Category Archives: General Blog

Working with Steel River Drinks to deliver Gin hand sanitiser in new Act for Carers Campaign

Jessie Joe Jacobs works with Steel River Drinks to deliver care packages and much needed hand sanitiser to care workers as part of a new Act for Key workers Campaign

Over the past few weeks Jessie Joe Jacobs has been working with the local community across Teesside after setting up Teesside Community Action Group which is a support network focussed on the response to coronavirus.

Teesside Community Action, a coronavirus support network established by Jessie Jacobs has launched a new campaign to help support key workers.

The group has already helped neighbours to care for each other during the crisis, supplied isolated residents with a food delivery service, and launched fundraising campaigns to feed key workers.

Now the group has now launched the Act for Key Workers campaign to show how they can help key workers on Teesside with practical things they can do to help.

As part of this she has worked with Jay Byers from Steel River drinks to get hand sanitiser into care homes. The firm is a distillery with popular products such as Stainsby Girl Gin. With the onset of coronavirus they have moved into production of hand sanitiser

The pair have visited four care homes including Elton Hall Care home and Teesdale lodge in Thornaby delivering the hand sanitiser alongside biscuits donated by TK Maxx for the 20 workers at the home and residents.

Jessie Joe Jacobs said, “This crisis has shown the true spirit of Teesside, which is of one of care and compassion. When this crisis hit people so many people wanted to know what they could do to help. For many people it’s a simple as staying at home but for those able to do more Teesside Community Action Group has been a brilliant way to support people to act.

“I know that the Thursday night clap for key workers has inspired a lot of people and shown our support for those who are working hard to protect us. People have been asking me what they can do to help in a more practical way and now local residents have come together to say they want to go further.

“This hand sanitiser is much needed in our care homes right now so it’s good to see a local business stepping up like this.”

Jay Byers of Steel River Drinks said, “Not all heroes wear capes and lycra. I have been amazed and humbled by the work our NHS workers have done throughout this terrible pandemic.

“The sheer number of key workers out there doing amazing, worthy, underpaid and at times, brave work, has compelled me to get behind this Act for Key Workers initiative. So, Steel River Drinks will happily and proudly help these heroes in our own little way; Gin, tonics and hand sanitiser!”

A conversation with Shadow Environmental Secretary and Great British Menu Chef

Darlington’s Great British Menu finalist spells out future for North East’s food and drinks sector post Covid

Darlington’s Ruth Hansom, BBC Great British Menu Finalist, joined Luke Pollard MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Minister in an online discussion with Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour’s Tees Valley Mayoral candidate to look at the impact of the Covid Crisis on the food and drink sector.

In the online discussion hosted by Jessie Joe Jacobs with the young TV star, Ruth shares about her own journey of moving to London at 15 years old because saying there were many more opportunities in London and says what’s happening to the sector is heart-breaking, but there is also hope.

Ruth says “You see people who have worked taking something from nothing to get a restaurant up and running and it’s their life, their soul and they’re there sometimes 16 hours a day and they get something out of their jobs which is making people happy and you take that away and people feel they have lost their purpose, they don’t know what to do.

But Ruth goes on to say on the flip side, “People will come back after this crisis with a better work life balance. It has highlighted that employees in the sector need more time off and there needs to be a sustainability in their own lives in the future.”

Luke Pollard agreed saying “Food and drink manufacturing is the largest manufacturing sector in the whole country, it’s not airplane wings, it’s not cars. It’s food and drink.

“We need to value more those who work in this sector much more but we also need an urgency in supporting local businesses, providing the opportunities to grow, by encouraging people to buy local, supporting them with a platform to enable buying local, but also provide grants and funding.”

Jessie Joe Jacobs said, “Food and drink has often been described as the Cinderella of the North East economy. It employs extremely large numbers of people, enriches our lives in significant ways and adds to the cultural landscape in ways few other sectors do and yet is often overlooked and overshadowed.

“This needs to change. Coming back bigger and better after Covid means having a much stronger focus on food and drink and also on how we support local producers, manufacturers and businesses in more strategic ways. We also need to ensure we value those that work within the sector much more.”

Link to the Facebook Live:

A Civic Response to Coronavirus

It is clear that the impact of Coronavirus is going to hurt the Tees Valley in ways, that up until a month ago were thought unimaginable. The jobs losses and business closures will be unprecedented and the human cost and loss of life will be devastating.

Local, regional and national government must pull together, alongside our communities and civic society to ensure the survival of our local businesses and the protection of those most vulnerable. Last week I wrote to Rushi Sunack on behalf of business and workers asking for updates to the budget which many suggestions were implemented.

I have since been working tirelessly with business leaders and communities  over the last week to pull together ideas that could be implemented locally, which I have set out in a letter to the Mayor Ben Houchen – COVID-19 Response and his cabinet at the Combined authority.  Ultimately we need government action but that mustn’t stop us being responsive on the ground to need.

My team and I have now set up Teesside Community Action a civic society response to the coronavirus, offering advice, support and guidance around a rage of issues. We have begun a crisis fund for those most vulnerable.  I have also been in conversation with businesses and charities to develop efficient and safe ways that the public can support each other during this time such as the idea of a crisis helpline for the elderly who are not online.

The coronavirus is already having catastrophic impacts on the retail, leisure and service industry with jobs and businesses being lost by the hour.  Whilst we can only call on national government to address this urgently with financial measures and addressing flaws in the current welfare system, there are some measures we could take to support this industry locally during this period such as

  • Setting up an emergency Task Force and business support team for service industry
  • Investing in localised not-for-profit online platforms to facilitate trade, along the lines of the Just Eat model which could create trade for cafes and restaurants and help to secure the supply of food during the outbreak.
  • Easy access investment and support to local businesses for digital technologies that
    enable the provision of services at a distance.

A general business strategy, could include redirecting where possible, business support schemes into business continuity support – which could include the setting up an emergency business helpline and offering dedicated support and advice around

  • Creating business continuity and survival plans 
  • crisis loans, grants and tax payments
  • Looking after the workforce and advising on best practice
  • Managing a business during periods of disruption
  • Policies and business processes that can be adopted to enable teams to work remotely from home during periods of isolation

A Civic society strategy should be based on coordinating and redeploying as many resources and services as possible to deal with the crisis and providing a link between business, institutions and communities. There are many people wanting to look after people and play their role in protecting those most vulnerable, we must do this in a coordinated way and provide leadership and support to those people, organisations and groups.

We are no longer in a business as usual phase, this is unprecedented times needing unprecedented action

Fighting to Save our High Streets

Our high streets are turning into ghost towns but Mayoral candidate sets out her fight to save them.
Jessie Joe Jacobs is today launching her ambitious plans to revive struggling high streets across Tees Valley and deal with the empty shop scourge that is blighting our town centres.
In her fight to save our high streets, Jessie has pledged to set up a High Street Innovation Fund if elected as Mayor of Tees Valley. The initiative will be a catalyst for innovative ideas to spark new life into the high street. £1.5m from the Combined Authority’s budget will be set aside for local businesses and start-ups to fund their ideas for the hundreds of empty buildings that blight our high streets across the region. The fund will be led and held by high street stakeholders, local businesses and communities.Figures show that shops are closing at a worrying rate across Tees Valley with Debenhams and New Look recently closing their Stockton stores, creating worry and uncertainty among retailers and shoppers about the future of the high street. The North East suffers from the highest rates of empty shops throughout the whole country with 16% of shops across our high streets empty. This compares to just 9% in Greater London.
Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour’s candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, said:
“I grew up in a family who worked three generations on Stockton market, Jacobs hardware and leather, who eventually moved into carpets. I know that small businesses are the lifeblood of our town centres. It has been devastating to see the decline. For the last ten years I have worked on regeneration projects, sat on town centre teams, championed independent businesses, learned from other areas around the UK and Europe, and I know the high street can be saved.
“My Innovation Fund will kick start new ideas for the high street by giving innovators and entrepreneurs the funding and support they need to start new ventures and projects in our struggling town centres. Like this boxing club that we are launching my fund from, it has transformed this empty shop unit. I want to see many more ideas like this bringing new life to these empty buildings.

“I have listened to many stakeholders and businesses, who all agree, we need to change our strategy for high streets. We must focus on bringing in more independent businesses and community ventures to take our town centres in a new direction, alongside opening up buildings for residential and leisure. ”
“We need to tackle the systemic issues such as the red tape and high costs that stifles innovation. And most importantly, this work needs to be led by the businesses, communities and key stakeholders of the high street, themselves. It is about unlocking their ideas and ambitions that will see our town centres transformed”
Jessie’s strategy to transform our town centres will see her set up a High Street Task Force, if elected this May. The Task Force will include a dedicated High Street Tsar, to spearhead the transformation and support local authorities to share best practice and work closer together across the five boroughs of the Tees Valley. She will also set up a Business and Community Led Advisory Group to guide the work of the Task Force and hold her and the Combined Authority to account on delivering change.

Bringing Tees Transport into 21st Century

Jessie Joe Jacobs Tees Travel plans will bring public transport system into the 21st Century

Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour’s mayoral hopeful for Tees Valley, has announced her exciting plans to drastically overhaul and improve public transport in the region, putting buses centre stage of her plans.

Buses in Tees Valley are in dire need of a shake-up with figures revealing bus services are being reduced, journeys are down while fares continue to rise. Jessie’s ambitious proposals would look at options for the public to have more control over fares, time-tabling and routes as part of a London-style transport network.

Jessie’s vision for a Tees Travel integrated system would include revamping buses, increasing train journey numbers, introducing new stations and radically improving cycle-ways, bringing public transport in Teesside into the 21st century.

Setting out her plans in Hartlepool, with Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary and Middlesbrough MP, Andy McDonald, Jessie’s pledges for buses include: capping fares, more and better bus routes, as well as greener and cleaner buses and trains. The exploration of options for Britain’s first Hydrogen train being piloted here in the Tees Valley, is also on the cards.

Figures show that across the Tees Valley, bus usage is down across the region year on year, with Middlesbrough seeing the largest drop in bus journeys with a 2.6m decrease from 2009/2010 to 2017/18. Other figures from the Department for Transport also show that nationally, local bus fares in England increased by 71% between March 2005 and March 2018, with the average increase in fares higher than the average annual rate of inflation.

Jessie Joe Jacob’s, Labour’s candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, said:

“From Hartlepool to Guisborough, I’m told of bus services that have been dropped, leaving communities and particularly older people cut off and isolated. It has been a long and slow decline, at a time when we should be moving towards more and better public transport use in our efforts to reduce our climate impact.

“For too long Tees Valley has had to put up with second-class disjointed bus service. Big bus companies have been getting away with these cuts without any challenge from the current mayor.

“How can it be fair that you can spend £1.50 standard price to travel across London but in Tees Valley it can cost so much more to make even short journeys. Fares are going up at the same time as bud routes are being cut.

“The Tees Valley is falling further and further behind when it comes to public transport. While other Metro Mayors across the UK are pushing forward creating integrated, greener and more efficient bus networks. Now is the time to tackle this issue head on, which will start with having some bravery in standing up to the big bus companies. We need the mayor to use the powers we have and sort out this failing system once and for all.

“The current Tory Mayor is more interested in how long it takes people to fly to Alicante where I’m worried about making sure people can get to work and to the shops.

“My Tees Travel plans would revolutionise our public transport system, integrating buses, trains and cycle-ways making them fit for the 21st Century.”

Similar public transport schemes have been set up by Labour-controlled councils to great success in Nottingham, Reading and Blackpool. Labour-run Greater Manchester and Liverpool Combined Authorities are also in the process of looking at ways to re-regulate their bus network.

As Mayor, Jessie will commission a study on how to create an integrated bus, train and cycle-way system – looking at different options to re-regulate bus services locally and bring them more in-line a London-style network. After a thorough study and public consultation, Jessie will select the model which will best deliver for Teessiders.

Notes to editors:
· Bus services outside of London have struggled since the system was deregulated by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

· London has re-regulated its system, with typical profits for bus companies in the capital 3% but 19% in the North. According to an analysis by FAME, in the financial year 2015-2016, Cleveland Transit Ltd (Stagecoach) profits were 19.6%. If Cleveland Transit Ltd (Stagecoach) profit was cut from 13.0% (3.9m) to the London level of 3.8% (£1.1m) through an equivalently efficient management of franchising, the saving would be £2.4m per year.

· Passenger journeys by bus by Local Authority info

· Local bus fare increase info

As Britain’s billionaire count rises, our public servants are being forced into poverty

New analysis released today shows that 18,000 children in the North East with a parent working in the public sector are now living in poverty.

That’s a 37% rise, with some 4,000 more children falling into poverty since 2010.

So why is this happening? It’s simple. While the government has been handing out tax giveaways to large corporations, it has simultaneously been starving our public services of the funding they need. It has capped public sector pay rises year upon year and our public sector workers are facing the cost.

We all know the price of everything is going up, food, utilities, petrol, even a cinema ticket.  If we suppress wages while prices rise, it means pure and simple that people – and in this case children – will fall into poverty.

And when public servants are falling into poverty, we have a big problem.  These are our firefighters, our police call centre staff, our teaching support teams, our NHS workers.  They are the backbone of our country and if we can’t value them and give them the pay they deserve, then we really have to question who this country is working for?

The current government will say they don’t have the money, but we at the TUC argue that austerity and this devastating squeeze on our public services is a political choice. We have a government that is saying they won’t go near the salaries at the top, but seem happy to see wages fall for the rest of us.

In the same period that has seen rising poverty among our public servants, this country has made more billionaires than ever before. Taxation could favour the many and not the few but it doesn’t, our middle and lower income earners could be prioritised over those already earning millions but they aren’t.

And this government could finally wake up to the fact that all these cuts are not even working and are not kick-starting our economy the way they promised they would.

Our public sector workers deserve a pay rise and this week, as part of HeartUnions week, we are asking Philip Hammond to show public sector workers some love and give them the payrise they deserve.

(First Published by the TUC

Going Dry for January

If you are like me, Christmas is a time for a little overindulging; mince pies, cake, Christmas dinners and wine. I am not a big drinker but I do like to have a glass or two, at Christmas this might become three or four. Well, there’s no harm in that you may say, and you’re probably right; but, having ran an addiction charity for over ten years I am always conscious, at the back of my mind that alcohol is still a habit forming drug, and that to some in our community this habit can become very costly. This is one of the reasons why for the last few years, I have been going dry for January.

Alcohol addiction is one of the most subtle there is. A large number of British people drink, it’s socially accepted, readily available and quite enjoyable, but this is the exact reason why we can’t be complacent with our drinking. You see, it is very difficult to know when that social drinking, moves into risky or harmful drinking, or when an enjoyable few drinks with friends has become a habit and then worse, a full on physical addiction.

So how does social drinking become a problem? Well, it may begin with enjoying a few drinks to unwind, but then you find you can’t unwind without a few drinks, or you begin to feel you need alcohol to distress or cope with difficult situations. You become tense or depressed when you haven’t had a drink or when you drink, you find it hard to stop, sometimes putting yourself in vulnerable situations when under the influence. Is this sounding familiar?

If you are worried about your drinking, other questions to ask yourself are, have you begun to lie or feel ashamed about your drinking, is it affecting your relationships, do you regularly drink more than you intended? Agreeing with some or all of these could be a sign there’s something wrong. Many people think it is only when you need a drink on a morning, or feel a physical dependence that alcohol has become a problem, but these are usually the latest stages of alcoholism and by that point things have usually become much harder to bring back under control.

This is why dry January is great. There’s nothing better than a month sober to get on top of habit forming behaviours or highlight any possible problems. It is also really good for you. Dry January participants often report losing weight, sleeping better, having more energy or clearer skin plus financially they have more in their pocket (Which is always welcome after Christmas). Many people get sponsored for dry January too, raising funds for Alcohol Concern, the national charity dedicated to tackling the harm caused by alcohol to individuals, families and society. Most importantly it shows how life without alcohol is possible. So why not join me in the challenge? For more information see It could be the best thing you ever do!

Introducing RePublik… Politics down the pub

Where do you go to put the world to rights? For some of us it’s our local hairdressers, other’s it’s in the staffroom, or at our Dads house after Sunday lunch. For a few of us, it’s our local boozer. John Christie knows this only too well. Running The Golden Smog micro pub in Stockton he has heard his fair share of political discussion and has been looking at ways to turn that discussion into action.

He ran a ‘We Shall Overcome’ event, which used music, spoken word and comedy to raise awareness about the effects of government cuts on those most vulnerable. Since then, we connected around setting up “RePublik” a pub night where political debate is actively encouraged.

Teaming up with myself and Adam Parkin who from a young age has been interested in politics and more recently has been promoting all the good things that happen in Stockton through the online movement ‘I Love Stockton Me’, we started taking over Stockton venues and inviting Teessiders to join us in debating issues that matter to local people.

“RePublik gives people a chance to have a voice, to discuss the issues that are important to them in an environment that is safe and relaxed” says Adam.

John says “RePublik isn’t about party politics, it’s about people’s politics. Just because someone doesn’t vote or hasn’t joined a political party, it doesn’t mean they aren’t political. Sometimes people are disillusioned with it all. Other people have a lot to say but don’t have a forum to share these thoughts and ideas. RePublik is about giving people that chance, it’s about getting people out of the armchair and into the pub to discuss the things that matter”

After the success of ‘Question Time at the Bar’ a similar event that was held in Storytellers in the run up to the General Election, we hoped our event titled “SSI, Jobs and Enterprise” would be even more successful.

It was, we hosted a panel with blogger ‘Anna Maven – The SSI Wife’, whose powerful words have been read by thousands across the UK as she shared her heart about the steel factory closure and her fears for her and her husbands future; Rachel Lumsdon a local activist who has been at the heart of campaigning around industrial issues for many years and Chris Butler a director at Teesside charity ‘Five Lamps’ who has helped hundreds of people out of welfare and into self-employment.

The event was covered by BBC Panorama, BBC Tees and The Evening Gazettte and we had around 80 people in attendance.

We Shall Overcome


I’ve been reflecting on poverty this week. On Sunday I was at a music gig at Golden Smog micro-pub in Stockton. It was organised by the amazing landlord John Christie, as part of a national weekend of music events called “We Shall Overcome”. It’s aim was to make a political statement about the human cost of the current government’s funding cuts and welfare reforms, alongside raising funds for charity.

When I ran a women and young people’s charity, I saw first-hand the hidden poverty that exists in some of our communities. We gave out food to people who were destitute and without money. Our foodbank workers heard horrendous stories day after day, about helpless situations caused in part by the government cuts and welfare reforms. Elderly women sharing neighbours baths, children going without food, middle aged men deciding between heating or eating. People call it “Austerity”. I call it an atrocity.

I don’t think what’s happening is fair or just. For years Britain’s banking institutions (and those with a lot of money) gambled with hard working people’s money. They made reckless decisions and eventually it all came crashing down around them. The banks crashed and they lost billions and billions of pounds. Our government at the time had to come to the rescue (because it was mostly our money in them) and borrowed about £500billion to save them. Now a few years on, the bankers are back at work doing what they’ve always done, but it’s hard working people and those most vulnerable who are left paying the price. We’re losing tax credits, libraries, youth centres, pension payments, social workers, elderly care services, police officers, street wardens, sure start workers, children’s services and play schemes, just to pay a debt we didn’t create.

There are a whole load of people who think this is wrong. They don’t think it is right that everyday Brits should loose out and so “We shall Overcome” was one of the many activities and actions organised over the last few years to raise awareness about the issue of Austerity.

250 events took place all across the UK. Several thousand musicians performed.  Thousands and thousands of people came along. The event in Stockton was blinding, with poets, musicians, singers and comedians all lining up to offer their creative talent for free in aid of this brilliant cause. I was astounded at the talent I saw. A few of the highlights were Leah Maria, a young girl who had a voice as good as any X factor finalist, Josie Wallace, a quartet of Stand-up, a few brilliant bands, The poet Duggy Verill who had us all in hysterics with his base Boro humour and a solo guitarist called Mary Webb who’s hauntingly good voice had us all in awe.

In total, £1100 plus food and clothing was raised and as we sang together with pint in hand, we made our statement, saying to those most vulnerable, you’re not alone, we won’t turn away, we’re with you; this isn’t over, we shall overcome!

One teen death by suicide is one too many

I’ve noticed many of my friends Facebook posts over the last few weeks urging people to speak out about mental illness. I’ve wrote about campaigns about mental illness before, but I felt I couldn’t let Suicide Prevention week go by without speaking out about it.

I particularly wanted to speak about Teen suicide, one of the leading causes of death in that age group in the UK. It’s hard to imagine the extreme psychological pain that leads to someone deciding suicide is their only option. Teenagers have a lot to contend with, the world can at times be a harsh place. Bullying is rife within some of our schools, pressure to perform academically is great, being accepted and liked, is even greater and mental disorder can affect us all, at any time. Suicide is a tragedy and one teen death by suicide is one death too many. It is something I feel very, very strongly about.

I worked with children who were suicidal when I ran the charity, A Way Out. Some of our work at the time, focused on trying to keep them alive. Sometimes this was around harm minimisation, like getting the child to hospital quickly after a suicide attempt or ensuring they were in safe and secure accommodation where any medicines and sharp objects were out of reach. Other times it was about getting to the root issues, being a safe place for children to come and open up about how they were feeling and ensuring they got the right medical support and treatment to deal with those feelings. It wasn’t easy. I remember at times really praying they would be safe and that they wouldn’t die. I know there are young adults here today that maybe wouldn’t be, if it hadn’t been for our work. That’s a good feeling, but then I think about all the thousands of other children across the UK who will be feeling like ending their lives and I know the battle is continuous.
But what can we do? Well, the message of suicide prevention week was to “reach out”. Let’s look at how.
Firstly, reaching out to those who are vulnerable to suicide, lonely people, a child or friend who is being bullied or maybe someone who you know is depressed? Reaching out as a friend, asking them if they are ok and letting them know you care, can have a significant impact, as can listening and just being there.

Secondly, reaching out and connecting people to relevant services. Although support of friends and relatives is crucial, it’s not always enough. Often formal help is also needed. This maybe clinical, psychological or social. Make sure you link someone at risk to the specialist services that are available.

Thirdly reach out to those who have been bereaved by suicide. Suicide is devastating for families and they may experience a whole range of emotions, including grief, anger, guilt, disbelief and self-blame. Offer them a non-judgmental ear and an opportunity to talk about their loss. It may be a starting point for them to move through their grief.
Lastly, keep raising awareness, posting on Facebook and spreading the word. Suicide “is” preventable so let’s try and stand together to prevent other deaths in Teesside and beyond.

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