This is the first week of the easing of lockdown restrictions and it’s been good to see people getting out a bit more and feeling a little bit more relaxed. However, it’s so important that we are still careful and limit our contact with those from outside our homes – remaining 2-metres apart from anyone else – and continuing to wash our hands thoroughly and often. Although we in England are able to travel for exercise, the restrictions are different in the devolved nations and it’s important to note that should you travel into Wales there is a strong likelihood that you will be fined.
I have been contacted by a number of constituents in recent weeks over the failure of insurance companies to pay out on claims made on business interruption insurance. Following some unsatisfactory responses to written questions I submitted, I wrote to the Chancellor to ask him what the Treasury are doing to ensure that insurance companies pay out fairly and promptly to those businesses who did take out such policies. It is unacceptable that businesses who have taken out business interruption policies are having to go to court or speak to the Financial Services Ombudsman in order to receive the payouts to which they are entitled – particularly at what may be a financially precarious time for many businesses. Do get in touch if this is a problem for you and I’ll keep the pressure on the Government and the insurance companies to make sure you get what you’re entitled to.
A number of my written questions have been answered this week, among them information on what the Treasury is doing to support museums and galleries during this time. Amid news this week that Shakespeare’s Globe in London is feeling fearful for its future, I am concerned about the less well-known but equally important regional cultural institutions. The Government reiterated its financial packages which offer support including the 12-month business rates holiday, the job retention scheme, and the various loan schemes available. I understand as well that the Arts Council England and the Lottery Heritage Fund have grants that institutions are able to apply for.
This Thursday was Thank A Teacher Day, and I’d like to extend my thanks to all the hard-working teachers across Birmingham Ladywood. Despite what some of the media would have us all believe, our teachers have continued to work incredibly hard during this crisis, with many remaining in school to teach and look after the children of key workers and vulnerable children, and many continuing to prepare materials for pupils to continue their studies during the pandemic lockdown. For many teachers, this has also been a very difficult time, separated from their students and not being able to support them through this pandemic face-to-face. We will not forget how you’ve continued to support our children through this.
I’ve been deeply alarmed for some time about the disproportionate effect this pandemic has had on BAME communities. This week, I wrote to Dr Justin Varney, the Director of Public Health, about the impact of the easing of lockdown restrictions on multi-generational families in Birmingham Ladywood. We have a high proportion of families, predominantly of south-Asian descent, who live with elderly relatives, sometimes in overcrowded conditions. I am concerned that some of these families will be put at greater risk as the lockdown is eased. I’ve also asked what steps Birmingham City Council could take to address these vulnerabilities as we start to transition out of the lockdown.
May I also take this opportunity to wish those ending their fasts this weekend Eid Mubarak. I understand from my own personal experience that for many in Ladywood and across the country, observing Ramadan in lockdown while distancing ourselves from our loved ones and community has been a difficult journey. Though many of us will be eager to share this important day with extended family and friends, it is still incredibly important that we do so in a way that respects rules around social distancing. One of the best gifts we can give to those closest to us is to protect their health and that of the vulnerable in our communities. I hope everyone enjoys their own unique celebrations to mark Eid al-Fitr.
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!