Despite Parliament no longer sitting, it has been an incredibly busy week here in Birmingham. My office team and I have been inundated with enquiries from constituents who remain stranded abroad because of the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. The Foreign Office have this week announced their plans to bring as many people home as possible. Airlines are working with the FCO to transport passengers on normal routes where they are open, and on new routes the Government intends to charter from countries where the routes are closed. Priority will be given to vulnerable passengers, those with underlying medical conditions, and the elderly. For more information, you can see the Government announcement here.
Our NHS staff, as I’ve said so many times before, are doing a fantastic job, but it is vital that all those who are working around the clock to keep our public services running are properly protected. Ensuring that they have access to adequate PPE is a crucial part of our collective fight against coronavirus, and this week I supported a letter from Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, to the Prime Minister, asking that all public service workers are provided with the necessary PPE. It is unthinkable that we should ask them to put their health on the line without adequate protection and it is therefore a moral imperative that the Government delivers sufficient PPE to those who need it.
This is particularly important in the West Midlands which, after another sharp rise in the number of coronavirus-related deaths, has emerged as a hotspot for transmissions of the virus. It is therefore incumbent upon as to act responsibly, to make no unnecessary trips and to keep our distance from others outside our household. I know people have really been making an effort to stick to the rules. We must ensure that we maintain this behaviour with travel outside the home limited to essential shopping, once for daily exercise, to meet medical or care needs, and for essential travel to and from work. You can find the full advice on social distancing here – please do check back every so often for updates.
There are so many key workers doing an amazing job during this crisis. But some of the unsung heroes of the pandemic have been the teachers and school staff who have kept their doors open for the children who cannot stay at home. Our teachers have worked to bring the classroom to students who are working remotely in their homes. It is, of course, disappointing that so many students who have worked hard will not have the opportunity to sit their final year assessments, but I’m sure schools, the Department of Education, and Ofqual will work together to ensure that grades assigned are fair and balanced. There are over 70 schools in the Birmingham Ladywood constituency, and they each play such an important role in supporting the foundations of our communities. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.
The community response continues to be fantastic in Ladywood. Ladywood Helpers are working with local charities, community projects, schools, and local churches to respond to need in the area – from emergency food parcels, prescription pick-ups, support and advice, or, importantly, a friendly phone call or text to check in. It’s great to see that social distancing is taking on a whole new meaning as communities work within the guidelines to ensure people still receive the support they need. Please do visit their website if you require help or are able to donate needed items or time.
I know that there are many businesses in Ladywood struggling during this time, including start-ups in our creative quarter and the hundreds of small businesses on our usually thriving high streets. The Government has put in place a number of measures to support small businesses during this difficult time, with statutory sick pay relief for small and medium sized businesses, a small business grant funding of £10,000 for all businesses in receipt of small business rate relief, grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. For more information on this support do visit the dedicated Government business pages here.
As ever, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0121 661 9440. My team and I are of course subject to many of the same challenges and restrictions as other families in Birmingham Ladywood at the minute, but we will do everything we can to help constituents in these difficult times.
Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!