Helen challenges the Chancellor on the Coronavirus Job-Retention Scheme

I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement this week that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended to October, avoiding a dangerous income cliff-edge for many people.  However, there are still far too many people who are falling through gaps in the government’s support, both in relation to the Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Self-Employed Income Support. I am continuing to raise my concerns about the schemes with the Chancellor and to call for action to ensure that anyone who is at risk of financial hardship because of the pandemic receives the support they need to get by.

Yesterday I called on the Chancellor to ensure new starters who are currently ineligible for the furlough scheme because their employer had not yet notified the Inland Revenue of their employment can prove their employment and access the furlough scheme by presenting a signed contract of employment. It isn’t acceptable that anyone is denied support because of the timing of a change of job. 

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Coronavirus Update - 04 May 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic is having harrowing implications across the globe, affecting all communities. This week I met (virtually) with Refugee Rights Europe to discuss their work responding to the pandemic in refugee camps in northern France and Greece. It is deeply concerned to hear about the harrowing conditions many refugees are experiencing. Large numbers, including unaccompanied children and pregnant women, are being forced to continue to sleep rough on the edges of Calais and Dunkirk in northern France with no access to basic sanitation including handwashing facilities. Camps are increasingly overcrowded making physical distancing impossible, and refugees and relief workers are terrified at the prospect of the Covid-19 virus spreading rapidly.

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Domestic Abuse Bill - Second Reading

Today, the House of Commons debated the second reading of the Domestic Abuse bill. This is an incredibly important piece of legislation, which will make vital steps forward in strengthening support for the victims and survivors of domestic abuse. I support the principle of this bill and its provisions, but it is important that it is scrutinised closely and that every detail is right, in order to provide the strongest possible set of protections. To this effect, Labour will be seeking amendments to the Bill during its committee stage in Parliament.

Crucially, I believe that the Bill must ensure survivors of domestic abuse have easier access to social housing. There is a clear link between domestic abuse and homelessness. In 2018/19, an estimated 23,430 families who were at risk of homelessness has experienced domestic violence. I regularly support abuse survivors attempting to flee to safety who are unable to due to difficulties accessing safe and secure housing. You can see my intervention in an earlier reading of the bill below.

I also fully support my colleague Harriet Harman’s cross-party campaign to end the use of the ‘rough sex’ defence. No perpetrator of violent attacks or murder should be able to blame their victim or use their victim’s sexuality as a defence in court. I am pleased that as a result of this campaign, the Home Office has also committed to a review of the ‘rough sex’ defence.

I am very concerned to see an increase in reports of domestic abuse during the Coronavirus lockdown. Labour is calling for emergency aid for shelters and services to maintain their provision throughout the current crisis. If you feel that you are at risk of domestic abuse at this time, it is important to seek help when it is safe to do so.

Advice from Women’s Aid on how to seek help can be found here: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwqJ_1BRBZEiwAv73uwDNCTb-Lw5lPe9kL7Q7xvHHfvozCAwgC8VrAoeoi3tCxZH3MCPpeABoClkIQAvD_BwE

If you are living in Lambeth you can contact the Gaia Centre on 020 7733 8724.

If you are living in Southwark you can contact the Southwark Advocacy and Support Services on 020 7539 1290

In an emergency you should always call 999.

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Helen visits West Norwood and Brixton Food Bank

Yesterday, I visited the distribution warehouse for the Norwood and Brixton food bank.  The team of staff and volunteers are working exceptionally hard to support people who are struggling to afford the essentials at this very difficult time, and they are distributing more food than ever – around as much in just two days as they would usually distribute in a whole week.

The physical foodbank locations in Brixton and West Norwood are currently closed, but the foodbank is delivering parcels of food and other essentials to residents who are facing financial hardship caused by the pandemic or other reasons.

There is an urgent need for donations, especially of UHT Milk, tinned vegetables, tinned puddings and custard, toilet roll and reusable bags. Financial donations enable the foodbank to source supplies directly from suppliers, and are also hugely appreciated.  You can learn more about where to drop off donations of food and how to give financially here: https://norwoodbrixton.foodbank.org.uk/

You can also donate to the Southwark Food Bank here: https://southwark.foodbank.org.uk/

Please donate if you can. Any support you can offer will go straight to provide a lifeline for residents in desperate need.

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Coronavirus Update - PPE

On Sunday, the Government confirmed that an urgently needed shipment of PPE equipment scheduled for today had been delayed in Turkey, and two days later we still do not know when it will arrive. Our NHS staff and social care workers have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic heroically, but are being consistently left without the vital equipment they need. It is shameful that the Government has revised NHS guidelines to ask staff to resort to aprons and to work without full-length protective clothing. The fact that this change to the guidelines has been made only in England, but not in Scotland or Wales where serious shortages of PPE are not reported, indicates that it has been made in response to the shortage, and that is of grave concern. No nurse, doctor, carer or any other key worker should be left feeling unsafe and unprotected whilst working to save lives or deliver essential services. 


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Coronavirus Update - Employment Support

It is already clear that the Covid-19 pandemic is having a devasting impact on our economy and the livelihoods of people across our country. Yesterday’s forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility outlined a scenario where GDP would fall by 35% and unemployment could rise to a staggering 2 million people. Across Dulwich and West Norwood residents have been going to extraordinary lengths to act responsibly, maintain social distancing and support our vulnerable neighbours.  There have been many personal sacrifices, and many families are suffering loss of income and other hardships.  

Despite the announcement of government support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, there is evidence that some people are falling through the gaps. I have been working hard to raise these issues directly with the Chancellor and other Government Ministers. 

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Coronavirus Update - 09 April 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to have devastating impacts on our communities. This week I have been working to call on the Government to increase access to testing and PPE for frontline staff, to address the serious gaps in the support for PAYE workers and the self-employed, and to act to prevent the virus spreading rapidly through government-funded accommodation for asylum seekers.

The daily increase in hospital admissions and deaths means it’s more important than every to continue to follow Government guidance and stay at home except to shop for food or collect medicine or for exercise once a day, unless you are a keyworker. I hope you will all join me tonight to #ClapForOurCarers and thank the hardworking staff in our NHS, social care, supermarkets, schools, delivery drivers and everyone else working tirelessly to respond to the pandemic.

The Bank Holiday weekend will be a time when many of us miss our usual hobbies and routines and time together with extended family and friends.  I’ve pulled together some free resources for adults and children to help keep busy and well whilst at home this weekend and throughout the lockdown. 

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Covid-19 (Coronavirus) - Update 03rd April 2020

I am continuing to work hard to support residents affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and to raise the concerns of my constituents in Dulwich and West Norwood. Since my last update, the Government has announced a lockdown to restrict the spread of the virus. It is crucial that we all continue to follow the advice of Public Health England and stay at home unless:

  • Shopping for basic necessities infrequently
  • One form of exercise a day
  • Attending medical appointments or to care for a vulnerable person
  • Travelling for work, but only where you cannot work from home

If you need to travel, the Mayor of London has announced a reduction in Transport for London services to manage staff sickness whilst maintaining service for key workers responding to the crisis. Wherever possible you should travel outside of rush hour to prevent overcrowding on platforms and to allow safe social distancing.

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Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Update - 20th March 2020

The coming months will an incredibly challenging time for all of our communities. The Covid-19 pandemic poses health risks to people across Dulwich and West Norwood, and staggering problems for our economy. I have been contacted by many residents who are already experiencing difficulties and I wanted to set out the actions I am taking and the most up to date information I have on all of the issues that the pandemic presents.

It is incredibly important to continue to closely follow the advice issued by Public Health England. This is a very fast-moving situation and the advice is subject to constant review. I have published a full FAQ on my website which can be viewed here. I will be updating this regularly with the most recent information.

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Helen calls on the Government to support King's College Hospital prepare for the coronavirus

Coronavirus has the potential to cause unprecedented additional pressures on our NHS.  King’s College Hospital in my constituency has the highest level of debt of any NHS trust in the country and I have long been campaigning for the government to provide the funding and resources King’s needs. The staff at King’s work tirelessly all year round, but will undoubtedly face an incredibly challenging period in the months ahead. It is now of vital importance that the government provides the funding for the testing, care and treatment that King’s has to provide as a result of coronavirus.  I asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to ensure that King’s has the funding it needs.

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