Last week, Conservatives MPs voted down Labour's motion that would have seen free school meals extended over the school holidays, a measure that would have benefitted more than 1.4 million children and their families.
Since then, Conservative MPs have doubled down by ramping up irresponsible rhetoric that is fuelling dangerous misunderstandings about the challenges that children growing up in poverty are facing in our country.
Just some of the incredibly insensitive comments from Conservative MPs included Ben Bradley MP claiming, in a tweet that has since been deleted, that the provision of free school meal vouchers over the summer amounted to "£20 cash direct to a crack den and a brothel”, and Selaine Saxby, Conservative MP for North Devon, who criticised businesses in her area for providing free meals over the holidays.
I have been heartened to see the response from communities and councils across the country who have stepped in where the government has failed to act. You can find your nearest business offering free meals for children over the holidays by clicking the button below.
The last Labour government set clear targets to end child poverty by 2020, but in the last year it has risen, with projections that it will continue to rise as a result of the pandemic.
Labour will not give up on the fight to ensure that no child goes to bed hungry. That's why Labour has made clear that it will force another Commons vote on the extension of free school meals over the holidays if the government does not change its policy before the Christmas recess.
Local school set to spend over £70,000 on Covid measures
Last week, I visited Lordswood Girls' School in Harborne which is set to spend £72,000 on measures designed to make it Covid-secure for its 1,000 staff and students by the end of the academic year. This is despite not having the money in its current budget nor any reserves to dip into, and not having received any additional funding from the government.
As a result of Covid-19, the school has had to implement a number of safety measures including increasing its cleaning regime, buying PPE, Perspex screens and hand sanitiser, adapting classrooms by removing and storing excess furniture to allow for socially-distanced learning and hiring outside toilet blocks to reduce the number of students using the same facilities.
The government guidance states, however, that no school will receive any additional funding to enable them to reopen, despite the large sums of money needed to make schools safe for students.
Research from the National Foundation for Educational Research has found that schools could be spending hundreds of millions of pounds to address the costs of coronavirus in their schools.
Budgets will be pushed to breaking point if schools are forced to meet the costs of the coronavirus themselves, with many looking outside of their budgets to find the money needed to make schools a safe place for staff and students.
Schools are still feeling the impact of more than a decade of cuts, so being forced to meet the costs of making their sites Covid-secure is adding yet further pressure to already stretched budgets. The Chancellor must not go back on his word, and should do whatever it takes to support schools in these exceptional times.
Following a virtual meeting on Anti-Sikh hate crimes earlier this month with more than 40 cross-party MPs and hundreds of Sikh constituents, the APPG for British Sikhs, of which I am Chair, produced a report into Anti-Sikh hate crimes.
The report aims to establish an official term and definition of hate crimes against Sikhs through consultation with government and the wider public over the next 60 days.
The report also addresses the lack of government focus and funding to increase the reporting of hate crimes targeting Sikhs.
The scale of hate crimes targeting the Sikh community is a phenomenon that is largely invisible to government and the wider public.
Official Home Office data for the last two years shows the level of reported hate crimes targeting Sikhs has increased over 70%. This should not be hidden away or ignored.
Serco has promised to learn lessons following outbreak
On a call last week, Serco told me, Cllr Ian Ward and Cllr John Cotton, that lessons have been learnt following a Covid outbreak in accommodation run by the outsourcing giant for those seeking asylum in the city back in August.
Serco revealed that the asylum seekers moved to a city hotel following the outbreak would be exiting by the end of the month, and that Serco had no intention of using the city hotel again.
It was reassuring to hear that Serco have learnt lessons and given assurances that accommodation conditions and Covid measures have been stepped up to ensure the safety of surrounding communities and those seeking asylum.
I will continue to work closely with Birmingham City Council over the coming weeks and months to make sure Serco stay true to their word.
EHRC report into antisemitism in the Labour Party published
The EHRC report into antisemitism in the Labour Party represents a moment of profound shame for the Labour Party - from which we must accelerate our efforts to make amends and move forward.
It is vital that the Labour Party learns from its mistakes now and changes for the better. I unequivocally support the findings and recommendations of the EHRC report, and I will support our party, nationally and locally, in their effective implementation.