This week we learned of the Government’s new plans for living with Covid, which seem to be more about ignoring Covid and forgetting about the vulnerable. The Prime Minister told us in the House on Monday that 7 million carers will not get tests, and that money for tests for NHS and care staff will have to be found from within existing budgets. Waiting lists were high before the pandemic, but now money for testing NHS and care staff will have to come from budgets that are already stretched in trying to deal with those yet higher waiting lists, they will become even more precarious. The Government keep saying they will support the NHS and the staff who are working so hard, but this does not feel like support. It feels like fewer and fewer resources to deal with more and more problems. And what about those in our community who are at a higher risk of complications or severe symptoms from Covid? What support will they have to ensure they can continue testing to keep themselves and their families safe?
We also have to consider the impact of removing the legal mandate to self-isolate following a positive test for Covid and the lack of support for workers. The Prime Minister spoke this week about personal responsibility, but how are people meant to choose between the responsibility to the wider public and the responsibility to their families. Too many workers do not receive adequate sick pay or even any sick pay at all. At a time when we are facing a cost-of-living crisis with families having to choose between heating and food, when the costs of even the basics in the supermarket are skyrocketing and the cost of petrol soaring, can we seriously expect people to stay at home and not work if the alternative is receiving no pay or too little pay to keep their families afloat? This Government is refusing to take any responsibility for its actions and for the people it represents.
At the start of the week, I think we were all shocked at the scale of the damage from Storm Eunice at the weekend. I took the opportunity in Parliament to thank the local people in Bristol and, in particular, Bristol City Council for getting meals to vulnerable people and Great Western Railway for trying to keep things running between Bristol and London. We need a Flood Preparedness Taskforce and for ministers in DEFRA and BEIS to be heavily involved in their work and planning. Businesses are being repeatedly devastated by more regular flooding and homes are losing power. We need far more natural solutions to the flood risk in certain areas of the country. The Environment Agency and the Council are doing incredible work but they are completely underfunded and have been for years. It’s not rocket science – a failure to underfund preventative measures means that greater damage is done to businesses and homes when extreme weather occurs. It’s once again this Tory Government rejecting any responsibility and calling on ordinary working people to take on the financial burden. We need investment in infrastructure, an investment in defensive measures, and an investment in our communities.
I was pleased to join another meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Adult Social Care this week. The focus was on what the priorities should be for the future and a number of common themes cropped up. First and foremost, we need to attract more people into social care but in order to do that we need to make sure that the profession is given greater recognition of its importance to the country and our daily lives. This must then be reflected in better pay and conditions. Why should anyone want to do such an important yet demanding job in challenging circumstances for pennies and without the necessary support? The more people we have working in the social care sector, the more we can keep people out of hospital, freeing up beds for people who are clinically in need of them. The more we can keep people happy and comfortable in their own homes, the more we can offer employment and opportunities to people from all walks of life, and the more we can build a country that is a good one to live and grow old in.
This week also saw the unprovoked Russian invasion of the entirety of Ukraine. I stand in solidarity with Ukrainians. They wanted nothing but peace and the right to determine their own destiny. President Putin knew that no one wants to live under his jackboot of oppression and therefore has broken international law and invaded a sovereign state. I welcome the sanctions from the UK Government and urge them to go much further. We cannot stand divided in the face of such evil. The Labour Party will do all we can to ensure law is enacted at home to support our Ukrainian friends.
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