There’s been some welcome news this week with the announcement of the extension to the Government’s furlough scheme, meaning that employees on a PAYE payroll on or before the 19 March 2020 can be furloughed and given 80% of their wage during this difficult time. I know that many of you have contacted my office worrying about falling between the cracks in the schemes the Chancellor has announced so I hope this will help – and of course I’ll keep doing whatever I can to raise these issues with the Treasury and get people the support they need.
This week I signed a letter to the Foreign Secretary on behalf of many of my constituents currently stranded in Bangladesh. I don’t underestimate the scale of the task in repatriating those citizens stranded abroad, but I remain seriously concerned at the large number of our constituents who remain unable to return to the UK. Many are elderly, vulnerable, and suffer from underlying health conditions. They are extremely concerned for their safety. An estimated 3000-6000 British nationals are in Bangladesh and many want to return home but have seen flights cancelled. There are currently no commercial flights available for British nationals to return to the UK, due to Bangladeshi Government restrictions. The Foreign Office needs to step in and charter flights to bring our citizens and constituents home.
I’ve also written this week to Birmingham universities and student accommodation providers in light of the coronavirus pandemic. I’ve received correspondence from concerned students that are still expected to pay outstanding charges for the Easter term. Since writing, a number of providers have announced that they would reduce or eliminate fees for students not returning for the Easter term, which is great to hear. It’s a difficult time for everyone, and I understand that providers will have their own financial concerns. However, with so many students these days funding their life at university through part-time jobs, mostly in the hospitality industry, with that income taken away they absolutely cannot afford rent for a property that they are not even able to live in.
Here in Birmingham, the City Council have launched an emergency community response hub to provide support to the most vulnerable people in our communities. This service will prioritise those most in need who have received a letter from NHS England stating that they are in a priority group, or those who are self-isolating and find themselves unable to rely on friends or family. These needs may relate to food supplies or even social contact – despite social distancing measures, no-one should be cut off from society altogether. A phone call at this time can make the world of difference to those who are having to stay indoors away from all their friends and family. More information on this service and how to access the support can be found here.
Tuesday will see Parliament return from the Easter recess – but with some changes to follow social distancing guidelines. Parliamentary authorities have proposed that around 120 MPs dial in via Zoom calls to ask questions – with a further 50 allowed to sit in the chamber. It’s important that we are able to debate and challenge the decisions the Government has taken and I’m really pleased that – like so many other employers at this time – the Parliamentary authorities are going to use technology to make sure we can all still do our jobs.
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.
Remember, keep sticking to the social distancing guidelines, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!