Anne Marie's Weekly Column - Covid-19 Update

Supporting our Care Homes

The Covid-19 pandemic has created extraordinary and unprecedented challenges for health and social care. Care homes in particular are under increasing pressure to maintain safe staffing levels and support residents. Last week the Government published an action plan to support the adult social care sector in England throughout the coronavirus outbreak. At the heart of the plan is better access to testing, millions of additional PPE items, and expansions to the workforce.

The Government has committed to ensuring that all care workers who need a test receive one, and that all symptomatic residents in a care home will be tested to prevent outbreaks. Over 4,000 social care workers have already been referred for testing so far. Everyone going into a care home from hospital will be tested with immediate effect. I have been working closely with our local GPs, the council and the clinical commissioning group to look at how we can better deal with an outbreak to prevent the whole home being infected.

The way PPE is being delivered to care homes is also being rapidly overhauled, with homes supported to order PPE quickly, including through direct dispatches via Royal Mail, a 24/7 hotline and a new pilot website. Social care providers across England have already received an emergency drop of 7 million PPE items, so that every CQC registered care provider received at least 300 face masks to meet immediate needs. These changes should ensure care staff receive the support they need as they continue their essential role in the fight against Covid-19. I have also been working with local companies – and our local schools and colleges – to manufacture and deliver local supplies.

Support for Fishing Businesses

In the latest step to protect businesses affected by the pandemic, up to £9 million will be made available for grants to eligible fishing and aquaculture businesses. More than 1,000 businesses will receive direct cash grants through a fisheries support scheme run by the Marine Management Organisation.

A further £1 million will be made available to support projects to assist fishermen to sell their catch in their local communities. This money will help fishing businesses find new ways to market and sell their catch while traditional markets are restricted, not only supporting the sector but also the local communities that depend on the industry. The measures will support English industry, in particular smaller fisherman, during this challenging time and follow an unprecedented package of financial support already announced for small businesses. I will be looking very closely at how we can make this work for our local fishermen in Teignmouth.

Extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Thousands more employees will be able to receive support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme after the eligibility date was extended to 19th March 2020. Under the scheme announced by the Chancellor last month, employers can claim a grant covering 80 per cent of the wages for a furloughed employee, subject to a cap of £2,500 a month. To qualify individuals originally had to be employed on February 28th 2020. But following lobbying from my colleagues and I, the Chancellor has confirmed the new eligibility date has been extended to March 19th 2020 – the day before the scheme was announced. Employers can claim for furloughed employees that were employed and on their PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. This will stop many recently employed workers from missing out. There are some challenges for seasonal workers which I am lobbying government to address.

I am very conscious that there is significant confusion as to exactly what is available to businesses and those who are self employed. I have tried to simplify and bring together government guidance on my website. If you are still unclear please do get in touch.

My next phone-in surgery will be Friday 1st May at 1-2pm. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.