Statement on national lockdown - January 2021

Yesterday, Parliament voted to confirm the new lockdown regulations. Unfortunately, the debate ended before I was able to speak, but I am in no doubt that these new measures are necessary. In London we have seen the rapid rise in cases in December sadly translate into increasing hospitalisation and deaths. It is imperative that we all follow the restrictions, which you can see in the image below, and urgently suppress the spread of the virus.

I am deeply disappointed that the Government has wasted the past nine months and have not prepared for the widely expected winter surge. We have seen decisions taken far too late creating confusion and distress for people across Dulwich and West Norwood. In the past six weeks, London has gone from national lockdown, Tiers 2, 3 and 4 and now returning to national restrictions. The Government now must drastically increase the speed of the vaccine roll out and get a grip on this virus.

I am in regular contact with King’s College Hospital and our local health care providers. Staff across our NHS are continuing to work relentless hard in exceptionally challenging circumstances, and my heartfelt gratitude goes to every single one of them. Due to the surging numbers of serious cases of Covid-19 and increasing numbers of staff needing to self-isolate, local services are incredibly stretched. I know many residents will be concerned about reports that non-covid services including cancer surgery have been disrupted. Such decisions are only taken as an absolute last resort and are the clearest illustration of why these new restrictions are needed. If you are in need of care please call 111 or your local GP for advice and only attend A&E in an emergency.

The new lockdown is very hard, and will be devastating for many residents’ livelihoods. I am continuing to call on the Government to close the gaps in financial support and provide businesses with what they need to survive. I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of some business support, but this did not mention the millions of employees and self-employed people who will be impact by the new restrictions. The Government must ensure these groups are supported and extend the £20 uplift in Universal Credit which is currently due to end in March.  It is also completely unacceptable that the government is refusing to reinstate the ‘Everyone In’ programme of emergency accommodation for rough sleepers at a time when both the weather and the risks of coronavirus are much worse than they were during the first lockdown when this scheme was introduced; or extend the eviction ban currently due to end on 11th January.

I also know that the closure of schools will have a severe impact on the education and wellbeing of children and young people across Dulwich and West Norwood. Although, I agree that this closure is sadly necessary, the Government’s last minute announcement gave teachers no time to prepare for remote learning and left many working parents unable to make childcare arrangements. I am deeply concerned that children across our area have still not been provided with the laptop devices and broadband services they need to access learning from home, and that the Government is continuing to refuse to reimburse local schools for their costs. I am in contact with local headteachers and I will be following up on their concerns with the Department for Education.

As the mass roll out of vaccines is getting underway, we can now begin to see a way through this crisis. However, the threat from Covid-19 to our health and to the NHS remains very real. It is important that we all continue to follow the restrictions to relieve pressure on the NHS and save lives whilst the vaccination programme is rolled out.

Please keep safe at this difficult time. Along with my small team, I am working hard to support everyone in my constituency who needs help.  Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to support you.  I am still receiving an exceptionally high level of correspondence, so please bear with me and my small team as we work hard to get back to everyone as quickly as possible. 

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Helen writes to the Secretary of State for Education on the reopening of schools in Lambeth

As MPs representing London boroughs excluded from the delayed primary schools return we’ve written to the Education Secretary to ask him to explain the decision & think again.

It makes no sense to schools or parents for Southwark schools to be delayed but not Lambeth or Lewisham

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Statement on the EU-UK Trade Deal

Today the House of Commons has been given just five hours to debate and scrutinise the trade deal that Boris Johnson has negotiated with the EU and the implementation legislation.  Fewer than one in ten MPs have had the opportunity to speak in the debate on legislation which will have profound implications for our economy and national life for years, if not decades to come.  I was not successful in the ballot to speak in the debate, so I have published the speech that I would have given here, setting out why I cannot support the bill and have therefore chosen to abstain.

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Norwood and Brixton Food Bank

This Christmas will be especially difficult for hundreds of families in our area who have seen their income drop due to coronavirus and are struggling to make ends meet. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, food poverty was rising in the UK, a shameful fact in one of the richest countries in the world. 

We need major changes in government policy to put an end to food poverty, policies which ensure that people are paid a real living wage, and that meaningful support is there for everyone who needs it.  I will keep campaigning in Parliament for this change.  But in the meantime I am so grateful for the tireless work of the staff and volunteers at Norwood and Brixton food bank.

This Christmas they are busier than ever, currently delivering hundreds of food parcels each week to people who need extra help, and doing so with real love and care. Please help our local foodbanks ensure that no-one in our communities has to go hungry this Christmas.  You can give £5, £10 or £20 by texting DINNER (eg to give £10 text DINNER10) to 70085.  More details are at the end of my short film.  Thank you!

 

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Coronavirus Update - 21.12

On Saturday, Boris Johnson announced at the last minute that London would be moved into the new Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions and that planned household mixing over Christmas will be cancelled for Londoners. This will be a devastating blow for local businesses who have only just reopened, and for families across our constituency who were looking forward to reuniting after this difficult year. You can see the full rules below.

The spread of the new more infectious strain of Covid-19 is extremely worrying and it is important that we all follow the new rules and do whatever we can to stop its rapid spread across our communities. However, it is also clear that Boris Johnson and the Tories have once again waited far too long to act, let the virus spread out of control and caused chaos and distress for thousands of families and small businesses who were left with plans in disarray and no time to adjust. Only last week the Government dismissed legitimate concerns about the safety of the planned Christmas easing as inhumane, and many families will have made travel plans and other arrangements on this basis.

At the end of this extraordinarily difficult year, I know how much so many people were looking forward to the comfort of time with family and friends.  By acting far too late, Boris Johnson is compounding the pain of the coronavirus pandemic, promising one thing, but then ripping up long-made plans at the last minute. The Prime Minister must show some leadership, be honest with the country and stop leaving the difficult decisions until it is too late.

Wherever you are, please keep yourself and others safe, have a Happy Christmas and a peaceful and healthy New Year.

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Coronavirus Update - 15.12

Over the past week, London has seen a rapid rise in coronavirus cases. I have been in regular contact with our local NHS and public health teams and Ministers and I am in no doubt that the increase in infections is very worrying, and demands an additional response. New infections sadly will inevitably translate to further hospitalisation and deaths. It is vital that we all continue to do whatever possible to limit the spread of the virus as we wait for the vaccine to be rolled out.

Yesterday the Government announced that London will be entering Tier 3 restrictions from midnight tonight.  This means that from tomorrow, Wednesday 16 December:

  • You cannot mix indoors, in private gardens or in most outdoor venues, except with your household or bubble
  • You should work from home if possible
  • You can meet in a group of up to six in other outdoor spaces, such as parks, beaches or countryside
  • Shops, gyms and personal care services (such as hairdressing) can stay open
  • Bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must stay closed, except for delivery and takeaway
  • Indoor entertainment venues - such as bowling alleys and cinemas - must stay closed
  • People are advised not to travel to and from tier three areas

Whilst I know that these restrictions are needed, this will be devastating news for many businesses and families across Dulwich and West Norwood. I remain deeply concerned about the lack of financial support for businesses unable to open, particularly pubs, restaurants and performance venues, whilst far too many people remain excluded from Government support schemes. The Government must urgently act to close these gaps in support and as I did yesterday, I will continue to call for much more support.

The previously announced relaxation of restrictions over the Christmas period for five days from 23 December will remain.  I know how much the ability to be together with family and friends at Christmas means to people, particularly after the sacrifices of the past nine months, but as the virus is still so widespread and cases are increasing, it is so important that everyone remains cautious and vigilant about the risk of spreading the virus to your loved ones over the Christmas holiday period when you are making plans.

Please keep safe at this difficult time. Along with my small team, I am working hard to support everyone in my constituency who needs help.  Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to support you.  I am still receiving an exceptionally high level of correspondence, so please bear with me and my small team as we work hard to get back to everyone as quickly as possible. 

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Statement on Covid-19 - December 2020

Yesterday, Parliament voted to approve the regulations for the revised Tier system of restrictions starting from today. This places London in Tier 2 meaning that pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops can reopen but on a strictly Covid-safe basis with some restrictions. The rule of six applies to meeting with people from other households outdoors, but household mixing indoors continues to be banned.

Today brings the fantastic news that the first of the coronavirus vaccines has been confirmed to be safe, has been approved for use in the UK and will start to be rolled out from next week, though it will take several months for the vaccine to be available to everyone.  In the meantime the level of coronavirus in our community remains high, thousands of people are being diagnosed and several hundred people are still losing their lives to this dreadful disease every day and we must keep doing everything possible to reduce the spread and protect each other while we wait to be vaccinated. 

Throughout the pandemic, I have been in regular contact with King’s College Hospital and I pay tribute to the hard work of staff. Allowing the virus to spread uncontrolled would quickly overwhelm our NHS. As well as deaths from Covid-19, this would mean impossible demands on staff who have already been through so much this year, and lead to chaos in essential services like A+E and cancer treatment.  For these reasons, I have no doubt that continued restrictions are necessary for the time being.

 

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Helen writes to the Home Office ahead of return flight to Jamaica on December 2nd

Many of my constituents have contacted me to express their concern about the Government’s planned return flight of 50 people to Jamaica. I am alarmed that the Government is pushing ahead with deportation flights when they have still failed to implement the recommendations of the Windrush Lessons Learned review in full. Many of the people who are booked on this flight have lived in the UK since childhood and do not have any family or connections in Jamaica, and more than half have children in the UK.  Previous deportation flights have included Windrush citizens and people whose cases are still going through the judicial process.  Until the Lessons Learned Review has been implemented in full, there is a serious risk that further injustice will be done. I have written on behalf of my constituents to the Home Secretary to urge her to cancel this flight >>

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Helen calls on the Foreign Secretary to act in support of the #EndSARS protests

The brutal repression of peaceful protestors in Nigeria is horrific and unacceptable. Independent observers have documented the violent actions of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protestors’ call for the abolition of SARS officers, an independent investigation into their use of torture, and for wider reform in Nigeria must be heard. I have written to the Foreign Secretary and you can see my letter below:

 

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Cineworld and Picturehouse Cinemas and furlough scheme

In October, Cineworld announced that all of its Picturehouse cinemas, including three sites in Dulwich and West Norwood, were to close indefinitely. Staff were offered an impossible choice between redundancy or unpaid leave whilst others resigned in order to be able to reclaim unpaid holiday leave. This left them facing months without pay or looking for a new job in the middle of a further lockdown. I wrote to Cineworld at the time to oppose this decision and have been in regular contact with unions representing staff. I am dismayed to hear that, whilst staff on unpaid leave will be furloughed, Cineworld is refusing to rehire & furlough staff who were made redundant prior to the extension of the furlough scheme denying them vital support. I have written again to the Chief Executive of Cineworld to urge him to reconsider >>

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