be a string of memes and embarrassing anecdotes! You won’t ever find me on my soap box when it comes to government policy and I would struggle to talk about party manifestos. I rarely discussed the election and, aside from the fact that Theresa May enjoys a frolic in a wheat field, I couldn't really tell you much about what our current Prime Minister stands for...

However, being a teacher in school such as mine, I've found myself worrying more and more about some of the children and their futures.

Schools with the most disadvantaged pupils will likely be hit the hardest by the intended budget cuts, potentially losing out on hundreds of pounds per child.

This could be a child whose parents literally can't help them with their homework, spellings or reading, who relies on interventions from support staff.

This could be a child who has such low self-esteem that even the tiniest bit of support and success would have a monumental impact, even if that's just getting a certificate from an extra curricular activity.

This could be a child who has a special educational need such as dyslexia, ADHD or an autistic spectrum disorder and needs specific (but not always expensive) resources to reach their potential. 

Or worse, this could be a child for whom school is their only sanctuary. The only place they feel safe and relaxed. The only place they get to actually be a child and enjoy themselves. The only place they get the care, love and attention that all children desperately need and deserve.

Children who are neglected. Children who are abused. Children who have had the very worst start to life a person could possibly have. Children who are amazing just for the simple fact they actually made it to school. Children who on an average day have been through more before their breakfast, than most of us will likely ever go through.

Children whose futures, or even lives, may literally depend on the dedicated safeguarding and pastoral care teams schools are struggling to fund. Children whose mental health is hanging in the balance even with the support they are receiving from bought in counsellors and resources.

I'm not saying I have all the answers or even all the facts, but I am positive that if cuts to budgets and funding continue in the manner proposed, the gap between the most disadvantaged children will only widen further. These children will get left behind.

Children who are capable and can learn and can make progress. Currently, poverty at home is the biggest statistical indicator of how likely a child is to succeed. That's disgusting. Where you started in life should not dictate where you're going.”

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Fury at PM's A&E Evasion

Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff has slammed Prime Minister Theresa May for her response in Parliament as she skirted a question about the downgrading of Dewsbury & District Hospital’s A&E services.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Ms Sherriff asked the PM to confirm that all services at Dewsbury Hospital and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary would remain open – including full A&E provision.

The Prime Minister answered: “The honourable lady knows that, yes, I was asked about Dewsbury A&E and I can confirm Dewsbury A&E is not closing.

“The service will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the majority of patients will see no change to their service.”

In a statement yesterday Labour MP Ms Sherriff said: “I was dismayed at Theresa May’s answer to my question in Wednesday’s PMQs.

“She omitted to mention the significant downgrade that Dewsbury and District Hospital’s A&E department is facing.

“Following the downgrade, all acute cases, including those who are seriously ill or injured, will be transferred to Pinderfields Hospital as there won’t be the facilities to treat them at Dewsbury’s A&E department.

“The PM also failed to mention Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and the fact that their A&E department is facing closure plans – these plans will leave the whole of Kirklees, some 420,000 people, without full A&E provision.”

Ms Sherriff took the matter further and posed another question in the Commons yesterday (Thursday) to the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom. She said: “Could the Prime Minister come to the House and either reassure local people that services are safe, or apologise for her scaremongering comments when we were just highlighting that services were under threat?”

On a recent visit to Thornhill Cricket Club during the election campaign, Mrs May accused her opponents of “scaremongering” over the threat of the A&E services being downgraded or closed.

Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust is planning to centralise A&E care for the most seriously ill patients at Pinderfields hospital in Wakefield, with Dewsbury Hospital’s A&E becoming an urgent care centre for treating minor ailments from this September.

There are also uncertain plans to completely rebuild Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, with the new building not having any A&E provision.

Ms Sherriff added: “Not only did the Prime Minister incorrectly accuse us of ‘scaremongering’, she has also gone further this time in covering up the significant downgrade plans at Dewsbury and District hospital and the impact that these will have on local people.”

Originally published in The Press, 29 June 2017

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Paula Sherriff supports Mental Health Awareness Week

Paula Sherriff is campaigning for better mental health services this Mental Health Awareness week, having repeatedly spoken out in Parliament for local people who’ve faced a shocking lack of provision in our area.

When Theresa May announced her Government’s reforms to mental health support earlier this year, Paula outlined her take on the proposals for mental health charity, the Richmond Fellowship.

You can read Paula’s contribution here:

 

“Just like David Cameron before her, Theresa May has pledged her personal commitment to transforming mental health support. I dearly would like to see that happen, but please forgive me if I’m somewhat sceptical.

This is too big an issue to be dismissive about any initiative, but I think it would be remiss of me not to take into account the Tories record in government. Over the last six years they have systematically eroded the benefits and services that people with mental health difficulties rely upon.

Repeatedly the Tories have given speeches saying they will give mental health parity with physical health, but their record is dismal: spending on mental health fell by £600 million in the last parliament, money intended for children’s mental health goes to other priorities and, despite repeatedly promising improvement, there are now over 6,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010 - almost 15 per cent of the entire mental health workforce.

The latest comments from the Head of No 10’s Policy Unit, George Freeman, on Personal Independence Payments (PIP) – that they should go to the ‘really disabled’ rather than those ‘taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety’ – reveals a dangerously stigmatising viewpoint from someone key to informing current government policy. The reforms to PIPs will see £3.7bn cuts for claimants with psychological problems.

For me, and for many mental health organisations, this casts doubt over the Prime Minister’s commitment to improve the lives of people who need support with their mental health. This is of grave concern to me and it is an issue that I have raised repeatedly during my time as an MP.

I recently met with health professionals from around the country to discuss mental health services. They spoke about the problems they are facing, including concerns that funding intended for frontline mental health services, specifically for children and young people, is being diverted elsewhere by cash strapped Clinical Commissioning Groups.

Research conducted by the Education Policy Institute’s Independent Commission on Children and Young People's Mental Health in November 2016, found that a quarter of young people seeking mental health care are turned away by specialist services because of a lack of resources.

Locally, my constituents’ experiences have borne out these worrying reports. Toward the end of last year I met a local mum whose teenage daughter was in a mental health unit in Colchester – the closest available inpatient bed.

Meanwhile a deepening housing crisis, rising poverty, cuts to benefits and services that protect people from abuse, neglect and isolation means that the factors which contribute to mental illness are getting worse. A letter signed by hundreds of Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists, the Tory government’s austerity policies have been described as “profoundly disturbing” to the nation’s mental health

So when Theresa May announced that she will “transform mental health support” in Britain, this is to be welcomed – but then these warm words are nothing new. We have heard it all before: one year ago David Cameron pledged a similar “revolution in mental health treatment”. Indeed, it seems that, when more closely examined, much of the measures detailed are previous commitments that are yet to be delivered. Community alternatives to visiting hospital for mental health treatment were also promised last year and support for schools to tackle mental health issues has already been pledged by Nick Clegg in March 2015.

There will be no easy answers, but it’ll take more than a speech and a slogan for Theresa May to convince people that she’s serious about fixing the problems that her party has helped to create.

I will do all I can both in Parliament and here in my constituency to fight the cuts that are undermining public services that act as a lifeline for those who rely on them. Moreover, I will keep working to hold Theresa May and her government to account on the pledges they make on mental health.”

Originally published in the Spring edition of the Richmond Fellowship's Kirklees Newsletter

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I'll continue to fight for what's best for our area

Paula Sherriff puts the case why she should be re-elected as the MP for Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirburton

‘Like the rest of the country I was very surprised at the Prime Minister's decision to seek a snap general election after she had promised so many times that she had no intention of doing so. As the complex Brexit negotiation process is now under way, it is clear that the Conservatives are putting Party before Country.

I am incredibly proud of my record of standing up for the people of Dewsbury, Mirfield, Kirkburton and Denby Dale. I will go to the polls on 8 June to ask for their continued support in fighting this Government's cuts to local schools, hospitals and public services, demanding better access to broadband, NHS dentistry in this area and improved transport facilities, and to continue to be a vocal champion in Parliament for my constituents.

Above all, I’ve remained faithful to the causes that inspired me to become a voice for others. My Dad is a cancer survivor, so campaigning for our NHS is a labour of love. I am proud that when cuts were proposed to the level of beds at Dewsbury Hospital, I helped ensure that the current numbers be maintained. There are more fights yet to be won – and I’m continuing to work alongside local campaigners to protect services under threat at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

You will remember before 2015 Dewsbury had a part-time Tory MP who never spoke up for you. Not anymore. I am proud to be one of the most active, campaigning MPs in parliament, and proud of the impact I’ve had.

In me you have an MP who took on the government over NHS dentists and on the tampon tax and got results.

In me you have an MP who took on big businesses like WH Smith for their outrageous practice of charging more for items in their hospital shops than on the High Street, and forced them to bring hospital prices in line with their other shops.

I’m building a strong record working tirelessly for local people and helping them with their problems. Since 2015, I’ve helped thousands of constituents, held surgeries around the constituency and made sure I’m accessible to residents that need help.

On education – I’m working with local schools to oppose the cuts that threaten to see every single school in our area lose funding over the next three years.

The Tory government have made it clear in their £115m cuts to council funding over the past five years, and in their failure to deliver on a promised ‘Enterprise Zone’, that they have little time for Dewsbury or Kirklees. I’ve made it my duty to hold the government to account on every false promise and misleading statement they’ve made about our area.

I’ve been speaking out for our area, whether that has been in defence of our hospitals, in support of better dental services, better broadband for our rural communities, or demanding improved facilities at Mirfield train station. 

There is a clear choice at this election; a Tory MP who will have no option but to back Jeremy Hunt's plans to close essential services at Dewsbury and Huddersfield hospitals, who will rubber stamp huge funding cuts to every school in the constituency, or the proven commitment of a hardworking Labour MP who will continue to stand up for our local communities at every opportunity.

Please make sure your voice is heard by using your vote.’

Originally published in the Dewsbury Reporter 27 April 2017

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Cuts to education are an appalling betrayal

I’ve been disgusted lately by the lack of Government support for our public services.

With the NHS in crisis, a meltdown in social care funding, councils being forced to take extreme measures to protect residents from vicious cuts to funding and now this fresh attack on education.

Across Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton the Government’s so-called ‘fairer funding formula’ will see 50 out of 50 schools lose funding and not one will gain.

This is the second-highest number of schools facing cuts in any Parliamentary constituency.

Thornhill Academy, for example, is set to lose over £500,000 which equates to nearly £700 per pupil.

In Parliament last week I pressed the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, on this.

When the Tories were asking local people for votes, parents were promised that funding would be protected for every child - these cuts are an appalling betrayal of local children.

Schools are, rightly, one of the most important issues for people living in our area.

Sadly, as happened with the Tory governments of the 1980s and early 90s, once again funding for schools is being cut back.

The Government say they are addressing unfairness in school funding between different parts of the country.

But the result will be to take funds from areas which have the greatest need.

Research by an independent think-tank has found that Kirklees will be on the receiving end of the largest cuts outside the major urban centres of London, Manchester and the West Midlands.

Across the local area, 169 schools will see their budgets reduced by a total of nearly £6.5m a year, amounting to over £100 per pupil.

Schools in this constituency shoulder over £2m of the total cuts across Kirklees.

The council and our schools need more support from central government.

We should be enabling all children to learn and fulfil their potential.

That requires investment.

I will be fighting alongside local parents, pupils and teachers to hold the government to the commitment they made and make sure our children do not pay the price for broken Tory promises.

The Government promised a fairer funding formula but it’s not fairer and it’s not funded. Local schools are threatened with cuts to staff, subjects or school days, or passing the begging bowl around parents.

Local children deserve better.

 

Originally featured in the Dewsbury Reporter & The Press

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No more help for local NHS says Hunt

MPs Tracy Brabin and Paula Sherriff met with the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, this week to discuss concerns surrounding Dewsbury Hospital.

The MPs, representing Batley & Spen and Dewsbury constituencies, met with Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday to discuss local health care and in particular their concerns over the planned downgrades to Dewsbury District Hospital.

Issuing a joint response, the Labour MPs said, "The meeting with Jeremy Hunt couldn't have come at a more pertinent time.  Our NHS is currently in the midst of a national winter crisis that has been described by the Red Cross as a “humanitarian crisis”.

We know that locally our hospitals are struggling to cope with the added pressures. We have both received a high level of complaints from patients and their families who have raised very serious concerns with regard to their treatment at both Dewsbury District Hospital and Pinderfields General Infirmary in recent weeks. 

We were very clear with Jeremy Hunt regarding our concern about the future of our local services as the NHS comes under increasing financial pressure from central government.

In a full and frank discussion with Mr Hunt topics ranged from the treatment of individual constituents to national policy regarding retaining bed numbers across the service.

Although Mr Hunt appeared to sympathise with our situation it was very clear that the Government are not prepared to offer any immediate solutions to our concerns and that no more money would be made available for our cash starved services.

Dewsbury District Hospital is due to see further reductions in services over the coming months and our concern remains for the safety of our constituents once these changes have been implemented.  We are incredibly disappointed that the Government continues to turn a blind eye to this national crisis in our NHS.”

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School funding cuts hit Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton

Figures compiled by the BBC show that in Kirklees there has been a real terms funding reduction of £54 less per pupil in 2016/17 than 2015/16, whilst the teaching unions have forecast that this will amount to cuts of £534 per pupil by 2020 in the Dewsbury constituency alone.

The Government is imposing real terms funding cuts on schools by freezing per-pupil funding while inflation and the cost of employer pension and national insurance contributions increase. Figures from the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers & Lecturers, using government statistics, reveal that every single constituency in England will be adversely affected by the government’s latest funding proposals.

Commenting, Paula Sherriff MP said:

‘Against the backdrop of a national crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, funding cuts are impacting on pupils in my area. I’ve already met with two local schools that are really struggling to balance the books.

Schools are feeling the strain of 7 years of Tory led government. I will be fighting hard against further funding shortfalls which will see ever greater pressure on our school staff and class sizes.’

 

Notes:

NUT/ATL figures

Real terms education spending 2016/2017 (BBC website)

 

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Merry Christmas and New Year to all!

Very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to all readers!

It’s been lovely to join the Christmas celebrations around the constituency over the last couple of weeks, from Santa’s special canal trips with the Safe Anchor Trust in Mirfield, to Dewsbury Young Diabetic’s Christmas Party, to popping in to the Royal Mail sorting office in Dewsbury to thank them for all their hard work throughout the year, as well as in the busy festive season.

 As we all relax into the family traditions of Christmas, a time for getting together, enjoying each other’s company, exchanging presents and having a good time, we all know that unfortunately this can also be the most stressful time of year for people - for all manner of reasons.

Christmas is often a time when money is tight. There are presents to buy for the kids and meals to plan for family and friends. It’s not surprising that it’s a challenging time for our stress levels, particularly for those with mental ill health.

In addition to these familiar seasonal pressures, we are seeing a rise in the number of people suffering from mental health issues. So mental health provision is more important than ever.

Sadly, I’ve heard from several patients and families who tell me of the problems they’re facing. Only this weekend I met a local mum, whose teenage daughter is in a mental health unit in Colchester – the closest available inpatient bed. 

 It is disgraceful that vital services are stretched so thin and it is imperative that this issue is addressed urgently.

Unfortunately, mental health is yet to be given parity of esteem with other NHS services. This is of grave concern to me and is an issue that I have raised repeatedly during my time as an MP.  Mental health services are definitely the poor relation of the NHS and the government must do more to address this.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve met with health professionals from around the country to discuss mental health services. They spoke about the problems they are facing, including concerns that funding intended for frontline mental health services, specifically for children and young people, is being diverted elsewhere by cash strapped Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

Worryingly, information gathered by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows that spending per child across Kirklees is in the bottom 20% in the country. I’ve written to our local CCGs with regard to this unacceptable underfunding of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in our area.

I’ll be visiting some services that exemplify good practice in mental health provision in the coming weeks, but mental health spending should absolutely not be a postcode lottery. We need to ensure that the mental health of young people in our area is given the priority it deserves.

We desperately need to see some action from the Government to support those who are struggling. As we head into the New Year, I’ll continue to hammer home the reality to the Government. I do hope they will listen.

 

Originally published in The Dewsbury Reporter 15 December 2016.

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I promise to campaign for greater equality

I am delighted to have accepted a new role as part of Labour’s frontbench team. As Shadow Women and Equalities Minister, I will be working with the Shadow Secretary of State, Sarah Champion, on issues of pay inequality, violence against women and girls, maternity, disability and LGBT discrimination, and the erosion of equality and human rights.

I am proud of Labour’s history in fighting for equality and empowering some of our most vulnerable communities. Much has been achieved, but there is plenty in this role to get to grips with.

Often the lowest earners as well as the main carers of children and elderly or disabled relatives – a mammoth 85 percent of all the government’s austerity cuts have been at the expense of women, according to calculations by the House of Commons Library.

Women in this constituency are no exception. Here, women have been hit hard by Tory austerity – we have seen cuts to local maternity services, and slashed local authority budgets has meant cuts to children’s centres, as well as mounting pressure on social services.

Local women have been contacting my office in desperation, having had tax credits stopped without reason. They report being forced to pay for access to child maintenance services or risk unstable private arrangements, with children being the ones who stand to lose out on vital support. 

Carer’s Allowance recipients – some 72% of whom are women – have told me that they are being hit by Tory benefit reforms. These cases seem to be at odds with previous government pledges to increase support for carers, and the considerable financial savings to the Exchequer associated with their role.

On top of this local women tell of ballooning costs of childcare and high rents. Half of housing benefit recipients are single women, while women occupy two thirds of low-paid and insecure jobs.

This might all sound just a bit depressing, but sometimes these things need to be laid bare.

Please rest assured that here, in the communities of Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton, I will support those local women, and men, who continue to contact me having been unfairly hit by government austerity cuts and, nationally I will campaign for greater opportunity and greater equality for all.

 

Originally published in the Dewsbury Reporter 27/10/16

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Tax Credits - these claims are no joke

The government is keen to cut the benefits bill, but employing a company that insists the dead are cohabiting with tax credits claimants in order to deprive working people of money they rely on to feed their kids is, to say the least, an unreasonable solution.

It might sound laughable, but to many local people that have contacted me in recent weeks about their tax credits claims which have been referred to Concentrix, the company contracted to do investigations on behalf of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, this is no joke.

Concentrix appears to have cut tax credits from hundreds of people because they believe someone else who previously lived at their address is still living there. The problem is that most commonly, the person has never even met the alleged resident, and in at least one case reported nationally, the alleged resident is in fact deceased.

I’ve personally received a great many complaints from local people who have been wrongly accused of living with a partner or who have not received a letter requesting evidence of their circumstances and have had their tax credits stopped as a result. Although I’ve been supporting those people, tax credits are not paid until the lengthy appeals process is completed, leaving people out of pocket for weeks or months.

The problem is widespread. My Labour colleague Louise Haigh MP was told in response to her parliamentary questions that there were nearly 6,000 mistaken reductions to claims in the ten months from October to August.

Sadly, the relentless pursuit of parents who are trying their best to work hard and raise a family is not the only example of companies employed by the government that again and again have put private profit before the legitimate needs of ordinary working people.

Atos and their assessments for fitness for work is another high profile example of the poor performance and the devastating impact of a private company operating in the public sector. Another I have witnessed first-hand as a former employee of the NHS, is the impact of the privatisation of frontline NHS services, which proved to be damaging for patients, staff and the taxpayer alike.

The government say they are seeking value for money – what frequently transpires is a costly shambles for the taxpayer, an immense amount of stress and hardship for patients, vulnerable disabled people and families, often pushing them into poverty and resulting in services that appear to be accountable to no-one including the UK government.

Please be assured that I will not be letting the government off the hook on this issue. If any local people are experiencing difficulties with Concentrix, or there’s any other matter I may be of assistance with, please let me have the details and I will be happy to help. You can contact my constituency office on 01924 565450 or email paula@paulasherriff.org.uk.

(Originally published in The Press, Friday 30 September 2016)

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