Anne recently received correspondence from Kincorth Academy’s S1 pupils highlighting the Send All My Friends to School campaign.
The students enclosed decorated cut-outs which are now displayed in Anne’s constituency office.
The students also wrote letters highlighting in particular that 57 million of children worldwide have no access to education and they were shocked that 24 million of these children are disabled.
The students are calling for all children to have access to education and so, Anne has written to the Department for International Development, seeking clarification on what action the government is taking to address this serious issue.
Dame Anne welcomed the news today that a community centre in her constituency had been successful in applying for a £8538 grant from the National Lottery’s small grants scheme Awards for All.
Inchgarth Community Centre successfully secured the funding to create an outdoor play space for children aged from early years to early secondary school which will be attached to the community centre.
Dame Anne said: “I would like to congratulate those who were involved in putting together this successful bid for funding. I am sure that the outdoor play space will be hugely beneficial for those young people in the area who do not have access to a safe play space.”
Awards for All is the small grants scheme which makes awards of between £500 and £10,000 to grass-roots community groups and voluntary organisations.
This afternoon, Dame Anne Begg MP for Aberdeen South and Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee will lead a debate in Westminster Hall around the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s report into the role of Job Centre Plus in the reformed welfare state.
The debate is particularly topical with recent controversies surrounding the use of sanctions and increasing reliance on Food Banks and some of the problems of Universal Jobsmatch.
Dame Anne will criticise the Government for refusing to conduct an investigation into the ‘Sanctions culture’ at Job Centre plus as well as for refusing to assess if there has been any links between sanctions and food bank use.
She will also be asking the Government to develop a more accurate measure of the success of Job Centre Plus in getting people into Work rather than just an “Off Benefit” measure as there are multiple reasons why people come off benefit but don’t go into work.
I attended an event to mark the funds raised by the sale of a collection of poetry and prose. The work was written by Aberdeen writers and celebrates Guide Dogs for the Blind. It is titled Guiding Lights and so far has raised over £2,500 which will contribute towards the training of young Guide Dogs.
Having a guide dog can make a huge difference to a person’s life in giving them the confidence to get out and about as well as the companionship that the dog can offer. Guide Dogs receive no government funding and rely entirely on public support which is why fundraising efforts like this are so important.
As well as training and providing assistance dogs to people who are blind or partially sighted, Guide Dogs continuously campaign for the rights of people with a visual impairment. Locally we have a very active group of people who lobby, fundraise and support Guide Dogs and I am always delighted to have the opportunity to join them in highlighting ongoing campaigns and issues affecting those who are blind or partially sighted.
Anne Begg MP Calls on Government to Refund Aberdonian Holiday Makers
Aberdeen South MP, Anne Begg, has today voted for a motion calling on the Government to provide a refund for people who have had to pay additional fees to have their passport applications to be upgraded as a result of the crisis in the Passport Office.
After the delays and problems at the Passport Office in the last few weeks, Dame Anne Begg has called on the Government to make a one off goodwill refund of fees for people who applied for their passports in good time but were forced to upgrade them because of the crisis and mismanagement in the Passport Office.
As part of efforts to tackle the crisis that has engulfed the Home Office in recent weeks, the Home Secretary has announced temporary measures including a free ‘upgrade’ of people’s applications to being fast tracked to people who have been waiting over 3 weeks already and travel within the next 7 days. But over the last few weeks, many people from Aberdeen have beenforced to pay £55 to have their passport applications fast tracked because the HMPO could not ensure their passport would be processed within the Government’s 3week target timeframe and the Government’s measures will not result in any help for these people.
The delays in passport processing have unintentionally lead to more money for the Passport Office which they have not budgeted for, as people have been forced to pay for their applications to be fast tracked. This is against the backdrop of a budget surplus at the Passport Office in 2012/13 of £73million. Because of this, Anne Begg is now joining Labour colleagues and calling on the Government to pay back these additional fees to those who have had to upgrade through no fault of their own in the past few weeks.
Dame Anne Begg MP said:
“Over the last few weeks many people from Aberdeen South have got in touch with me to tell me of the difficulties they have been having with their passports and asking for my help. I think it’s about time Ministers apologised for this mess and refund the upgrade fees they had to pay just to get their passports on time.
“It’s unacceptable that the Passport Office should make money out of incompetence and mismanagement, and the Government’s urgent measures just don’t do anything for families and people who have already been forced to pay. It’s time people inconvenienced by these delays get their money back”
I’m proud that the last Labour government introduced the National Minimum Wage. This boosted pay for millions at the bottom without leading to a loss of jobs.
But we face different issues today. The minimum wage was originally designed to prevent extreme low pay and abuse. Today, the challenge is to help hardworking people that earn above the minimum wage but are still living in poverty. Over five million people, or one in five employees, are low paid.
This has got worse under the Tories, with families on average £1,600 a year worse off since David Cameron became Prime Minister. And the value of the national minimum wage has been eroded, leaving working people worse off.
Those on the lowest pay are at the sharpest end of the cost-of-living crisis. In-work poverty is a shocking legacy of the Tories’ four years in power and the next Labour government is determined to do something about it.
That’s why in Parliament this week I voted to set the Low Pay Commission a five-year target to raise the National Minimum Wage faster than average earnings. This will ensure that there is a bond between the wealth we earn as a nation and the wages that people earn for a hard day’s work.
This five-year target was recommended by Alan Buckle, former Deputy Chairman at KPMG, who was asked by Ed Miliband to investigate how to strengthen the minimum wage, as part of Labour’s plan to ensure that those who do a hard day’s work are rewarded for doing so.
A clear five-year target gives businesses time to plan and adapt their business models so they are able to support higher wages for their employees. Safeguards should be put in place to protect jobs in the face of economic shocks. Ministers have done nothing to support a Living Wage, but Labour would incentivise firms to pay more through Make Work Pay contracts to get people at work a better deal.
The Tories’ failure over the last four years have led to higher prices, lower wages and a cost-of-living crisis that has hit tens of thousands of people in Aberdeen South. Labour will create a new economy that works for everyone instead of just a few at the top, and that begins with strengthening the National Minimum Wage. Only Labour will tackle the scandal of low pay, growing our way to higher living standards for all.
While giving evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee yesterday, the Minister for Disabled People, Mike Penning MP admitted over 700,000 disabled people are still waiting for their claims for Employment Support Allowance to be processed (ESA) causing real hardship.
Today, Dame Anne Begg MP criticised the Scottish and UK Governments for failing to tackle the huge increase in working people claiming Housing Benefit in Aberdeen.
Since 2010, the number of working people claiming housing benefit has increased by 53 per cent across Scotland, costing Scottish taxpayers an extra £256 million. In Aberdeen alone, the number of working people now claiming housing benefit has increased by a staggering 64 per cent.
Dame Anne said “Working people are now on average £1600 a year worse off as wages have fallen while prices have soared. Many people in work can’t get the hours they need, while soaring rent is pushing the cost of housing ever higher.
“The Scottish Government say nothing can be done unless we get a Yes vote, but we know they have the power to build housing now. Instead they put Scotland on hold as they push for separation and it is hard working families who are paying the price.
“The UK Government is equally to blame, saying that ‘work is the best way out of poverty’ yet we know that 52% of families living in poverty have at least one adult in work.
“More must be done to build more houses, and that’s why I’m proud that Labour has committed to building 200,000 houses a year by 2020. Helping to tackle the cost of living crisis and in the process, reduce the benefit bill.”
On 6th June, I was delighted to meet with Rory MacFarlane, Vice President for Equal Opportunities at Aberdeen University Student Association (AUSA) and Paul Greene, President of Communication & Democracy at RGU to highlight my support for NUS’s campaign against the Government’s cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).
DSA is paid to cover additional expenditure that a student incurs due to a disability. The Government’s cuts would mean that there would be no national scheme and individual higher education institutions would be responsible for delivering a scheme resulting not only in a postcode lottery when it comes to the support provided but also creating a disincentive to universities taken on disabled students.
I have now signed Early Day Motion (EDM) 48, tabled by David Blunkett, which recognises the importance of ensuring that there is equality of access to education for disabled students wherever they chose to study.