I am still getting a lot of messages and phone calls from residents concerned about their finances, especially from those struggling with Universal Credit.
Ed Davey is working to get more support for people who are already on UC or are trying to get onto it now that they don't have work. Yesterday he made this statement:
"With more and more people needing to apply to universal credit, we must ensure all who are eligible and need support are getting it - and quickly. A five week wait has always been too slow and frankly unacceptable. That is why Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Government to turn day-one Universal Credit loans into grants immediately and guarantee anyone who is laid off receives at least 20 days of full pay, starting now."
I am supporting Sir Ed in this endeavour and we are still hoping for more support from the government in this area.
I have also heard from a number of constituents about price-gouging on reseller sites. The sky high prices being charged by some sellers has been appalling. In response, eBay UK has announced it is to "heavily restrict the sale of all masks and hand sanitiser products from its platform. Unscrupulous sellers attempting to sell these items will find their listings blocked or removed and their account suspended. Only a whitelist of closely vetted eBay sellers will be permitted to continue trading these items."
The other major issue that I am hearing from a lot of constituents about is housing. Evictions have been halted, so renters can feel safe in their homes, but many social housing tenants still have concerns. I have received letters from a number of housing bodies and have the following updates to share:
"Customers can still continue to use our on-line services, including our help and advice, and paying rent. However, as the emergency repairs service has kicked in, the opportunity to book repairs on the website has been suspended. We are seeing an increase in queries from customers, concerned about maintaining rent payments, and our finance colleagues are offering significant support to these enquiries."
London & Quadrant (L&Q) Update
"We have established a crisis response team and developed a pandemic plan to help us deal with the health and business threats caused by coronavirus. We are constantly reviewing how service delivery will be adapted if our staffing levels or resident health are severely impacted and are putting measures in place to ensure that emergency, business critical and health and safety related functions are maintained.
"We will not take legal action for arrears at this time, but we are reminding people that they should continue to pay their rent as normal because it helps to fund essential frontline services. We have instructed our specialist income teams to support customers who may be struggling to pay their rent by putting personal payment plans in place if needed, and providing enhanced support for those affected by coronavirus."
Home Group Update
Home Group have sent word that they "remain committed to providing the services that our customers expect from us. We have business continuity plans in place for everything we do and a team has been working for some time now planning how best to overcome issues that events like the COVID-19 virus can cause.
"We appreciate needs can change with illness and that some of our customers, especially those over 70 or those in our care services, may need more help than usual. If this happens, we will continue with our person-centered approach and do what’s right for our customers in line with their needs and requirements.
"There has been an understandable focus on what happens in regard to those customers who may well be experiencing financial difficulties and struggling to pay the rent. No customer will lose their home as a result of the Coronavirus. We are encouraging any customers who are concerned about their ability to pay their rent to get in touch with our team. We have specialists within the business who can help to make appropriate payment plans and support our customers’ questions around their finances.
"We have also made additional funds available for those customers who let us know that they find themselves in extreme hardship and are struggling with essentials like food."
I have also had updates from Transport for London today, who are happy to report that number of people using public transport has dropped considerably this week. This helps keep our essential workers safe on their journeys to work. TfL also sent word that:
"Nearly a third of TfL’s staff are now off sick or self-isolating – including train drivers and crucial control centre staff. Many of them have years of safety-critical training in order to run specific lines – so it is simply not possible to replace them with others.
"People should not use public transport unless absolutely necessary. Those who are key workers (should know that) the busiest times are 05:45-07:30 and 16:00-17:30. If possible they may want to avoid travelling at these times."
TfL have also announced that the Congestion Charge, Ultra Low Emission Zone and Low Emission Zone are suspended, to support critical workers getting to their jobs. And all NHS staff are to be given free access to Santander Cycles.
LONDON AMBULANCE UPDATE
London Ambulance has also been in touch to ask me to relay information to residents. They are saying:
"A significant proportion of calls we are seeing come into our 999 and 111 control centres are from people that could have used nhs.uk/coronavirus. Londoners who are more vulnerable and may not have access to the internet are struggling to get through to our life-saving assistance as a result. Please try to visit nhs.uk/coronavirus rather than calling 111 and to only call 999 in a genuine life-threatening emergency.
London Ambulance has launched a national recruitment drive, calling on former London Ambulance Service staff or other trained ambulance workers to get in touch if they're able to help. They are also putting out a call asking for voluntary assistance from trained auto mechanics to help keep their ambulances on the road. They would especially appreciate mechanics with experience working with Mercedes and Volkswagen vehicles.
RICHMOND REFUSE AND RECYCLING
The Council has had to close the Townmead Road Refuse and Recycling Centre in Kew. Please keep your uncollectable refuse on your property until Townmead Road can be reopened, and do not leave these items out to be collected with your regular rubbish.
The Council plans to continue with weekly household collections, but are asking residents to please not use their isolation as an opportunity for a big decluttering and thus leave unusual amounts to be collected.
Also, if everyone could be careful to ensure their rubbish containers are tightly secured and avoid littering, we can reduce the workload of our collectors and street cleansers so they can continue working as normal.
In response to an number of enquiries, we have been told by public health authorities that they are continuing to cremate the remains of those who have sadly passed away due to coronavirus. However, at the urging of a number of MPs, myself included, they have agreed to make exceptions for members of religious groups with an objection to cremation.
Check out my resources page www.saraholneymp.org.uk/covid-19-resources for new entrants to my lists of local vendors offering delivery services and resources for parents. If you have anything to add to those lists please email email@example.com.
Please continue to follow government advice on staying at home and hygiene measures and do get in touch with my office if you need assistance with anything. We are working remotely, and are getting a lot of calls and messages, but we are here to support you.