Covid-19: Frequently Asked Questions

What are you doing to help?

A:

I am working hard to support every constituent who contacts me with problems or concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to ensure that the needs of our communities are represented to the government. I will be regularly updating my twitter feed here and my Facebook here with my latest actions locally and in Parliament. You can also find details of my work on the Covid-19 outbreak and any other issue here.

I am in contact with our local hospitals, councils, schools and voluntary organisations to help support their response.

Can you still help with my case?

A:

Yes – along with my team, I am continuing to make representations on behalf of constituents. You can contact me be emailing helen.hayes.mp@parliament.uk or calling 0208 244 7041. At this time, we have a great deal of additional work as a result of Covid-19, much of it urgent and time critical and we are having to prioritise these cases.  Please bear with us if we take a little longer than usual to respond on issues which are not time critical.

Unfortunately, I have had to make the difficult decision to cancel my regular constituency advice surgeries with immediate effect. I am operating a telephone advice surgery between 10:00am-11:30am on Fridays, for new cases only. If you have an existing case, please rest assured that I am continuing to work on your behalf and will update you as soon as I receive any responses. If you need to contact me in relation to an existing case, please email or call (as above).

I am elderly or in one of the extremely vulnerable groups and need additional support?

A:

I have been contacted by many elderly people and people who are particularly vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic. I am working hard to respond to everyone as quickly as possible, however I would encourage you to register for the Government’s coronavirus support scheme here. This will allow you to register for support with buying groceries, and for travel to essential appointments.

Southwark Council has set up a dedicated contact line for vulnerable residents which can be reached on 020 7527 5000 or by emailing covidsupport@southwark.gov.uk

Lambeth Council’s dedicated line can be reached on 020 7926 2999 and is open from 8am to 8pm or by signing up here

If you are in financial difficulty or in urgent need of food, please do contact me at helen.hayes.mp@parliament.uk or by calling 0207 219 6971, and I will do my best to refer you to local support.

What should I be doing to prevent the spread of the virus?

A:

Everyone is understandably concerned about the health of their friends and family at this time. It is crucial that we all continue to closely follow the guidance issued by Public Health England here in order to protect everyone who is vulnerable to Covid-19. As you will be aware, the Government has announced more stringent social distancing measures and has advised everyone to stay at home apart from:

  • Shopping for food, medicine and essential supplies, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise per day, for example a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of your household only
  • Medical appointments
  • Travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home

All non-essential businesses and schools have now been closed and Public Health England is clear that you should not visit friends and family outside of your household.

Can you help me return to the UK?

A:

The Foreign Secretary has now announced a repatriation effort to return British residents trapped abroad and I am pleased that some of my constituents have now been able to return home. However, I remain concerned about the continued lack of clear advice for residents in some parts of the world.  My team is working hard to ensure the Foreign Office responds to all of your cases and I have been calling on the Foreign Secretary to act with greater urgency.

The latest travel advice from the Foreign Office can be found here and you can find details of the British embassy to contact here

Please do contact me with your full contact details (including your address in the UK) and a precise location. I can then raise your case directly with the Foreign Office.

I have lost work due to the Covid-19 outbreak, what support is available for me?

A:

We are already seeing the catastrophic effects of the pandemic on our national and local economy. I welcome many of the urgent welfare reforms the Government has announced, but I believe they must be much more radical. Workers in the arts, in hospitality and service industries have already seen a drastic loss in income. The Government must provide them with financial stability in the form of temporary universal basic income.

If you are a PAYE employee, the Government has committed to paying 80% of your salary whilst on furlough. You should speak with your employer as soon as you can about this. If you have any difficulties with your employer or accessing the scheme please email me at helen.hayes.mp@parliament.uk

If you are self-employed, the Government has recently announced a grant scheme to provide 80% of income up to £2,500 month. You can learn more here. I welcome these measures but I remain concerned that there are some gaps which leave many constituents without support. I am continuing to raise these issues with the Treasury and will continue to call for loopholes to be addressed so that no worker is left without support. 

If you are unable to access these schemes, or awaiting payment through the self-employed scheme, the Government is advising you to apply for Universal Credit. I would encourage you to look at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau’s specialist guidance here. Despite vociferous opposition, there is still a completely unacceptable five week wait to receive Universal Credit so it is important to apply as soon as there are changes in your circumstances.

Please do get in touch if you have any problems with your applications to the DWP, and I will do my best to help.

The Government has also announced a package of reforms to support people at this time, including legislation to prevent evictions from the private rented sector and to prevent energy companies cutting off supply to households which fall behind on payments. Lambeth and Southwark Councils and housing associations will also halt evictions from social housing.

What is happening locally?

A:

Both Lambeth Council and Southwark Councils are working hard to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The councils have set up response teams and are collaborating with the local CCGs and hospitals to ensure our area is prepared.

It has been heartening to see the growth of mutual aid groups across the constituency to support our most vulnerable residents. Both councils are supporting mutual aid groups and will be helping to co-ordinate efforts locally.  It is very important that all community-based support is organised with a proper regard for the safeguarding of vulnerable residents.

You can volunteer with Lambeth Council here

You can volunteer with Southwark Council here

I would also encourage you to volunteer with the NHS volunteer scheme here. This scheme will connect approved volunteers to vulnerable people.

Our local foodbanks are also coordinating their emergency response to the crisis. If you are able to, I would encourage you to donate to local foodbanks to help vulnerable people locally.

You can volunteer and donate to the West Norwood and Brixton Food Bank here

You can volunteer and donate to the Southwark Food Bank here

Why have schools closed?

A:

The Government has now announced plans to close all schools in England from 20th March 2020. Due to the increasing number of teachers and students needing to self-isolate, I understand that it was becoming increasingly difficult for schools to remain open safely, and there were also concerns about children contracting Covid-19 from each other and then spreading it to more vulnerable family members. Some schools will remain open to provide childcare for essential key-workers including NHS staff, police, grocery store staff and carers, and for some vulnerable children. Full government guidance can be found here.

I am concerned about the impact this will have on students from low-income households who are eligible for free school meals. The Government has indicated they will be providing food vouchers and meals to these students but families need urgent clarity on how this will be delivered.

I also understand that this will have an impact on many parents’ ability to work, especially at a time when grandparents should not be relied upon for childcare. It is important that the Government guarantees the income of families by ending the five week wait for Universal Credit and intervening to prevent people from losing their jobs. The Government must also provide clarity for students waiting to sit their GCSEs and A-levels to allow them to plan for the next stage of their education next year.

This situation is making me feel anxious, and I need some mental health support?

A:

For many people, the next few months may be distressing and leave them feeling anxious and isolated. It is important to look after our mental health just as much as our physical health. This means planning for if you have to self-isolate and ensuring that you are able to stay connected with friends and family by phone or online.

Mind has published some very helpful advice on how to look after your mental wellbeing here.

YoungMinds also has some helpful guidance and contact details for mental health support here