On Monday I was pleased to speak during the Department of Work and Pensions question session and ask the Minister about supported exempt accommodation. The annual housing benefit bill in Birmingham for supported exempt accommodation is now a massive £200 million. Too many housing providers are exploiting the extremely weak regulations that govern the payment of enhanced housing benefit; all they have to do is show that the support they provide is more than minimal, and this is causing misery for vulnerable tenants and the communities they live in. I asked the Minister to meet with me to discuss the situation here in Birmingham and to consider urgent proposals to change the situation and get a grip of this growing national scandal. There are many social landlords out there who genuinely care for their residents and look out for them, but the regulation is not strong enough to protect those who are at risk from exploitation from the less scrupulous landlords.
There has been a major development this week in the case of the 5 constituents who were killed in their workplace by a collapsing wall in Nechells. On 7 July 2016, Ousmane Kaba Diaby, Saibo Sumbundu Sillah, Bangally Tunkara Dukuray, Almamo Kinteh Jammeh and Mahamadou Jagana Jagana were all fatally crushed by a collapsing wall at the site, and another worker, Tombong Camara Conteh, sustained serious injuries. This week we’ve had the news that the Health and Safety Executive are to prosecute two companies. As there is now an active prosecution, I cannot comment further, but I am pleased that some action is finally being taken, and keep the families affected by this tragedy in my thoughts.
I hosted a roundtable this week on discrimination in the car insurance industry against those from a BAME background. I have heard from many constituents who are concerned that they are facing increased premiums because of their ethnicity and that those premiums are becoming unaffordable. Car insurance is a legal necessity for those on the road and it is not fair that people should be pushed off the roads because their premiums are unaffordable. It is discriminatory and unethical that this is happening among the BAME community. We were pleased to hear from local constituents, representatives from the industry, and fellow MPs who are hearing the same stories from constituents. It’s clear that there is a systematic problem within the industry that needs tackling.
New data released by the End Child Poverty Coalition this week shows that Birmingham is among the Top 20 local authorities for child poverty levels, with Birmingham Ladywood showing the second highest rate for parliamentary constituencies in the country, with a shocking 54.5% of children – 18,008 – living in poverty. The Coalition, along with the Labour Party, are calling on their Government to scrap their planned cut to Universal Credit in the new year, which will slash families’ budgets by more than £1000. Sadly, the news that more than half of our children in Birmingham Ladywood are living in poverty comes as no surprise to me, but that makes it no less heart-breaking. In the face of these staggering figures, the Government’s callous decision to cut Universal Credit in the new year is even more unconscionable. It is shameful that children are living in poverty in 21st century Britain and the Government must make tackling child poverty a priority if they are serious about levelling up.
This Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a great chance to celebrate our wonderful small businesses and to pledge our support for the coming winter and new year. Our small businesses have faced an incredibly difficult year and while I’ve heard from so many who have been struggling, it’s also been great to see those who’ve been able to adapt their models to operate online, as well as the way that many local businesses have helped to support the most vulnerable in our community throughout this crisis. Small businesses are such an important part of our local community, with the role they play in providing employment, products and services, supporting the local economy, and ensuring that our high streets remain vibrant and busy. I know its sometimes easier to shop online but let’s try and support the high street where we can this festive season.
If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0121 661 9440. My team and I are of course subject to many of the same challenges and restrictions as other families in Birmingham Ladywood at the minute, but we will do everything we can to help constituents in these difficult times.
Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!