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With Dave Bagley, CEO of Urban Outreach

 

Last week I was invited by the Big Lottery Fund to see how their funding is being put to use to help my constituents.

I had the pleasure of visiting Urban Outreach, who deliver a wide range of services including the provision of emergency food parcels, support for sex workers, help for homeless people and work with runaway children.

The focus of the visit was to talk about the Support First scheme, which helps people with mental health issues and is backed by the Big Lottery Fund.

Often people struggling with mental health can find themselves facing many complex challenges. Financial difficulties, housing troubles, drug or alcohol problems, family issues, amongst other things, can all develop into barriers which need to be addressed alongside someone’s mental health.

Unfortunately public services tend to look at one issue in isolation. Support First takes a collaborative approach in the hope of addressing all of the different and conflicting pressures that people face.

When local emergency services, such as A&E or the police, encounter people who repeatedly find themselves in trouble they refer them on to Support First. Through the scheme individuals receive intensive one to one support from Urban Outreach and another charity called BAND (Building A New Direction), which specialises in mental health.

I had the pleasure of meeting two of the service users who strongly believe that they would likely have committed suicide without the intervention and support they received. They have been able to get back on their feet, give up alcohol, repair broken family relationship and retrain for new careers.

I’m very impressed by this collaborative approach and believe that it has real value. Public services need to learn how to co-operate in this way and really support people as individuals, looking at the whole picture rather than just one aspect.

Money for services may well be tight for years to come and that means we have to re-think old ways of working and be much smarter in our approach. Charities, the public sector, politicians, all of us need to work together to find new collaborative approaches to really improve lives.

Support First - an endorsement for collaborative services

With Dave Bagley, CEO of Urban Outreach   Last week I was invited by the Big Lottery Fund to see how their funding is being put to use to help...

Supported housing schemes can be very valuable to communities. They come in many forms – homeless hostels, sheltered housing for older residents, refuge for victims of domestic violence, specialist accommodation for former members of the armed forces and many more.

The Government are proposing changes that could put these schemes at risk. I don’t want to see services lost, and I want housing providers to keep investing in these schemes in the future.

I’ve been meeting with local providers and visiting schemes in our community to get a better understanding of the issues involved. So far I’ve met with St Vincent’s Housing Association, Great Places Housing Group, and Bolton at Home.

This week I visited Bolton House, which is run by Riverside. They offer temporary accommodation and intensive support to offenders on license who are homeless. They work with other local agencies to try and break the cycles of reoffending and homelessness so that people can move on to live independent lives in the community.

It was encouraging to meet with the staff and hear how the various agencies in Bolton are working together to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community and ensure that they can reintegrate. 

 

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What are the Government proposing? 

Many of the people who need to live in supported housing rely on Housing Benefit to pay the rent. The Government are trying to change the rules for Housing Benefit in social housing, linking it to the Local Housing Allowance. 

This would mean people could probably get money for a normal council house (for example) but Housing Benefit would no longer meet the extra costs that come with supported housing (like the cost of an on-site warden).  

Although, this would vary across the country. Rent in social housing is roughly the same all across the country, but private rents that the cap would be based on vary wildly.  

In places like London and the South East where rental costs are high services would likely see no change to their ability to claim costs through housing benefit, but cuts could be huge in other regions. This would create a postcode lottery and driving investment away from areas like Bolton. 

Riverside have provided examples: 3% of their tenants in London would be negatively affected. Whilst 58% living in the North East would be negatively affected. 

Labour have been holding the Government to account on this issue and forced them to push back their plans. There is still uncertainty about what will happen and we will be asking the Government to listen to the concerns of housing providers and provide some stability for the future of supported housing.

Supported Housing - My visit to Bolton House

Supported housing schemes can be very valuable to communities. They come in many forms – homeless hostels, sheltered housing for older residents, refuge for victims of domestic violence, specialist accommodation...

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If you go out to a bar or restaurant and receive good service you may choose to leave a tip. You’d expect that the person serving you would get to keep the tip as a bonus on top of their wages, or perhaps that staff would share the tips between them. However, in many workplaces this is no longer the case.

Some employers have started to take a proportion or even all of their employees’ tips as part of the business’s profits. This is particularly prevalent in companies which accept tips via card payments.

People often wonder about the mysterious ‘service charge’ that appears on some bills and what it is for, but I think people would be uncomfortable at the thought that this isn’t being passed on to hardworking waiting staff.

We should be able to confidently reward good service with thanks and know that this is going to the right people. I think these companies need to be open and honest with their customers.

The Government’s Business Department launched a very welcome consultation into these practices. However that consultation ended more than a year ago and they have not published the results or come forward with any proposals.

I am backing an Early Day Motion in Parliament urging Government Ministers to publish this consultation and give assurance to hospitality workers that their concerns will be addressed. 

Watch workers talk about their experiences in this video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYcqLYbKrsw 

Facts on unfair tips

Employers hold onto staff tips in all kinds of ways, often without customers’ knowledge including:

1. Charging a fee - employers taking a cut from customer tips paid on a credit or debit card as an administration fee. Typically between 8%-15%.

2. Charging waiters to work - deducting a percentage of between 2%-3% from waiting staff table sales. If staff don't make enough money in tips to cover the levy, then it comes out of their wages.

3. Employers pocketing entire or hefty chunk of the 'optional' service charge that increasing numbers of restaurants are automatically adding to customer bills, instead of giving it to staff. Typically between 10%-15%.

4. Using tips and service charge payments to cover the cost of breakages, till shortages, customers doing a runner, paying credit card transaction fees or quite simply to boost their own profits. They could even be used to boost senior managers' wages.

5. Bogus tronc schemes - a properly run tronc scheme - a pooling system used by employers to distribute non-cash tips to employees -should be genuinely independent, free from employer interference and involve staff. But many aren't - too often staff get no say in how non-cash tips and service charge are shared out or who get a share.

 

Fair Tips

  If you go out to a bar or restaurant and receive good service you may choose to leave a tip. You’d expect that the person serving you would get...

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