In my view: Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark

I thought that the Government’s handling of Covid-19 could not get any worse, but the only thing ‘world beating’ is their arrogance and dismissal of the need to fix the track and trace system which currently is not able to track or trace.

Thousands of people have been unable to get tested at a local site, with some people in Southwark being told to travel to Scotland. The Government also lost track of nearly 16,000 test results in a truly shocking mess.

When I raised this in the House of Commons with the Health Secretary, he bragged about other countries seeking his advice.

He could not be more out of touch, given the soaring infection rate and the sad reality of the UK having the highest excess death rate in Europe.

Sadly, without an effective track and trace system, the Government has had to tighten restrictions again, putting even more South London businesses under pressure and placing more jobs at risk.

The economy has nose-dived this year and in Bermondsey and Old Southwark the unemployment rate has risen by more than 5,000 people since March. With effective testing and a functioning trace system some of these lost jobs were avoidable.

The Government should do more to protect businesses from going under and to prevent a tsunami of further job losses.

The Chancellor’s furlough scheme was helping 22,000 people in my constituency but the Government’s plans at the end of this month mean for some people who are still unable to return to work, their support drops from 80 per cent to 22 per cent.

Employers have already said this is unsustainable and makes it very likely that hundreds of thousands more will be seeking Universal Credit. I have uncovered the sad statistic that a third of all the people who sought Universal Credit during the lockdown got nothing at all from the Government and another 500,000 were forced to take out a loan from the DWP.

Some people have even had their support cut. One constituent last week was told her Income Support would end due to her Universal Credit claim for example.

This is really not what people expect from a social security system, but ministers are ignoring its failings.

With the Government refusing to extend the furlough scheme or the eviction ban, I am concerned that there will be a severe increase in homelessness. The Government are not funding their own pledge to keep people off the streets to protect them and the NHS from Covid-19 and legislation currently prevents winter night shelters from opening this year.

Ministers must resource councils and charities to provide safe accommodation or will be directly responsible for homeless people’s deaths.


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