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This is a situation without modern precedent and the health, social and economic impacts are at a scale we have not known before – certainly in combination. Many people will be understandably anxious, not only about their health and the health of their loved ones, but about their jobs, businesses, income, security and even their homes.
At the same time, the organisations on which we rely – from the NHS to the Council, police, advice agencies and community groups, will be under huge pressure themselves.
We are all going to have to do our best to support and help each other and be tolerant of the pressures others are under.
My team and I will be continuing to do what we can to help those who need it, picking up phone messages and handling emails as quickly as we can. I know my councillor colleagues are doing the same. You can see that Westminster Labour Councillors are saying here.
MPs will also continue to question the government and whilst we must be as constructive as we can and avoid political point-scoring at such a challenging time, there will be genuine issues of difference that we must continue to raise. I have taken part in 3 statements this week, including on help for renters, alongside the help being given to those with mortgages, and constituents who are stranded abroad. There will be other issues as we move towards accepting emergency powers to deal with coronavirus and the Human Rights Committee, of which I am a member, will be looking at that to make sure we get the balance right.
I have also met with Imperial NHS, and continue to liaise with the Council, One Westminster, the police and others.
In the meantime, and at the risk of some duplication, I thought it would be helpful to set out some of the most recent advice and information, including ways to help in the community for those who can.
Where to look for health advice and information
The best source of health advice is the Public Health England website
Below are some of the key information about coronavirus and the actions we all need to take.
Where to look for other help and advice
I understand many people will be worried about paying the bills, issues with work, housing and many other things.
Westminster Council’s advice and response website is here:
The Council operates a ‘Local Support Payment’ scheme:
Foreign Office/travel advice:
For people who have travel booked:
HMRC has set up a hotline for businesses and the self-employed
0300 456 3565
The Muslim Council of Britain has produced guidance for individuals as well as for mosques:
I am including this specifically because it includes links to materials in a number of community languages relevant in Westminster, including Arabic and Bengali.
Some sources of guidance for self-employed people and small businesses
Looking after your mental health
These are challenging times and worry and isolation can make things seem even worse. It is so important that we are kind to ourselves as well as others, and look after our underlying physical and mental health.
There are some good tips here:
The BBC will also be starting up a new programme called ‘Health Check Live’, and 5 Live will be running expert phone-ins. More information about BBC programming can be found here:
Here is some useful advice about talking to children and young people about the coronavirus:
Helping out in the community
Lots of people are connecting with each other and asking Councillors or me for advice on how they can help out during this crisis.
We are going to need good neighbours, with people supporting and looking out for each other.
At the same time, we need to be aware that there are some risks that need to be avoided – both health risks to helpers and those needing help, and the possibility that some people may take advantage of the situation to commit fraud or abuse. Sadly the Ham and High newspaper has reported on an example of that this week.
So, I strongly advise everyone to link up with One Westminster – the organisation that co-ordinates voluntary organisations locally – if you want to volunteer, or get guidance on how to do it.
Here is the advice letter they have just sent round:
These are unprecedented times and One Westminster is doing all we can to help the Westminster Voluntary Sector and the community in any way we can. We also know that the situation is changing daily and that emails can well be out of date before they are written.
Our main activity over the coming period will be assisting in allocating citizens who want to volunteer to where they can be of most use. To help us get this right, please let us know what, if any, volunteering support you need in the immediate to near future.
We think that food security and accessing food is going to be the immediate priority. Three categories of clients are likely to face challenges around accessing food.
- Self-isolating older people or those with long-term conditions
- People with no money to purchase food having been reliant on food banks previously or recently lost their job etc.
- School children sent home if and when schools close.
In the absence of a national government scheme, we want to do all we can to help in this regard. If you have the capacity to support people around food, please let us know. If you have people contacting you to advise they are hungry please let us know so we can pass this information on to Public Health within City Hall. Please tell us what you need and we will do our best to secure a way of getting you that help.
For the immediate future should you receive calls of people offering to volunteer, please feel free to direct them to our www.onewestminster.org.uk website and to follow the Covid-19 Volunteer link, where they will be able to complete a form and we can direct them to where they can be of most help. HOWEVER, THE BEST THING YOU CAN SAY TO ANYONE WHO CONTACTS YOU IS TO PLEASE MAKE A FINANCIAL DONATION – HOWEVER GREAT OR SMALL – TO NORTH PADDINGTON OR WESTMINSTER FOOD BANKS.
Finally, we at One Westminster, are fully aware that many voluntary organisations have diversified their funding over the past 10 years and may be reliant on earned income alongside grant income or contracts. If the Covid-19 crisis is likely to affect your income as a result of this, please cold you let us know so that we can report back to Westminster Council and Government on the impact the crisis is having on the local charity sector.
Our current strap-line is: KEEPING EVERYONE SAFE WHILST HELPING OUR COMMUNITY
To this end see below our current advice re public volunteering:
- If you want to help in your community, please contact One Westminster first for guidance and support on how to volunteer safely and to register your interest
- Please minimise face to face contact and opt for telephone support instead
- If you are planning to volunteer or set-up volunteering or a group in your neighbourhood, please do so as close to home as possible, avoiding travel and limiting your contact to people in your own street, block etc.
- Refer to our web-site for up to date information and support
The contact e-mail is:
North Paddington Foodbank
Please circulate details of the North Paddington Foodbank in case there are people who are:
- In need of help
- Able to donate
- Able to volunteer
This situation is changing very fast so please keep checking the key websites for updates.
With all good wishes
Karen Buck MP