Despite Parliament not sitting this week, I have still been incredibly busy dealing with the inflow of casework from Southport constituents.
We currently have close to a thousand open cases from local residents and businesses who seek assistance with their issues – mostlyaround Coronavirus, but also in areas such as health, immigration, welfare, housing, and council issues. I am progressing these cases as fast as I possibly can, but please understand that my office is small and short delays in responses are going to be inevitable.
I wanted to bring you up to speed with last week’s government announcements and local news, and reassure everybody that I am always here to help – send me an email and I will do my best.
The Government has announced an update to the eligibility criteria for the Job-Retention Scheme. I’ve had many constituents get in touch with me to say that they fall through the gaps of the scheme – something which was regrettably inevitable with an emergency scheme put together so quickly as this was.
Now, those who left employment for a new job on or after 28 February 2020, and who have since been let go by their new employers, can be re-hired by their former employers and put on furlough in order to ensure that they have a monthly salary coming in.
There is also more support for those who are shielding and cannot work from home. Employers can now claim for furloughed employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) if they are both unable to work and would otherwise be made redundant.
This means that if you have been advised to shield for 12 weeks and need a member of your household to stay home with you, and if neither of you can work from home and both would otherwise be made redundant, you will still both receive 80% of your monthly salary - up to £2,500.
For these issues MPs now have a dedicated email address at the Treasury to help us deal with issues raised to us by constituents in a faster and more efficient way. If you have any queries about the schemes that have been established, please let me know and we can get the most up-to-date information to you.
This past week also saw announcements on support for community pharmacies, Brits stranded abroad, our high streets, and more. Community pharmacies are receiving a £300 million cash boost to ensure they can continue to carry out essential services during the coronavirus outbreak.
High Street firm owners across Southport are now receiving £25,000 cash grants and became exempt from business rates from last Wednesday as they began to benefit from a £22 billion package. We have some fantastic independent shops and businesses here in Southport. These businesses are the lifeblood of our communities, so this package announced by the Chancellor was welcome support for them in these difficult times.
Those families across Southport with relatives stranded abroad also received news last week of a massive financial package to help Brits stuck overseas return home. Where commercial routes do not exist, the Government will provide up to £75 million to charter special flights to priority countries in order to bring back UK residents. I have been contacted by a number of families of people stranded abroad and am working on their cases as a priority.
Last week it was announced that the children’s A&E department at Ormskirk Hospital, which I know many Southport residents use and value, would temporarily close down their overnight service (from 10pm to 8am). The leadership of the hospital took this decision in order to reallocate both staff and resources to tacking local Coronavirus cases. In the meantime Alder Hey Children’s Hospital will take any in any local patients, and I’d like to thank Alder Hey for doing so.
I know this announcement will be disappointing to many, as it is to me, but I understand why the decision has been taken. I have been in regular contact with Trish Armstrong-Child, the Chief Executive of Southport & Ormskirk Hospitals, throughout this health emergency, and will ensure that any disruption to families and patients by the closure is kept to an absolute minimum.
I will be providing more of these updates each week, so please keep checking my website and social media pages for more. Please do send me an email if there’s any support I can give you, your family, or your local business as this time – I can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.