Things are moving incredibly quickly and I am doing everything possible to support those affected by this pandemic. We all have a role to play in helping our neighbours and friends through these difficult times. See below some of the areas I have been working on in the last few days to support local residents:
Getting stranded constituents home from abroad: Several Chester residents are stranded abroad, Peru seems to be a particular problem. We have been liaising with Foreign Office officials and we think ministers are close to agreeing rescue flights, which I am pushing for.
Self-Employed: the government’s support to pay 80% of wages is greatly welcome, but MPs are pushing for a similar package for sole traders and the self-employed, of which there are around 5300 in Chester alone. We hope for an announcement this week.
Rent support: Many constituents have also contacted me about support for renters, both in the private rented sector and in social housing. It has also been suggested that all evictions are banned during the crisis. MPs have been putting these issues to ministers and we hope for a statement on housing this week.
Business support: I have been working with other MPs to seek support for those businesses who might not be covered by government grants. Ministers are listening but we still need to fine tune the specifics to make sure the support gets everywhere it is needed.
Business Insurance: I am still hearing from constituents about insurance companies not paying out business continuity insurance using excuses such as “government advice is only guidance, not instructions to close” or “Covid-19 was not a notifiable disease at the time you took your insurance out.” This is not acceptable, I am pressing for clear instructions from the government and the insurance industry must play its part in the national effort.
Vulnerable workers: I am getting reports from constituents that they are being asked to come into work by employers despite being in a vulnerable category, such as having a depressed immune system. This is wholly unacceptable. I am contacting all such employers but this must stop and common sense and decency must prevail.
Protection for health workers: Front line NHS staff are telling me they do not have the necessary protective equipment (masks, coveralls etc.). The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, is aware of this and officials are bringing in a new ordering and logistics system to get what is needed to our doctors and nurses asap. This must be a priority.
Community Support: It is wonderful that there are so many individuals, church and community groups coming together to provide support to elderly and vulnerable neighbours. However in order to coordinate coverage and provide safeguarding (basically to stop con artists posing as volunteers and fleecing the vulnerable) we have set up with Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cheshire West Voluntary Action, a coordinating unit to facilitate and support these efforts and the people they are designed to serve. There are many different ways you could help in our community. Please sign up here:
All my staff are now working from home but we are all contactable via email, firstname.lastname@example.org so please continue to email me with any issues that I, Ministers and officials need to know about. I will do my best to get back to you as quickly as I can.
This week in parliament we will be passing emergency legislation to address the fallout of Covid-19. But let me echo the pleas for good sense: don’t panic buy, don’t go out unless it is necessary, if you are an employer, don’t make people come into work if they are vulnerable or if their partner is a frontline worker and they have children to look after. And follow official guidance. Don’t be daft, work together and we can beat this.