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Before I report on what's been happening in the constituency today, I just wanted to let you know that if landed on my blog through a link, you can subscribe to my newsletters at www.saraholneymp.org.uk/subscribe.
A POLITE DISTANCE
I am getting a lot of messages and phone calls this week about poor social distancing on paths and pavements. Numerous constituents have reported that some joggers are not staying two metres away from pedestrians. Furthermore, there is concern that joggers' exhalations will escape even a two-metre radius during exertion.
I understand that many people rely on their daily run for their mental and physical health. But I ask to you be aware that many of the people you are passing will be understandably anxious about infection. If you are jogging or running, please voluntarily increase the distance you put between yourself and those you pass even beyond the required two metres, so you are not worrying other people. And if this necessitates stepping off the pavement or path, please take responsibility for doing so yourself. If you can jog then you are fit enough to do this, whereas the person walking near you may not be as able.
I spoke to Richmond Council about this today and Council Leader Gareth Roberts has replied that "The message on this, as with everything, is be courteous and aware of the impact that your behaviour is having on others." I think that is great advice for all of us in all of our activities during this crisis.
SAFEGUARDING WOMEN AND CHILDREN
I also wanted to reiterate some of my advice regarding child protection and domestic abuse from last week: many children in vulnerable households are not in school where they have other adults to turn to, and many women in abusive relationships are truly in lockdown now.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse please phone the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
And if you have concerns about a child's welfare please call our local Kingston and Richmond children's services reporting line on 020 8547 5008. Remember: you can report your concerns anonymously if you wish.
CONSTITUENTS STRANDED ABROAD
My office has been doing all they can to assist Richmond Park residents who were abroad when travel restrictions were imposed. These constituents have been trickling back, some by their own means, some with our assistance and some on the government's repatriation flights. We are still working to get the rest of our constituents home. Please contact me if you know of a Richmond Park resident who is still stranded abroad. And if you previously contacted us for assistance and are now home, please update my office.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT PLANS
I am still getting calls from many residents who are falling through the cracks in the government's financial support plans. It seems clear that too many people have been left out of the new measures -- people who changed jobs in February and March, many self-employed people, non-British nationals, etc. I am also hearing from business owners who can’t get loans. I am working with my Liberal Democrat colleagues to push the government to expand support for all those facing financial hardship. If you are in this situation, I want you to know that you have not been forgotten; we know you are out there needing help and we are working to get it to you as quickly as possible.
TELEPHONE HAPPY HOURS
I have also joined 50 other MPs in signing a cross-party letter to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport calling for a Happy Hour of free phone calls for over 75s.
With elderly people facing an increased risk of loneliness, they shouldn’t have to choose between staying in contact with their loved ones and paying their bills. We are asking for all telephone networks to offer free calls for at least one hour a day for their over-75 customers.
Taxicard usage changes to support vulnerable Londoners There have been a number of changes to the Taxicard scheme to support Taxicard members. They can now use Taxicard to book drivers to pick up and deliver essential supplies. The scheme has also been extended to allow friends and family to use the member's Taxicard for the same purpose. You can find out more about Taxicard and the recent changes here.
Keeping Richmond green spaces open
Alex Ehmann, Richmond's cabinet member for Transport and Streetscene has been in touch to let me know that the council is not currently planning any further restrictions on the use of Richmond's open spaces. The situation is continually under review, but the Government has recommended parks and open spaces be kept open, and the Council will not close amenities to residents unless absolutely necessary. They do not have the staff available to implement and enforce major changes, and are asking residents to take responsibility themselves for ensuring that their activities do not impact other people.
So please, if you want to cycle fast in a straight line, choose to do so on a road. Runners can also find a quiet street near their home and run (carefully) in the road instead of dodging pedestrians on the pavement. And please avoid running and cycling on the towpaths, which are not wide enough to share them safely with pedestrians. If we can all show this consideration for each other voluntarily then no additional restrictions will be needed.
Urgent call for food donations
Kingston is desperately seeking donations of food to help the most vulnerable members of the community. Together with volunteers, they have already sourced and distributed over 1500 frozen meals and 500 food parcels to residents. However, their food supply chains are not enough to meet the local demand and they are calling on local residents, restaurants and businesses to help by donating supplies. Please visit www.kingston.gov.uk/coronavirus and click ‘How can I help?’ to find out how to donate.
Help to quit smoking
With a new respiratory disease threatening everyone's health, now would be a very good time to give up smoking. Kingston's local stop smoking service, Kick It, can help you quit by providing you with six one-to-one telephone sessions with a stop smoking advisor. Join now by visiting their Quit Now page, or by phoning 020 3434 2500, Monday to Friday.
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