Over the past few weeks, I have received a significant amount of correspondence from constituents who have been rightly outraged by the appalling murder of George Floyd at the hands of US law enforcement, writes Florence Eshalomi AM…
Tied into this, there has also been an outpouring of grief and anger towards other pressing issues such as the tragic death of transport worker, Belly Mujinga, and the way the government has dealt with the publication of Public Health England’s report into the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people from BAME backgrounds.
Let’s be clear: the spectre of racism which haunts our society in both its overt and systemic forms is the common denominator underpinning all of these issues. Whether it’s the underlying factors that have put the lives of BAME people at the highest risk during this pandemic, such as overcrowding, poverty and low pay, or the disproportionate number of black boys and men being stopped and searched- we are well too aware of the challenges that we need to overcome in the continuing fight for equality.
This is why action and pragmatism should not be sacrificed in the face of endless reviews and commissions, which despite the best of intentions, can lead to the can being kicked further down the road.
Last month, the government struck a bailout deal with Transport for London (TfL), after an unprecedented drop in their revenue due to the Covid-19 outbreak. As part of the bailout, the government imposed a number of punitive conditions. This includes the suspension of the older persons’ Freedom Pass and 60+ London Oyster photocard concessions during the morning peak and the removal of free under eighteens’ travel.
With the finances of many Londoners being hit hard by the global pandemic, and the thousands of households in London falling below the pensioner and child poverty line, this is a callous and nonsensical move by the government.
When I met with Southwark Pensioners Centre last year, many of the service users highlighted the importance of the Freedom Pass in helping them to maintain their independence. Please be assured that I will continue to fight for these travel concessions to be fully reinstated as a matter of urgency.
Finally, as lockdown measures slowly begin to ease, I would like to thank Southwark residents for all their efforts in following social distancing guidelines and looking out for each other and particularly the most vulnerable in the community.
As always, I would like to express my gratitude to our key and essential workers, who continue to put themselves at risk day-in, day-out, especially the teachers who have returned to the classroom. Let’s continue to stand up for their right to safe and fair working conditions.