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Toby with Ward Manager Sue Hedley and Mary Holbrook

Chesterfield’s Ash Green Specialist Learning Disability Centre nominated for national award

A specialist Learning Disability Centre has won the local nomination of a prestigious National award. As part of the celebrations to mark the 70th birthday of the NHS, Hillside Ward at Ash Green Specialist Learning Disability Centre, were nominated by Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins for a NHS70 Parliamentary Award for Care and Compassion.

The NHS70 Parliamentary Awards is a scheme designed to find and celebrate health heroes and to thank staff for their outstanding contribution, hard work and care across the NHS. Hillside Ward provides specialist assessment and treatment to patients with complex needs and is part of the learning disability services at Ash Green.

Toby said “I believe it is vital that we recognise the tremendous effort and dedication of NHS staff. I saw the great work the team at Hillside Ward do with some very vulnerable patients. The team fully deserve to be recognised in this way and I am very proud to have nominated them for the NHS70 award.”

On a recent visit to the Centre, Toby was shown around by Ward Manager Sue Hedley and Mary Holbrook. Mary said “It was great to get this recognition via the Parliamentary Awards from our MP and to welcome him to see the work which the ward does at first hand.”

Toby with Ward Manager Sue Hedley and Mary Holbrook

Toby with Ward Manager Sue Hedley and Mary Holbrook

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A group from Chesterfield met Toby in Westminster Hall to campaign for Solve Sleep Ins

Disability groups call on the Government to take action on carers’ pay dispute

The Social Care Sector faces a new crisis due to the mishandling of legislation to pay National Minimum Wage for carers of people with learning disabilities, who work sleep-in shifts. A new campaign backed by Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins and several disability organisations has been taken to Parliament.

Local Government funds sleep-ins for carers of people with severe learning difficulties. Sleep-in shifts are an integral part of the overall care service and the Government has a statutory obligation to provide this. However, historically Treasury guidance said that because carers were on-call at their client’s house they didn’t qualify for the National Minimum Wage, and could be paid a lower set rate for the hours slept.

This was also the basis on which councils tendered for ‘sleep in’ contracts. Now a recent court case has ruled that carers should have been paid the National Minimum Wage and are ordering care providers to identify and reimburse back pay to all those carers for the last 6 years.

A campaign headed by a coalition of disability groups are calling on the Government to ensure care workers receive their back pay directly from the Government to alleviate the pressure on Local Authorities, care providers and patients and carers who pay using direct payments.

Some care companies face historic demands of as much as £800,000 whilst individuals who used direct payments will also face huge bills as well as the bureaucratic headache of identifying every carer they had for the last few years.

Toby Perkins said “I am very concerned it is the most vulnerable people in society, along with those on the lowest pay, are having to beg for money they are legally entitled to. People with severe learning disabilities and their families need reassurance that they are well looked after 24 hours a day. Carers work can be very demanding and is often undervalued. It is crucial they are paid appropriately and it is absolutely vital that the Government step in and solve this crisis as soon as possible. This is an error entirely of Government’s making and they now need to reimburse local authorities, care companies and individuals, so that they can pay their legal liabilities. I have written to the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to adopt the campaign’s requests as a matter of urgency.”

A group of people met with Toby and others in Parliament to campaign for efficient ways to solve the crisis through an HMRC scheme, which would pay workers back directly. There is pressure for the crisis to be solved before September as providers are obligated to start planning future budgets in April and the sector will be unviable by the 2nd quarter of the next financial year.

A group from Chesterfield met Toby in Westminster Hall to campaign for Solve Sleep Ins

A group from Chesterfield met Toby in Westminster Hall to campaign for Solve Sleep Ins

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Toby Perkins MP with Stan Tomkinson, student at Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, who has been on work experience in Toby's constituency office

GUEST BLOG: Stan Tomkinson, student at Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, asks the question ‘Grammar schools, do we need them?’

Earlier this year, the Conservative party announced their plans to spend an added £50million on grammar schools. This raised the very important question of whether we should still have grammar schools.

The concept of grammar schools has been around since the 16th century, with the more recent concept of having grammar schools and secondary moderns, for those who did not meet the grammar school’s entry requirements, first being put in place in 1944. However it wasn’t long before this was changed with the Labour government in 1965 pushing local authorities to phase out these and replace them with the standard comprehensive schools, as they claimed that the system reinforced class division. This was met with resistance in some conservative counties such as Kent, where there are still a number of comprehensive schools. In 1998, Blair’s Labour government passed legislation prohibiting the creation of any more grammar schools. After this the debate had seemingly ceased and many people were willing to turn a blind eye to the remaining number of grammar schools. However, recent revelations under the Conservatives have seen the debate be reignited.

Perhaps the most prevalent argument against grammar schools is the two-tier education system they create. This is caused though many different factors, but none more so than their ability to select their students. Meaning that through the selection process they can select the most ‘academic’ students and children who are ‘likely to succeed’. With the students who have been turned away ending up in the comprehensive schools. From this alone it is clear to see the divide that is created in ability but also in mentality, with those turned away thinking they aren’t good enough, which is contrasted by the ‘you can succeed anything’ mentality of grammar schools, which, in contrast, is shown by comprehensive schools often performing worse than the national average in areas with grammar schools. And while in the 1940s those who were not accepted would often find themselves working in trades, this is no longer the case as our country has gone through significant changes since, such as the primary and secondary sectors deceasing dramatically and the huge increase in the tertiary sector’s input into our economy. This would suggest that the two-tier system that is created is no longer fit for purpose as it doesn’t fit our nations demands as many people in grammar and comprehensive schools will find themselves in the same fields of work, especially with the increased number of people taking up further education from low- income households.

Conversely, people may argue that grammar schools should be more prevalent in our education system because they get results and perform well. Which on the whole is a true and fair argument, as grammar schools perform way above the national average. For example in 2016, according to the BBC, grammar schools had 96.7% of their students achieving A* to C in at least 5 subjects, compared to the 58.1% national average. Based off these statistics it is quite clear to see the case for grammar schools. However, these should be taken with a pinch of salt as there are many factors influencing this. None less so than the fact that grammar schools hand pick the ‘brightest’ students who are deemed most likely to succeed, based off their 11 plus entry exams. These students are taught in classes, often smaller than the national average, with students of similar ability to themselves. From this it is clear to see that there is a huge difference to the mixed ability state comprehensive schools. It also remains unclear whether the grammar schools actually contribute to the students’ success, as many argue that the students who succeed in grammar schools would achieve very similar results in comprehensive schools. As their results often similar the results of the ‘brightest’ students in catchments without grammar schools, suggesting that they have little to no impact on those specially selected intake who would seemingly succeed anyway, however we cannot know this for sure.

Grammar schools can be very harming to our education system with the 11-plus exams adding a large amount of pressure on to the children who are still in primary school with this possibly removing what should be a positive learning environment. Not only this but by the time thee children take the test there is a large divide just based on prosperity. As in Kent in 2013 a child on free school meals was 5 times less likely to achieve key stage 2 results by the age of 11, than those who were not, and in turn almost identically less likely to be accepted into a grammar school. It is no secret that prosperity plays a large factor in a child’s likelihood to succeed in terms of exam results, with the most deprived often performing far worse than the most prosperous in society. Furthermore, wealth does play a large factor in the grammar school debate as they under-represent the poorest children. And a possible cause of this is the availability of private tutors to help your child pass the entry tests. Because many of the poorest cannot afford this service it allows the more wealthy children get a helping hand, creating an uneven playing field. As well as children from main-stream primary schools not being specifically taught how to pass the test adding to the inequality and creating a divide between the richest and poorest children, which is why Labour opposes them.

On the whole grammar schools are extremely divisive. They add to inequality by creating a two-tier education system and harming social mobility, as areas with a selective education system reinforce and, sometimes, increase social segregation by endangering the social cohesion between those with and those without. Not only this but dividing the most able and the rest from an early age adds to the long list of problems grammar schools have. By looking at the evidence it is clear to see the issues there are with the selective school system and how it is no longer fit for purpose. The proposal of the additional funding appears to be taking our education system back a step. And I for one would much rather see that money being used to fund the comprehensive schools that are struggling to remain open, or to improve the schools that perform the worst so that everybody has an equal opportunity to succeed.

Toby Perkins MP with Stan Tomkinson, student at  Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, who has been on work experience in Toby's constituency office

Toby Perkins MP with Stan Tomkinson, student at Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, who has been on work experience in Toby’s constituency office

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Toby speaking in last night

Government’s flagship disability benefit failing thousands of claimants with autism

New figures released following a Parliamentary Question by Toby Perkins, MP for Chesterfield, have shown thousands of autistic people claiming Personal Independence Payments have wrongly been denied benefits.

Mr Perkins raised the Parliamentary Questions after a stream of constituents brought cases to him regarding loved ones with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who had been assessed by Atos and then denied Personal Independence Payments (PIP). The reply from the Department for Work & Pensions has revealed that from April 2013 to December 2018, 4060 claimants with ASD were denied PIP, but 67% had the decisions overturned upon appeal.

Mr Perkins said, “The parents and carers approaching me for support were all telling me very similar stories about the assessment process. There was false or misleading information included in the reports by Atos assessors, and no points awarded when there clearly should have been. Many of these claimants are people who struggle with communication and interacting with others, but then score no points for communication on the assessor’s report. This cannot be right. There is clearly either a deep misunderstanding of autism and the way it affects claimants, or there is deliberate attempt to deny people the benefits they need to live as independent a life as possible.”

Mr Perkins expects a significant increase in successful appeals for claimants with ASD this year, following the news that the number of people winning PIP benefit appeals has hits an all-time high in the first three months of 2018.

Mr Perkins added, “The large number of successful appeals shows that the system isn’t working and is leaving many people without the benefit payments they need for over 6 months. It is also clogging up our courts and needlessly wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds in taxpayers’ money. This simply isn’t good enough and the Government need to get a grip on this now.”

Toby speaking in last night's debate

Figures obtained by Toby following a Parliamentary Question he asked of the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions have highlighted the scale of the problem

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Former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, with Toby and Lucy at the Chesterfield Labour Party gala dinner

GUEST BLOG: Outwood Academy Newbold student, Lucy Parker, asks the question ‘Should people automatically get paid more just because they’re older?’

Earlier this year, the national living wage was raised to £7.83 an hour while the rate for people aged 21 to 24 trailed behind at just £7.38 per hour. My question is; should the national living wage be applicable to everybody and not just people in the over 25 age bracket?

From a survey conducted by The Telegraph, research disclosed that the average person expects to move out of their parents’ house by the tender age of 22. This makes it apparent that people around the age of 22 will need an enhanced income to remain solvent, while paying a mortgage. The national minimum wage is the minimum pay per hour that workers are entitled to by the law. The national living wage is the minimum pay per hour workers aged over 25 are entitled to by law.  I would like to raise the argument as to whether pay should be determined by age, experience or work conducted. One issue that I’ve focussed on is whether the current minimum pay system discriminates against age and doesn’t considerer the capabilities and experience of the employee to determine the pay that they receive.

Former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, with Toby and Lucy at the Chesterfield Labour Party gala dinner

Former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, with Toby and Lucy at the Chesterfield Labour Party gala dinner

Some possible factors that could affect the wage that a person receives include; education, industry, company, location and age. The prevalent theme in these factors is that they are all able to be altered by us. We can enhance what level of education we have and whether we want to pursue higher education. We also get the choice regarding which industry we would like to enter, along with the instilled hard work to get work experience. The only factor that we cannot change is age. We can’t morph ourselves to be two years older just so that we receive a better wage, so why should this restrict the earnings a person receives? In addition, the pay system also doesn’t delegate pay in proportion to the need of the employee.  An employee aged 22 may have a mortgage as well as two young children, yet still earn less that a 25 year old who lives in their parents’ house. As a society we encourage young people to begin building their own lives from a young age yet where is the support in the minimum wage system to do this?

It is also apparent that when an individual becomes an adult on their 18th birthday they are given adult responsibilities. They can now vote in political matters, get married on their own accord, join the army and stand for parliament. Surely their entitlement to these adult responsibilities ought to entitle them to an adult wage? The low pay commission justifies the low wage by claiming “young workers are most at risk of being priced out of jobs”, meaning that working for less helps us get into employment.  But shouldn’t we employ people based on their experience and hard work rather than how much they cost the company? Young people can work for poverty inducing wages yet still give the exact same to the company. For example, two waitresses can both work the same number of hours, at the same workplace, doing exactly the same job with the identical responsibilities, yet receive enormous differences in pay. In addition, people with no experience automatically get paid more than their experienced colleagues. Why? Because they’re 18 and you’re not. Personally, I have worked in pubs and restaurants since I was 15 and therefore have two years of catering experience, however an 18 year old who is just starting their first job automatically gets paid more. Younger people earning lower wages also makes university seem more financially strenuous and adds to the concerns of the impending student debt. That’s why I believe that two people who conduct identical jobs should be paid the same amount of money. Under the equality act of 2010, a woman can challenge her boss if she is getting less than her colleague who conducts the same job role, yet with the factor of age, a pay gap is encouraged.

Good wages can encourage students not to pursue higher education as they may think that the short term buzz in each pay packet will be enough for them to get a mortgage and fund a household in the future. Additionally, younger people generally have less experience than their older peers. This would give the employer a reason to pay younger workers a lesser wage that their older colleagues as the workplace may have higher training costs and therefore will need compensating. In partial agreeance with the low pay commission, a lower wage does give the employer a bigger incentive to take on younger staff.  Young workers also do generally work in lower paying sectors such as retail and catering. But nevertheless, they still ought to be entitled to an equal wage that their colleagues are earning. Businesses also argue that they can’t afford to pay their staff a fair and equal wage, but then should a business be allowed to morally operate if it can’t afford to pay their staff fairly? Arguably, people aged under 25 and under 18 typically have less financial needs than their older colleagues. For instance, an under 18 year old probably won’t have learnt how to drive and therefore won’t have to fund a car, along with the dreaded first-year car insurance. Similarly, an over 25 year old is more probable to have moved out, and therefore will be more likely to need a bigger wage to fund their lifestyle. I understand that the pay brackets have got to be general to suit the majority of the population, but employers could easily notice the hard work that young people contribute and pay them an equal wage. Understandably, younger people can’t always expand their job roles while acting legally. For example, an older colleague may be able to work both on the bar and in the kitchen in a pub, meaning they can give more to the company and therefore are entitled to a better wage.

People who conduct the same job should be entitled to the same wage without regard to their age. If younger people were to earn equal wages, it would encourage them to save for bigger life events such as their first car or their university costs, along with their virtually impossible deposit on a house.  It would also provide them with the transferrable skills of budgeting and managing their money. Pay should be proportional to the quality of the work that is conducted, not an employee’s age. Society wants to give us adult responsibilities yet we are not entitled to an adult wage. The media claims that young people are being priced out of jobs, but the concept of being employed ought to be based on your contribution to the company and not the wage that you get paid. I think that they current minimum wage system is based on the traditional and stereotypical belief that older people work better than younger people whereas, younger people are freshly out of education and can bring new and innovative ideas to a workplace

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Toby with volunteers at the Air Ambulance charity shop on Burlington Street

Chesterfield MP celebrates National Volunteer Week by visiting the local Air Ambulance shop

National Volunteers’ Week is a chance to say thank you for the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. It takes place annually between 1st-7th June and is an opportunity to celebrate volunteering across the UK. During this week, hundreds of events and celebrations take place across the country, saying thank you to volunteers and recognising their invaluable and diverse contribution to the UK.

Toby visited the local Air Ambulance Shop in Chesterfield, which turns over in excess of £110, 000 per annum and contributed almost £35, 000 to the Air Ambulance service after last year which allows two air ambulances to be operated, covering over 3850 square miles. On average they have a 13 minute response time, responding to an average of 6 missions per day. Every product sold within the shop costs only £1 and their stock ranges from clothing to DVDs.

Toby said, “I think that it’s important that we acknowledge the time and effort that the volunteers devote to such important causes that may not be able to operate without their crucial help. It was great to learn more about the Air Ambulance Shop and to see how quickly volunteers turn new donations into shop ready goods.”

In 2015, volunteering inputted more than £22.bn to the UK economy. This is about 1.2% of GDP, showing the tremendous contribution volunteers make to society.

Toby with volunteers at the Air Ambulance charity shop on Burlington Street

Toby with volunteers at the Air Ambulance charity shop on Burlington Street

There are currently 22.6 billion active volunteers that regularly help UK charities.

If you would like to find out more about the Air Ambulance you can visit their website at www.dlraa.co.uk or you can visit their shop at 20 Burlington St, Chesterfield S40 1RR.

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Dementia Action Week pic for website

Chesterfield MP marks Dementia Action Week

There are over 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and this figure is set to rise to over 1 million by 2021. Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins is calling for greater awareness of those issues that affect people with dementia and the need for social care.

Toby attended the Alzheimer’s Society ‘Fix Dementia Care’ Event, which highlighted the work that the Alzheimer’s Society has been doing ahead of the upcoming Green Paper on adult social care.

Mr Perkins said, “I was pleased to learn that in North Derbyshire CCG, the diagnosis rate is 68.1% higher than the national average, whilst 20.47% of the Chesterfield’s constituency population are over 65.”

Toby met with people affected by dementia, who explained how dementia had affected their lives and the struggles they have faced in attempting to obtain funding for their mothers care.

If you would like to find out more about the Alzheimer’s Society and the support they can provide, please visit https://www.alzheimers.org.uk

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Toby Perkins MP backs new support group for parents of children with Autism and other mental health needs

Local Mum, Nicola Gilbert is looking to set up a support group for parents, like her, whose children have mental health needs, but do not currently fit the criteria for support from organisations like Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Nicola has recently been through the process of having her child referred to CAMHS and has found the process extremely frustrating, only to find at the end that her child does not meet the criteria for support. In addition to this, there is very little support available from elsewhere for Nicola, her child or her family. During this process, Nicola came into contact with many other parents, whose children also did not quite meet the criteria for support but also had mental health needs. This gave Nicola the idea to create a support group for parents who are in a similar situation to her so that advice and best practice can be shared between them.

For further information regarding the support group Nicola can be contacted by emailing SpaceEmpowers@gmail.com or by joining the Facebook Page SPACE – supporting parents of Anxious Children Empower.

Nicola said “The most valuable part of my journey has been meeting parents with the same frustrations and hearing their experiences. This has been hugely beneficial and the support group will give other parents the confidence to share their story. Together we will empower each other.”

Toby added “I have been in contact with CAMHS on Nicola’s behalf and I was disappointed to see that there was very little support available. During this challenging time for Children’s Mental Health services I think it is important that support is available for parents and I support Nicola in providing further support for other parents”

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Welcome

I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

Contact Toby

Tel: 01246 386286
Email: toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk
Post: 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, S40 1NF

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I hold regular surgeries for my constituents.
Please call 01246 386286 or email toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk to make a booking.

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