I have been very worried this week about reports of an increase in child abuse during this difficult period. Many families are under additional stress now due to physical isolation, financial pressure and health problems, and this may lead to an abusive home environment. With schools closed and children kept at home there are few opportunities for other adults outside the family to observe a child, spot the signs of abuse, and seek help for them.
I have spoken today with Achieving for Children, who deliver children's services for both Richmond and Kingston boroughs. They have advised that anyone who has a concern about a child's well-being should immediately make a call to their Single Point of Access number.
The child himself/herself or another family member can also call this number directly themselves for help.
Achieving for Children's SPA number is 020 8547 5008.
NSPCC can also assist anyone who is concerned about a child's safety. All of their methods of contact can be found here: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/reporting-abuse/report/
Support for children who can and want to access it themselves is also available through Childline, either by calling 0800 1111 or visiting their website.
Please keep an eye out for a child who may be in an abusive home, and report any concerns to Achieving for Children's SPA number. In the current circumstances your eyes may be the only ones seeing the problem and you may be that child's only chance of getting help.
STAY HOME THIS WEEKEND
We will all be tempted to make the most of this holiday weekend, but I must ask you to make the most of it while staying in your home. Sunny or not, long weekend or not, the government advice remains the same: only go out for four reasons - essential work, essential shopping, one form of exercise per day, and medical needs (including caring for someone vulnerable.) I would like to clarify that sunbathing and picnics cannot form part of your daily exercise in a public space. You can only be in the parks if you are in the act of doing your daily exercise, or travelling through for one of the other named reasons. Police have been out recently to enforce this rule. Remember: exercise may be relaxing, but relaxing is not exercise.
SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT
If you own a small business and are having financial trouble, sources of support include:
·Dept for BEIS: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/ · Business Support Helpline 0300 456 3565 · Government whatsapp service on 07860064422 · Enterprise Nation: https://www.enterprisenation.com/coronavirus-support/ · BT Skills for Tomorrow: https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow/ · Small Business Britain support: https://smallbusinessbritain.uk/coronavirus · Small Business Saturday for Facebook Live daily business support: https://www.facebook.com/SmallBusinessSaturdayUK · The Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs Business Survival Toolkit: https://campus.ioee.uk/
PPE AND TESTING IN SW LONDON
South West London Clinical Commissioning Group has written to me to say the following:
"In South West London we have established a ‘supply cell’ to help tackle some of the challenges we are facing with getting (PPE) equipment to staff. Working with our partners in South West London and across London,we are now seeing a more responsive supply and distribution chain to help take us through the coronavirus outbreak. We are grateful for the support of our all partners including the army who have delivered supplies to several locations in South West London.
"Capacity for staff testing in South West London is increasing, in line with the national COVID-19 testing policy. A testing programme is now expanding to help NHS staff who are clinically fit, to return to their jobs as soon as possible."
Signing up for Universal Credit
Citizens Advice Kingston has secured funding for the continuation of its 'Help to Claim' service. This gives support to anyone locally who wants to claim Universal Credit. The claim is made online and there is a team available to help. The phone number is 0800 144 8444.
The Help to Claim project is a national partnership between Citizens Advice and the Department for Work and Pensions. Locally, it is delivered by Job Centre Plus (Kingston) and Citizens Advice Kingston.
Local Business Support
Over 1400 local businesses have submitted forms to access government grants so far. Kingston Council expect to have paid the first batch of payments, totalling over £12m, by the end of the day today. A further batch of payments will be made on Wednesday 15 April. If you have not yet done so, please check your business’ eligibility and submit your form as soon as possible
Richmond Footbridge closed in one direction
The footbridge at Richmond Lock that runs between Old Deer Park and St Margarets will now be usable in one direction only, as it is too narrow for people to pass each other with a safe distance between them. The Port of London Authority has closed the bridge to foot traffic from the Twickenham side to the Richmond side. You will only be able to walk across it from the Richmond side to the Twickenham side.
No bonfires, please
Cllr Alexander Ehmann, Chair of the Transport and Air Quality Committee, has written to say:
“Not only is smoke from bonfires a nuisance for all neighbours, but it also produces carbon monoxide and toxic pollutants. These pollutants can cause a range of health impacts such as exacerbating heart and respiratory conditions, which is particularly concerning during the coronavirus pandemic."
The Council is asking residents to be mindful of producing too much garden waste and consider letting their gardens grow instead. You can turn your garden into a haven for wildlife by not weeding and trimming. Leaving grass clippings on the lawn instead of gathering them will provide vital nutrients. Or you can produce your own compost at home from your hedge cuttings and grass clippings if you follow advice from the National Trust.
Again, please, do not relax your social distancing and staying at home habits over this holiday weekend. If you do go to a park, please keep moving, spread out, and step off the path if needed when you pass someone in order to maintain a safe distance. You may feel safe getting close to strangers, but the stranger you pass may not feel or be safe close to you. Richmond and Kingston have been very successful in improving social distancing in the past week or two - let's not undo all that effort this weekend.
I wish all the residents of Richmond and Kingston a very happy Easter holiday.