I want to start my column by saying thank you to all of the key workers who are working so hard during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, from the NHS workers at our hospitals and GP practices, to the care workers looking after thousands of people across the borough, our teachers, supermarket workers, street cleaners and many more, writes Helen Hayes.
For many of these key workers, access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and hand sanitiser is critical and I’m working flat out to raise this key issue with the government and to make sure that supplies reach the frontline.
This is an extremely difficult and anxious time, and since the start of the coronavirus pandemic more than a thousand residents have been in touch with me each week. I’ve been working hard to raise the concerns of constituents who have lost their jobs, or whose incomes are threatened at this time. Whilst the government has made steps to support many residents, there are still thousands who fall between the gaps, or suffer the failings of the Universal Credit system that Labour has pledged to abolish.
I’d also like thank everyone who is volunteering to help their neighbours out at this time, particularly those who are self-isolating or have been advised by the government to stay at home for the next twelve weeks because of their underlying health issues.
Southwark and Lambeth councils are working hard to support residents who need additional help, with many staff sick or self-isolating and my thanks also go to everyone working hard to keep our basic services going, whilst also ensuring support for the vulnerable and isolated.
This is a difficult and challenging time for us all, but the local response to this crisis is a reminder of the strength of our local communities. It is the care we have for each other which will get us through this crisis. But it is also clear that this dreadful pandemic has laid bare a series of weaknesses in our society – insecure and poorly paid work, a welfare and benefits system which is simply not fit for purpose, a National Health Service and social care system which are stretched to the limits and public services which are a breaking point as a result of a decade of austerity.
Once this crisis is over, we must seize the opportunity to rebuild our society to make sure that all those key workers on whom we are so reliant are properly valued and paid, our welfare system provides a real safety net for all who need it and our NHS, social care and all our public services are properly resourced. It is time to change the UK for good.