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Chesterfield MP, Toby Perkins celebrates the National Citizen Service with a visit to Chesterfield College

The National Citizen Service (NCS) is open to all 16 and 17 year olds in England and aims to bring together young people from different backgrounds and helps to develop confidence, self-awareness and responsibility and encourages personal and social development by working on skills such as leadership, teamwork and communication.

Part of the NCS programme is to develop a social action project to deal with a local issue and this was the stage that the groups that Toby meat were at.

At Chesterfield College, Toby met a number of groups including Bring the Difference, who are working to raise awareness and funds for the charity Newlife, 5esnsory Gardens, who are looking to build a sensory garden at Brockwell Junior School, Active Generation, who are raising funds to be able to take activities and ‘care packages’ at Springbank Care Home and Styling Stigma, who aim to raise awareness about young people who need to wear wigs through alopecia or cancer treatment and to reduce the stigma of wearing a wig by showing different ways and methods that they can be styled.

Toby said: “It is great to see these young people being active in their local communities and identifying ways that that they can make a difference. I can’t wait to see how these projects progress and the difference they make to the people involved.”

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Basketball club Pic 2

Chesterfield MP leaps to the defence of local basketball club in sports hall hire charges dispute

A fast growing and successful local Basketball club has enlisted the help of the local MP following a charging increase that led them to fear for their future.

The Chesterfield Flight Basketball Club, which trains children from across Chesterfield and plays in the national basketball league, is facing uncertainty due to an increase in charges to hire the sports hall at Outwood Academy Newbold. Chesterfield MP, Toby Perkins, joined members for a training session to find out about the Club and the important role it plays in the community.

Toby said, “Basketball is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and Chesterfield Flight is doing a fantastic job of bringing people into the sport. The children I met with are socialising, staying active and developing skills that will help them in every aspect of their lives. Andrea Mooney and the people running the club are putting their own time and money in to make it accessible for as many people as possible but the increase in charges for hiring the sports hall is potentially putting the club at risk. I have written to ‘School Lettings Solutions’ and Outwood Academy Newbold urging them to reconsider the increase in charges.”

School Lettings Solutions manage facilities hire for many schools and academies in Derbyshire. They have increased the charges from last year by 20% without any explanation as to why these additional costs are justified.

Andrea Mooney, Chesterfield Flight Basketball Club manager, said “”Grass root sport should be accessible and affordable for every family. Significant costing from facility hire filters down to clubs and their members. Clubs require facilities to provide opportunities for children. If these were made more affordable, it would mean reasonable costs for training and as a result there would be an increase in children participating in sport as it becomes more accessible for the wider community.”

Chesterfield Flight Basketball Club was formed in early 2016 and is a development focused club that places its members before all else. They offer a range of coaching sessions for U12, U14 and U16s and play in Central Venue League, National Basketball League, and National Club Competitions.

Toby with members and volunteers at the Chesterfield Flight Basketball Club

Toby with members and volunteers at the Chesterfield Flight Basketball Club

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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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PUB

Pubs are at the heart of our community – as we have seen during England’s brilliant World Cup run

The power of sport to galvanise a nation and bring communities together has been demonstrated once again this year- as has the role of our pubs in providing a focal point for that collective excitement.

As a Football fan for the last 40 years, I can count the number of major Football tournaments that live long in the nation’s memory on the fingers of one hand.

The aspect of this year’s thrilling run that stands apart from previous exciting events is how little expectation this year’s squad took with them into the tournament. We English are great ones for building up false hopes and then seeing them dashed, so it has been a pleasant surprise that the team that so little was expected of have performed so well.

I write this before England’s semi-final so I have no idea of how the story ends, but what is beyond question is that the run through the tournament has captured the public imagination hugely. The game with Sweden attracted the biggest television audience for an England match for 22 years, and the words ‘it’s coming home’ have assumed a meaning all on their own.

But what is also indisputable is that the focal point of much of this collective merriment has centred around Britain’s pubs. Our pubs have been through tough times in recent years for a myriad of reasons. Changing social habits, tax and cost of alcohol, the numerous alternatives on offer, the smoking ban and the drink drive clampdown have all for different reasons reduced the pull of pubs. Those that have survived have had to develop an attractive offer to thrive when there is such competition for our social spend.

The renaissance in Real ales, a lively pub music scene, sports bars, hugely creative pub menus and more attractive spaces are amongst the benefits that successful pub operators have now brought about in order to attracts us behind their doors.

And whilst it is extremely welcome that there is so much innovation in this traditional sector, the value of having a place to be together and watch events like this summer’s world cup with friends cannot be overstated. Nor can the wider community value of Britain’s pubs.

Pubs are also an economic necessity. Over 1 million people are employed in pubs, which pay over £8Billion in tax revenues every year. In Chesterfield we have around 90 different pubs, and videos on social media have been showing Chesterfield’s pubs leading the way in providing scenes of collective ecstasy during this summer’s Football.

It is because of a desire to salute and celebrate Britain’s pubs that I have created the inaugural Parliamentary Pub of the Year competition in my role as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pubs. The competition, which will give every MP from across Britain’s 650 constituencies the opportunity to nominate a great pub, was launched in Westminster’s famous Red Lion. Appropriately enough, the competition was launched just minutes before England took the field to play Colombia. Already dozens of MPs have signed up and selecting the ten finalists will be devilishly difficult, but as a pub enthusiast, it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to taking up!

If you would like to choose the pub you think I should nominate, email your suggestion with a description of not more than 100 words as to why it is a winner to toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk and let’s tell all of Britain about Chesterfield’s great pubs.

Cheers!

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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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