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Toby visited a IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples) camp

BLOG: My visit to Kurdistan

As the constituency Member of Parliament for Chesterfield, my primary daily responsibility will always be to represent Chesterfield.

Toby visited a IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples) camp

Toby visited an IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples) camp

Alongside this, the 650 MPs also have an opportunity to discuss and influence policy around both specialist areas of knowledge or around Britain’s global role in the world.

There are a great deal of Parliamentary delegations coming into and out of the UK from other countries and these not only further relationships between nations (something that will never be more crucial in the post- Brexit age) but also allow for learning from other cultures and parliaments.

Understanding more about global issues also enables MPs to influence and scrutinise Foreign Office policies and responses to developing situations.

One such opportunity recently presented itself when I was asked to join a cross party Parliamentary delegation to meet the recently elected government of the Kurdistan region in Iraq.

Kurdistan is a devolved region in the North of Iraq who have great warmth towards Britain both despite, and because of, the great hardship that they have suffered over many decades.

The Kurds are the world’s largest diaspora not to have a country of their own, and there are around 30 million Kurds split between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. The Iraqi Kurds were brutally oppressed by Saddam Hussain whose genocides killed tens of thousands and used chemical weapons against them following an uprising after the first Gulf war.

Foreign Office advice is still against all travel to Iraq, but I was assured in advance that the Kurdistan region is very safe and it was clear both in Government circles and out in the wider community that there is a great deal of affection for Britain in the region. Iraqi Kurds describe the 2003 Gulf War as ‘the liberation’ and whilst the oppression of the Kurds and Shia Muslims by Saddam has been replaced by unsatisfactory replacement Iraqi Governments, they clearly believe that their future prospects are brighter than their past.

It was a visit of contrasts. In meetings with the Foreign Office Minister, the Governor of two different Kurdish regions, the Speaker and their respective Chambers of Commerce, the possibilities and hunger for British investment in the region was palpable. They were at pains to assure us that there were huge opportunities for British services and products as well as investment in industries other than the Oil industry that has been their staple for years.

For example, there is no such thing as car insurance there (which hasn’t seemed to reduce the risk appetite of local drivers!). There is also a historic distrust of banking and financial services meaning that there is basically no lending or mortgages. Major US Hoteliers have got in there and there are lavish ‘International’ 5 star hotels but their tourism industry has huge further potential.

But alongside these great opportunities we also visited an IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples) camp and met with Yazidi and Sunni refugees who have fled for their lives and live in utter squalor. We met families who have lived for FIVE YEARS in a single breeze blocked room with a canvass sheet over their heads in 40 degree heat. Despite their deprivation they told us that at least they are safe there and would rather be there than at home where they face further attacks. Many of the Yazidi families were lacking their matriarch as many of the women were stolen by ISIS and taken to be ‘wives’ of the conquering soldiers.

The Sunnis (previously favoured by Saddam) are now mistreated by Shia militia with the Iraqi Government unable or unwilling to protect them. These people do not have refugee status in International eyes because they are still within their own country, and the Kurds, who have a historic knowledge of what it is like to flee persecution are largely carrying the burden of attempting to house, clothe and feed tens of thousands of these people alone. There were around 8,000 people at the single camp we visited.

These visits bring home the reality of life and the complexity of some of these global situations that receive a five-minute slot on our news. They need more than charity and despite what you might often hear, they welcome the involvement of the UK and the West. They clearly trust our institutions more than their own.

As citizens of the world we should never complacently believe we have all the answers to complex situations overseas, but nor does that mean that we should offer nothing more than occasional guilt relieving charity either.

My visit to Kurdistan will live forever in my memory and I hope that I can encourage the UK Government and companies to consider anew what more we can do for this beautiful region with huge potential as well as challenges.

Toby with Steve Reed MP and other members of the Parliamentary Delegation meeting with officials in Kurdistan

Toby with Steve Reed MP and other members of the Parliamentary Delegation meeting with officials in Kurdistan

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Toby taking part in a speed-stacking challenge

MP bowled over by school’s approach to sport

Sporty students at Brockwell Junior School marked the Youth Sport Trust’s 2019 National School Sport Week by inviting local MP, Toby Perkins, to watch them and compete against them in

Toby hits one for six!

a range of sporting activities.

Toby said, “At a time when there is huge pressure on school budgets and more of a focus on league tables and exams, sports and P.E. can often not receive the time or consideration that it deserves. At Brockwell Juniors, they have taken a very proactive approach to sports, thinking of more diverse activities to ensure all children can participate, and this has led to happier, healthier children as well as the school securing a number of trophies and high-profile sporting wins”

Toby had the chance to try speed stacking and archery, as well as demonstrating the cricket skills he had previously put to good use playing for Holmewood MWCC many years ago!

The theme for the 2019 YST National School Sport Week was Journey to Wellbeing and encouraged schools to organise activity which align with the following five steps to wellbeing:

  • Being active
  • Connecting
  • Giving back
  • Taking notice
  • Learning

Bullseye!

The Youth Sport Trust is the leading national charity working in partnership with over 20,000 schools, government and leading sporting organisations to improve PE and school sport. We harness the power physical activity to improve young people’s life chances with a focus on building life skills and resilience, as well as supporting physical and mental wellbeing.

Toby added, “As a former Derbyshire rugby player, who enthusiastically follows many sports, I am a huge believer in the value of competitive sports in schools. It not only promotes activity and fitness, but improves children’s confidence, social skills and ability to work as a team. We need the Government to provide more funding to schools to ensure that P.E. remains a central part to the school week.”

Toby taking part in a speed-stacking challenge

Toby taking part in a speed-stacking challenge

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Toby at the monthly social meeting of the YNA group

Derbyshire mental health group lets people know that support is always available

A peer-to-peer support group for people with mental health issues, ‘You’re Never Alone – Mental Health Awareness (YNA)’, invited local MP Toby Perkins to attend their monthly meeting to learn more about the group and the issues facing mental health sufferers.

The group was co-created by Chesterfield resident, Mark Sims, and provides advice, support and friendship through a Facebook group and regular meetings.

Toby said, “With the cuts to health services it has become increasingly difficult for people to access the support they need. Waiting lists for counselling services can see patients waiting for over two years before they are seen and so there are hundreds of people across Derbyshire not receiving support and feeling like they are alone with their mental health issues. Peer-to-peer support groups such as the YNA group can be a significant help to people who are falling through the cracks in the system”

The YNA Facebook page is a private group that allows people to interact with others with mental health issues and build up their support network. The groups admins are also available for one-to-one support via messenger and email.

Toby added, “Whilst these groups are important, they can never replace NHS mental health services and we need the Government to ensure that mental health is receiving parity of esteem for funding, to protect patients who are vulnerable and unwell.”

You can join the group at https://www.facebook.com/Youre-Never-Alone-Mental-Health-Awareness-contact-page-390975894990697/

Toby at the monthly social meeting of the YNA group

Toby at the monthly social meeting of the YNA group

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Toby Perkins following his meeting with local Police in Inkersall

BLOG: ‘Both carrot and stick are needed to tackle rising antisocial behaviour amongst young people’

Feeling safe and happy in our homes and communities is essential to us leading happy lives. Antisocial behaviour, even less serious kinds such as noise nuisance or graffiti, can have a massive impact on people’s daily lives and make them feel unsafe. But when it spills over into vandalism and violence it is time for the authorities to step in.

There are of course people of all ages that are involved in antisocial behaviour (ASB), but I have recently been aware of a renewed antisocial behaviour problem

In response, I recently held a meeting with police, business owners and council officers to discuss bad behaviour, intimidation and vandalism from groups of young people in the Inkersall area of Chesterfield.

The police are increasing their patrols in the area, but there are limits on what actions they can take. The previous Labour Government introduced Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), which despite some silly press around them becoming a ‘badge of honour’ in some communities were actually a pretty effective tool to prevent individuals from acting in ways that whilst not unlawful in their own right ruined the quiet enjoyment of their neighbours.

The Tory Government abolished them, and there is a widespread view that the replacement powers brought in are less effective. Nonetheless, there is a role for more robust policing alongside measures like improved lighting and CCTV.

Alongside preventative and policing measures there is also a responsibility for the authorities to provide diversionary activities to engage young people in more constructive ways.

Our young people need somewhere to go, something positive to do and people to speak to. Local youth clubs, run by trained and experienced youth workers, used to provide the safe, supportive

spaces that young people needed. The cuts to local government over the last 9 years have effectively wiped out youth services, and I have no doubt that this has led to an increase in ASB in our communities. According to YMCA research, funding for youth services in England fell by £737m (62%) between 2010 and 2018, with over 600 youth centres closing and 3,500 youth workers losing their jobs. These cuts may have created short term savings, but they are having a long-term impact on our communities.

Toby Perkins following his meeting with local Police in Inkersall

Toby Perkins following his meeting with local Police in Inkersall

I want to see the bad behaviour stopped so that people can feel safe, but I recognise that criminalising young people is not always the answer. The Labour Party believes that new legislation is needed to place a duty on every local authority across England to provide a minimum level of support for young people and to establish a local youth service partnership with young people, parents, professionals and councillors, to ensure local needs are being met. This will require additional public funds from Government, but will improve our communities, increase the opportunities for young people and reduce the pressure placed on police.

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New Funding Opportunities for Local Miner’s Welfare Clubs

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins has been highlighting an opportunity for local Miner’s Welfare organisations to get access to new funding from Sport England.

Toby recently attended a reception in parliament which announced potential new funding streams for these local organisations to better facilities.

Miner’s Welfare organisations can now receive between £1,000 – £150,000 to improve or maintain sports facilities and playing fields through Sport England’s Community Asset Fund.

The fund is dedicated to enhancing places and spaces in local communities that give people the opportunity to be active. It invests in projects that keep people playing sport but also looks beyond this, to how sport and physical activity can and does help engage people to provide social benefits.

This summer, Sport England will be running workshops across coalfield communities for Miner’s Welfare Organisations to learn how they can apply and assist them in securing funding.

The fund is open to any Miner’s Welfare organisations across 6 coalfield regions – including in Chesterfield. Toby will be strongly encouraging local clubs in the area to apply if they have a proposal which could help the local community – whether that be through cricket, football or any other sport.

Toby will also be looking at how to address problems raised by a recent meeting with Staveley Miner’s Welfare Club. The club raised the issue of vandalism and anti-social behaviour from a nearby park.

Toby said: “Miner’s Welfare clubs have played a crucial role in our local sporting scene. I should know, having played cricket for Holmewood Miner’s Welfare for many years in my 20s. But many of them have struggled financially in recent years, and I am keen to encourage bowls clubs, cricket clubs, and any other clubs representing Miner’s Welfare organisations to apply for money to enhance or upgrade their facilities.”

You can find our more information on the Community Asset Fund on their website: https://www.sportengland.org/funding/community-asset-fund/

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Toby challenging the Prime Minister to make changes to the SEN funding formula

Chesterfield MP challenges Prime Minister over funding for special educational needs

Chesterfield’s Brampton Primary School was praised in Parliament for their “exemplary record in special educational needs” by Toby Perkins MP as he also challenged Theresa May to change the funding formula to ensure every child with special educational needs receives the support they need.

Toby said, “I have met with the head teachers and school governors at several schools, as well as dozens of concerned parents, regarding the difficulties they are experiencing securing funding for children with special educational needs. The impact this is having on the education and development of these children, and the knock-on impact it can have for other children in their class, cannot be underestimated.

Under the current funding formula, the first £6,000 per year of funding the school receives for the education of a child with special needs is not actually funded by the Government. And to make matters even more difficult, the County Council are often refusing to acknowledge when a child should qualify for special educational needs funding, or the assessment process takes so long that schools are left for months on end without the support they need.”

In addition to raising this in Prime Minister’s Questions, Toby has created an opportunity to support the case by submitting an Early Day Motion on funding for children with special educational needs that has been signed by 41 MPs.

The EDM reads:

“That this House notes that the Government’s current formula for allocating financial resources to schools includes a requirement that schools themselves have to fund the first £6,000 of the support for the most disadvantaged Special Educational Needs pupils (SEND), those with Education Health and Care plans (EHCP), and that this provides a disincentive for schools to support EHCP applications or to accept pupils with EHCPs in the first place; further notes that these pupils are those who have the greatest need of support and that schools who develop a good reputation for supporting disadvantaged students face a financial penalty for doing so; and calls on the Government to ensure that in the forthcoming Spending Review the Government fully funds the provision for SEND pupils to ensure that schools and local authorities receive the finances to give SEND pupils the investment in their education that those pupils need and deserve”.

Toby is hoping to secure a Westminster Hall debate on this issue to press the Government to make changes to the formula.

Toby added, “Brampton Primary School has one of the best reputations for providing a comprehensive and individualised package of support for children with special educational needs. This has led to more parents wanting to send their children there, so they have a far higher number of SEN children on their roll. They have become a victim of their own success due to the Government’s funding formula and it is placing in jeopardy the fantastic work they do. The formula has to change.”

Toby challenging the Prime Minister to make changes to the SEN funding formula

Toby challenging the Prime Minister to make changes to the SEN funding formula

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Chesterfield MP backs calls for diabetes emotional and mental health support

Calls from leading charity Diabetes UK to create new national standards for diabetes emotional and mental health support, and to increase support available locally to the 18,210 people living with diabetes in the area have been backed by local MP for Chesterfield Toby Perkins.

 

Recently published research from the charity revealed that the relentless nature of diabetes can impact people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health, ranging from day-to-day frustration and low mood, to specific psychological and mental health difficulties such as clinical depression and anxiety.

 

The findings, published in the report “Too often missing: Making emotional and psychological support routine in diabetes care”, show that diabetes is much more than a physical condition. Mr Perkins joined Diabetes UK at a parliamentary event, as the charity launched its campaign to make the emotional and psychological demands of living with diabetes recognised and provide the right support to everyone who needs it.

 

Diabetes UK is urgently calling on the NHS to create national standards for diabetes emotional and mental health services. These should ensure that everyone receives joined up care, that they are asked how they are feeling as part of every diabetes appointment, and that a mental health professional with knowledge of diabetes is part of every diabetes care team.

 

Mr Toby Perkins MP said in support of the campaign:

 

“The demands of living with diabetes affect people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, but mental health support is often missing from diabetes care. And when diabetes cannot be well managed, the risk of dangerous complications increases.

 

We need diabetes care that includes emotional and psychological support to help people improve both their physical and mental health, reduce pressure on services, and save the NHS money.”

 

Diabetes UK has launched a petition to call for national standards for diabetes mental health support and services. To find out more about the campaign and sign the petition go to www.diabetes.org.uk/missing

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BLOG: New law is needed to protect businesses from extortion

The siting of impromptu Gypsy and Traveller camps in Chesterfield are always a controversial issue and there is always a significant public outcry when a camp appears in our town.

Much of this is based on people’s experiences of the huge clean up required afterwards and the impact it can have on the owners of the land.

We have seen temporary encampments appearing on public and private land, at Queen’s Park, Holmebrook Valley Country Park, Millenium Way business park and numerous other sites. This has often cost the Borough Council and local businesses thousands of pounds in legal fees to evict them, and then hundreds of pounds more in clearing up the sites once they have left.

There is also a growing problem of Travellers setting up unauthorised encampments on business premises and then demanding cash to leave the site. This happened to a local business in Dunston recently and the advice they received from the Police was that often paying for the travellers to leave is cheaper than taking legal action.

This is simply extortion and so I am proposing a new bill in Parliament which I introduced on 22nd May to make it a specific offence to demand money to leave land that you are occupying illegally.

The ‘Unauthorised Encampments’ bill had its second reading in Parliament and although there is not time for it to be brought into law in this parliament, I hope that it will be the start of a debate about how the balance between a recognition of traveller lifestyle can be done in a way that doesn’t impinge upon the lawful business activities of our businesses.

Adjusting legislation to protect landowners and businesses will re-balance the law more evenly to prevent these extortionist practices.

There needs to be accommodation for Gypsy and Traveller communities in a way that can win the confidence of local communities, but ensuring that action is taken against criminal elements is a part of building that public confidence.

The Traveller community does face discrimination and mistrust and there is always opposition to any proposed traveller sites, achieving a better balance could lead to there being less hostility in future whilst preventing businesses or communities from feeling powerless and as though the law is against them.

It is one thing to acknowledge that travellers will need somewhere to be, it is quite another for them to use their presence as a negotiating and money making tool.

However, whilst it is important not to generalise, there are historic problems linked to traveller sites that makes communities uneasy about having a site in their area. And, though there is a duty on all of us to not discriminate and prejudge travellers, there is also a duty on the travelling community to adhere to the law and be respectful towards the communities they move in to.

The best approach we can take is to create permanent Gypsy and Traveller pitches in every area so that there are always places for Travellers to set up camp. This will hopefully reduce the number of illegal encampments whilst also encouraging Travellers to feel like they are an equal part of the community. But we also need tougher legislation to protect the rights of businesses and local authorities and to prevent criminal behaviour.

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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

Surgeries

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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