COVID-19 UPDATE: March 26
I am getting a lot of calls and messages from people who are struggling with their mental health. We may be in this situation for some time, so it is vital that we all work to maintain our own mental health and that of our family and friends. A few things to keep in mind:
You can't go wrong with fresh air and trees. If you are able to get exercise outside every day, please do. The parks and commons remain open as long as people continue to observe social distancing while using them.
Try to maintain a routine as close to your old one as possible.
There are lots of great, free mindfulness activities available online.
Social contact (electronic only!) is a lifeline for those who are isolating. Please ring, Skype or message your nan, your dad, your old friends and your new friends.
If you know someone who is really struggling, please ask them to contact Mind. Their call centre staff are trained to help anyone experiencing a mental health crisis.
RICHMOND: Richmond Mind access information can be found here:
KINGSTON : Kingston Mind access information can be found here:
WORKERS ON ZERO HOURS CONTRACTS
I have also been hearing from a number of distressed constituents who are zero hours workers. At the moment there is a lack of clarity on support for them. They should be eligible for the job retention scheme announced last week, with their employers able to apply for government grants of 80% of their wages. But the government has not provided guidance on how wages should be calculated for workers on zero hours contracts. And we have heard anecdotally that many have just been laid off without support.
The Chancellor has said he will provide further details on this, and we are hoping he will give some clarity on this issue this week. I will keep pressing on this issue and will report back.
NURSERY PLACES FOR CHILDREN OF KEY WORKERS
I have heard this from Aileen Wilson, Childcare Brokerage Officer at Achieving for Children: "We are this morning finalising the list of settings open and able to offer additional places to key worker and vulnerable families. We will add it to the website and email it out to partners etc. Parents can email us at early.years@achievingforchildren and I will be in contact with them directly to help broker a place."
SUPPORT FOR HOMELESS PEOPLE
The Greater London Authority (GLA) has started work to place all rough sleepers in London into hotels. The project has 3 phases: 1) People in shelters, 2) Rough sleepers, 3) People in hostels. Phase 1 has begun with clients at shelters being moved into hotels today. All clients will be triaged and placed into different hotels based on whether they are symptomatic, medically vulnerable or neither.
FRAUDSTERS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF COVID19
The Met Police has been in touch to ask me to warn people about the recent increase in fraud cases. Our local police are saying, “The majority of scams we are seeing relate to the online sale of protective items, and items that are in short supply across the country. We’re advising people not to panic and to think about the purchase they are making. When you’re online shopping it’s important to do your research and look at reviews of the site you are buying from.”
Barclays has written to me about the measures they are putting in place for retail customers. They would like their customers to know that: "We have created a hub with all the latest information on our products and services for customers: https://www.barclays.co.uk/coronavirus/. It is updated daily so that customers can find the information they need in one place. Our colleagues are facing unprecedented times and so we are asking customers to only phone us if they have an immediate financial problem."
Remote Working Using Google G-Suite
For those of you working remotely, I had a letter today from Google saying this:
"As more businesses are impacted by travel restrictions or are encouraging their employees to work from home in response to the spread of COVID-19, we want to do our part to help them stay connected and productive with G Suite. We’ve rolled out free access to advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite customers globally.
Housing service update
Kingston Council Housing has just provided this news:
"We know some customers are concerned about the impact Coronavirus (Covid-19) may have on their personal finances and their ability to keep up with their housing costs. The Government has confirmed that no one should be evicted or lose their home because of the current situation. They have announced a complete ban on evictions due to financial difficulties in both social and private rented housing during this time. We will work together with residents to come up with an affordable repayment plan, which takes tenants’ individual circumstances into account. We will also continue to work with residents on their existing repayment plans and offer support as needed." To access assistance:
Those already in rent arrears can contact their Rent Officer
Those concerned about going into arrears can contact their Resident Services Officer.
Those in temporary accommodation can contact Temporary_Accommodation_Arrears_Team@kingston.gov.uk.
Parking restrictions eased
Residents with permits in controlled parking zones (CPZs) will be permitted to park on single yellow lines without penalty. Exceptions are where there are safety risks e.g. corners of junctions, across dropped kerbs and on double yellow lines. In addition, before Enforcement Officers issue any parking fine there will be a 20-minute grace period for unauthorised parking in all but demonstrably unsafe or obstructive places. So if you need to briefly park in a CPZ to deliver supplies to someone, you should be able to do so without worry.
Using the parks
There are no current plans to close the borough’s parks and commons and they remain open for residents to take exercise and walk through. However, users need to follow the latest medical advice on social distancing and anyone with symptoms of Covid 19 should not enter parks. Any resident who should be self-isolating should also not visit parks.
Social distancing improvement
I am happy to see that people are getting better about giving each other space in public, and many stores are controlling access to prevent shoppers coming into contact with each other. Please continue to give other people as much room as you safely can if you pass them on the pavement or in the park.
Thank the NHS, at 8pm tonight
Lastly, I'm sure you all know about the plan for everyone to pop out their doors and windows at 8pm tonight to give our incredible NHS workers a round of applause. I look forward to hearing you all then!