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COVID-19

We will get through this, together.

I am liaising with all local authorities including Councils, Police and Public Health to understand how well we are organised and the extent of our local capacity to cope with this crisis too.

I am strongly representing the concerns of our community to Government.

Below are some resources around what the advice is, what support is available for you, and what I have been doing to represent your concerns.

Please get in touch with me either by filling out the form below or contacting me directly at matt.western.mp@parliament.uk if you have any further concerns and I will do my best to support.

 

You can see the Government's strategy here. Daily updates to this from the Government can be found here.

Fighting coronavirus is a national effort and I endorse the Prime Minister’s plea to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives. This lockdown is badly needed to prevent the spread of the virus, even if action should have been taken much earlier.

I am concerned by the Government’s decision to end community testing - against World Health Organisation (WHO) advice who are leading the global response to this pandemic - and its delay in adopting the important social distancing measures which have been mandated earlier in other countries. The WHO has insisted that countries need to ‘Test, test, test’.

We are also severely lacking personal protective equipment for frontline NHS workers who may come into contact with patients who have coronavirus. This is putting our NHS staff at risk and will spread the disease in our hospitals. We also need many more ventilators. I have spoken on these issues in Parliament and will continue to do so.

I believe there is more we can do to prevent the spread of this virus and I have been raising this in Parliament. You can keep up to date with my contributions in the House of Commons here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/search/MemberContributions?house=Commons&memberId=4617

The Government also needs to urgently ensure we are producing enough ventilators and have enough of the proper protective equipment for frontline staff dealing with this crisis in our hospitals and elsewhere. I have raised these issues in the House of Commons already and will continue to do so.


24/03

I have questioned the Government in Parliament, calling on  them to provide FFP3 masks instead of the less useful surgical masks, in line with what Doctors are telling me all the time.

The Health Sec responded to my saying he will speak to the Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty, to see if this would be a possibility.

Later, in the Government’s daily press briefing, Hancock said frontline workers will get all PPE that they need.

If the Health Secretary is serious about giving frontline workers everything they need to be protected whilst fighting this virus, they need more than surgical masks; they deserve the best masks available.

https://www.facebook.com/MattWesternMP/videos/520997088846001/ 

SPECIFIC SUPPORT AND ADVICE

I know many small businesses are deeply concerned about their ability to continue trading, due to the decrease in demand, combined with the fact that many employees will need to take time off over the coming weeks and will need to be paid sick pay.

Firstly, here are some key resources and contacts if you need specialist support locally and nationally:

The Government has recently made several announcements to support businesses during this difficult time.

Many businesses in the leisure and hospitality sector have been asked to close from Friday 20th March. The full guidance on this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/business-and-other-venues-subject-to-further-social-distancing-measures/businesses-and-other-venues-subject-to-further-social-distancing-measures

The following emergency support for businesses who are affected by the Coronavirus pandemic is available:

  • A Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme that will see retail banks offer loans of up to £5m to support SMEs, available from Monday 23rd March. The Government will cover the interest on these loans for the first twelve months.
    • More information is available here.
  • A Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be introduced, to prevent the need for job cuts. Any employer will be able to apply for a grant from HMRC, the grant will cover 80% of wages up to a limit of £2500 per month for those employees that are not working but are kept on the payroll. The payments will be backdated to 1st March and will be available for three months initially. The government is working to set up the mechanism to deliver this scheme as soon as possible and more information will be announced in due course. I will urge the Government to speed up this process. In the meantime, it is of vital importance that all businesses retain their workers until this scheme is up and running.
  • The next quarter of VAT will be deferred until the end of June. Businesses will have until the end of the financial year to pay.
  • Scaling up HMRC Time To Pay service, allowing businesses and the self-employed to defer tax payments over an agreed period of time.  The helpline for businesses in distress regarding their tax liabilities can be contacted on 0800 015 9559.
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) costs for businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be met by the Government in full for up to 14 days per employee. The Government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the SSP repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible. Existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP. I will be asking the Government to get this up and running as soon as possible as I know this is of urgency to small businesses in our area.
  • For those work for themselves: the next round of self-assessments payments will be deferred to January 2021 and the minimum income floor will be suspended so that the self-employed can access universal credit at the rate of Statutory Sick Pay.
  • 100% Business Rate holiday for all businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector for one year in 2020-21. Eligible pubs will also be entitled to a business rate discount of £5,000. Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to our local authority.

Cash grants worth:​

  • £25,000 to the smallest businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector.
  • £10,000 for all business in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) and Rural Rates Relief.
  • For large businesses that need £5mn or more, the Bank of England’s Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) may be of assistance.
    • Applications can be made at applications@bankofengland.co.uk.

The Association of British Insurers advises businesses to check their cover and to discuss concerns with brokers

For detailed guidance and answers to FAQs from The Confederation of British Industry click here..

If you are a business who needs any help or advice from the Government in relation to coronavirus, please use the following number:

Business Support Helpline (England)
Telephone: 0300 456 3565
Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm

In addition, the decisions announced by the Bank of England on interest rates mean that banks are in a better position to provide additional credit to smaller businesses.

Further emergency financial measures will be announced by the Chancellor as necessary. I will be holding the Government to account to ensure they meet the challenge that this virus presents to our local economy.

The Government has announced a Coronavirus Retention Scheme, which will enable HMRC to administer grants to cover 80% of the salaries of workers not working but “furloughed” and kept on the payroll rather than being laid off. The grant will be up to £2,500 per month per worker.

I welcomed this move, having called in the House of Commons for a similar package to be introduced last week. However, I do think it’s important to point out who is missing from the package, and ways in which it may not go far or fast enough.

Aside from the ambiguity in who is a qualifying worker, there is no guarantee that employers will top up the salary. The cap of £2,500 a month means many individuals will take a pay cut. There is no guarantee from employers that they’ll keep workers in work.

The Retention Scheme will be up and running “within weeks”, with the “aim to get it done before the end of April”. But many businesses are facing cash flow problems now. Even if the Scheme is backdated, it may come too late for workers at risk of being laid off in the coming days.

Please get in contact with your employer if you have any concerns about how this will be calculated for your situation and to ensure they register for the scheme.

I am pushing the Government to make this scheme automatic, because currently businesses have to sign up.

The Government have allowed self-employed people to access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay, which is currently £94.25. go to gov.uk/universal-credit to sign up.

Self-employed people may be eligible for a Business Interruption Loan. More information can be found here.

Self-assessment payments have been deferred to January 2021.

As the Health Secretary has admitted, £94 is not enough to live on. I'm calling on the Government to raise Sick Pay closer to the real living wage.


26/03

After representations from myself and colleagues, the Chancellor has today announced that self-employed people will be eligible for a grant of 80% of 3 months' average earnings, capped at £2,500 a month, based on your average profit over the past three years. Payment is expected in early June.

I welcome this move, but I am also urging the Government to bring this payment forward as soon as possible.

The Government has now announced that schools, colleges and early years settings (such as nurseries) will remain shut for an indefinite period. However, a skeleton service will remain in place for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

I support this action to protect children, staff and the wider public.

Assessments and exams will not be going ahead this year. I know pupils and parents will be concerned by the implications of this and I will seek clarity from the Government on this as these issues are considered in Parliament.

Parents will also need support to be able to look after their children, as they may withdraw from employment. I am urging the Government to clarify how they see this working.

The Government has urged up to 1.5 million people in England identified by the NHS as being at higher risk of severe illness if they contract coronavirus should stay at home to protect themselves.

They will receive communication shortly with detailed advice on behalf of their GP practice or specialist on how best to protect themselves.

Here is the advice from Age UK for how to best support older people.

If you or someone you know is extremely vulnerable, you can request assistance from the Government here.

I support all measures to protect those most vulnerable to this virus.

With other colleagues, I will be raising this urgently with Government to ensure that provisions are being put in place to support all members of our community.

I pay tribute to all key workers like the health staff working in our NHS who worked tirelessly to help deal with the virus.  They need to be protected and have priority testing.

I have spoken with our main local healthcare providers to ensure I can represent their concerns to the Government.

I am calling on ministers to ensure public services are provided with the resources to meet the requirements of the Coronavirus Action Plan. We know our NHS is under strain after 17,000 bed cuts, a prolonged funding squeeze and 100,000 staff shortages.

The Government have changed the law to extend an eviction notice to 3 months.

The Chancellor has also announced an increase to the Local Housing Allowance to support private renters with paying their rents.

I am calling, alongside the Labour Party, for the Government to act swiftly to stop all evictions and protect renters by ending the bedroom tax and the benefit cap.


27/03 

The Government have listened to concerns from me and others about renter evictions. They have changed its approach and is now introducing a FULL ban on evictions, giving much-needed protection for renters at this critical time. Shocking that people were being threatened with evictions during this lockdown.


25/03

I have had constituents get in contact with me to tell me they have received notices to leave their house just before the new legislation was adopted. This is simply shameful and heartless. If you are facing eviction during this crisis, please get in touch by using the form at the bottom of this page.

https://www.facebook.com/MattWesternMP/videos/639821209896788/

The Government have announced that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice. This is in addition to the change announced by the Prime Minister that SSP will be payable from day 1 instead of day 4 for affected individuals.

People who are advised to self-isolate for COVID-19 will be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor. This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence.

Those who are not eligible for SSP, for example the self-employed or people earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week, can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance:

Self-employed people will be able to claim a Statutory Sick Pay equivalent through Universal Credit.

People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre if they are advised to self-isolate

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating in line with advice from Day 1 of sickness, rather than Day 8.

While I welcome these steps taken by the Government, there unfortunately appear to be major problems, with nothing for those without a contract of employment, and no suggestion that sick pay levels will be increased.

Together with the rest of the Labour Party, I am calling on the government to:

  • Raise statutory sick pay in line with amounts in other European countries
  • Introduce rent payment deferment options and ban any evictions of tenants affected by the outbreak, which has since been announced by the Government
  • Reduce the wait time for first payment of Universal Credit down from five weeks
  • Support local authorities working with food banks in the purchase and distribution of food stocks

The Government advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice took effect immediately on 17 March and applies initially for 30 days.

British people travelling abroad are also advised to return to the UK now, if commercial flights are still available. International travel is becoming very limited as air routes close, land borders close and new restrictions are put in place that prevent flights from leaving.

If you, or someone you know, is stranded abroad then please get in touch with my office and we will try to follow up with the Government to get you home.

Many residents will want to receive compensation for travel which has already been planned. The current guidance is to contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers and get in touch with your insurance provider.

I will press the Government to provide assurances that everyone will be fairly compensated for the change in travel advice.

Further information on travel guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus


25/03

After repeated lobbying to the Foreign Office, I have now received this further update for those stranded in India:

The British High Commission in New Delhi has moved into crisis mode and has setup a dedicated email address for British nationals who wish to return urgently to the UK.

Email Conqry.Newdelhi@fco.gov.uk with your full name (and names of any family members), Date of Birth, passport number, visa status, date of arrival in India and you contact details.

The FCO also advises all British people in India to:

  • Check the latest FCO travel advice for India
  • Follow @FCOTravel and @UKinIndia on twitter, and UK in India on Facebook, if possible
  • Refer to the latest guidance for UK citizens travelling overseas during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
  • Stay up to date with and follow the latest restrictions by local authorities, including lockdown.

24/03

The Govt should repatriate all Britons abroad by requisitioning airlines.

Here's my question to the Foreign Secretary where I highlighted 2 residents' cases. I will continue to do all I can.

https://www.facebook.com/MattWesternMP/videos/662306424528777/

Contact Matt about your COVID-19 concern