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Newsletter: latest coronavirus guidance and useful resources

Dear friend,

Over the past week the spread of coronavirus has caused the biggest disruption to daily life in the UK since the Second World War. These are truly extraordinary times: we are facing the biggest public health crisis in a century and our economy is grinding to a halt.
I know many people are worried about the spread of the virus and about the impact of the drastic measures which the government has been forced to take in response. The changes implemented over the last week will make everyone’s lives more difficult. But it will get easier sooner if we put the effort in now.
This is a long update, but I hope it is useful. There is information below on:
  1. Latest government restrictions, guidance and support
  2. My work in parliament and mobilising volunteers here in Croydon
  3. Useful information & resources for the coming weeks
  4. Contacting me for help
If you find anything below useful, please do forward this email to friends and family. 

Best wishes,

Sarah Jones
Member of Parliament for Croydon Central
Shadow Housing Minister

1.  Government restrictions and guidance

Lockdown measures
Last night the Prime Minister announced that the government will be enforcing ‘social distancing’ measures for everyone in the UK, meaning people should only leave their homes for limited reasons. These are:
  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.
  • Any medical need, to provide care or help to a vulnerable person, or volunteering within the community.
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.
The Government has also ordered all non-essential retail stores to close. There are exceptions to the Government rules, however, which include:
  • Supermarkets and other food shops;
  • Health shops, pharmacies including non-dispensing pharmacies;
  • petrol stations,
  • bicycle shops and home and hardware shops;
  • laundrettes and dry cleaners;
  • garages and car rentals;
  • pet shops;
  • corner shops, newsagents, post offices, and banks
If you are a business owner and are unsure whether or not to close, the government has published more detailed guidance here.
See more guidance on ‘social distancing’ from the Government here.
Core medical advice
Do not leave home if you or someone you live with has either:
  • a high temperature - this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough - this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home. Use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do.
Self-isolating - people at high risk:
Up to 1.5 million people in England identified by the NHS as being at higher risk of severe illness if they contract coronavirus. If you are at higher risk you will have been contacted by the NHS already with guidance to self-isolate (stay at home) for 12 weeks.
Others who should take extra care to self-isolate at home include:
  1. People over the age of 70
  2. Other adults who would normally be advised to have the flu vaccine (such as those with chronic diseases)
  3. Pregnant women
School closures
All schools are closed as of yesterday, Monday 23rd March - until further notice.
This applies to all children except to those of key workers and where children are vulnerable:
  • Examples of key workers include NHS staff, police, and delivery drivers who need to be able to go out to work. The full list is here.
  • Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health & Care Plans.
All exams - including GCSEs, AS levels and A levels - will not go ahead this summer.

I am aware of concerns raised by parents of children in receipt of free school meals about how this will be implemented. The government has published more information here, and I will be following this issue closely as local schools develop plans.
NOTE: The Department for Education has been informed some parents have received an email stating: ‘As schools will be closing, if you're entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we'll make sure you're supported’. This is a scam email - do not respond, and delete immediately.
See more information about school closures here.
Business and employment support
The Government has announced a major package of support for employees and businesses, including:
  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - government grants to employers which cover 80% of an employee’s salary to avoid redundancies. This also covers employees on zero-hours contracts. All UK businesses are eligible.
  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan - supports small and medium-sized businesses with access to loans of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years - with the first year interest-free.
  • Statutory Sick Pay will now be paid from day one for those self-isolating. Alongside other Labour MPs I am calling for sick pay to be raised so it is in line with average earnings.
  • Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments - If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.
  • More support for self-employed - The government is expected to announce a support package - similar to the Job Retention Scheme - for self-employed and freelance workers. Check the links below in the coming days for updates.
  • Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme - provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.
  • Small Business Grant Scheme - a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.
See more information for employees here.
See more information or businesses here.

Croydon Council support for those experiencing hardship of difficulty
If you are experiencing hardship or difficulties, Croydon Council has a range of services that might be able to help you. This includes:
  • If you need help with benefit advice
  • If you need help paying your council tax
  • If you need help paying your rent
  • Food stops & food vouchers
  • Children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND)
See more information from Croydon Council here.

Mortgage Holidays
Homeowners and landlords can now apply for a three-month mortgage payment holiday by contacting their lender. Mortgage payment holidays are available to all homeowners who are up to date on their mortgage payments. You don’t need to have contracted or have been tested positive for the coronavirus to apply for a payment holiday.
Read more on mortgage holidays here

International travel
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises all British people travelling abroad to return to the UK now, if commercial flights are still available. This advice was published on 23 March and takes effect immediately.
The FCO advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice took effect immediately on 17 March and applies initially for 30 days.

2.  My work in Parliament and mobilising volunteers here in Croydon

Community Mobilisation
In my last email I sent a request for volunteers to help across our community over the coming weeks. I’m delighted that over 1,000 of you signed up to volunteer, and received my first COVID-19 Community Mobilisation Newsletter on Thursday.
You can read the first newsletter here - this will be a weekly email every Thursday which will act as a signposting service for activity happening across the Croydon community, in support of those most affected by the disruption and social distancing measures.
I am liaising closely with Croydon Council and Croydon Voluntary Action who are putting in place a borough-wide system for coordinating volunteers and will be sharing more information on this in the next email update.
If you are yet to sign up and would like to receive these updates, click here.
You may have also noticed the growing presence of the ‘Covid-19 Mutual Aid’ groups across the constituency, set up to help those who are most vulnerable and unable to leave their house at all at this time.
There are a number of hyper-local groups being formed under the banner of Croydon Covid-19 Mutual Aid. The group now has around 3,000 members across Croydon now and it has been heartening to see just how much these difficult times have brought out such community spirit. I will be working closely with this group over the coming weeks. To find out more about volunteering through Croydon Covid-19 Mutual Aid click here.
Working in Parliament
Yesterday, I was in the House of Commons scrutinising the emergency Coronavirus legislation. These new laws are necessary but had several problems: the powers would have applied for 2 years with no review, caused issues for faith community funerals and failed to deliver the promised ban on evictions for renters.
After pressure from Labour, the government agreed to a six-month review of the powers, and additional protections for funerals for different faiths. However, the issues around support for renters remain.

I will keep pushing in the coming days so that the bill delivers a real ban on evictions, and allows renters to defer payments - as with the mortgage holidays announced for homeowners and landlords. Read more about this here.
I have provided advice and support to constituents on a range of problems relatign to coronavirus, including: accessing financial support while unable to work during the outbreak; getting home from abroad; childcare; schooling; accessing support for small businesses and charities; ensuring that core council services continue; and helping individuals to access food and necessary medical supplies.
I know that this situation is raising new and scary issues for people in all walks of life. I will continue to work hard to ensure that these problems are resolved as quickly as possible, and that intractable ones are raised with the government to ensure that they are given the attention that they deserve.

3.  Useful information for the coming weeks

If you know someone needing support:
As mentioned above, there are a number of localised ‘Mutual Aid’ groups springing up across the constituency full of volunteers looking to help in their local community. If you or someone you know is self-isolating and needs support you can find contact details for these groups on this spreadsheet here.
Supermarket access for key groups:
You will be aware that supermarkets across Croydon have announced various measures to prioritise different groups, including elderly people and NHS staff. The different measures by supermarket are as follows:
  • Tesco: Mon, Weds, Fri 9-10am priority for elderly and vulnerable shoppers. Sundays open an hour earlier for NHS workers.
  • Sainsburys: Mon, weds, Friday 8-9am dedicated to elderly and vulnerable, 7:30-8am Monday-Saturday for NHS workers and social care workers (with valid NHS ID)
  • Co-op: 8-9am priority for vulnerable and their carers Monday-Saturday, 10am-11am on Sundays.
  • Waitrose: First hour dedicated to the elderly, vulnerable and those looking after them. Daily essentials set aside for NHS workers. Priority treatment at checkout. Dedicated marshalls to ensure 2 metre social distancing being undertaken and limits on customers in store at any time.
(All stores have placed limits on certain if not all goods)

Mental health

As we will all be spending a lot more time indoors it is hugely important that everyone starts to think a little more about their mental wellbeing.

There's some great advice from the NHS here, and from MIND here I’ve also listed some useful pointers below:
  1. Establish ‘micro-lifts’ throughout your day. This could be spending time on a hobby, facetiming someone, taking exercise and so on. Really make sure time is set aside for positive things
  2. Keep a healthy diet and avoid unhealthy snacking as a means of entertainment.
  3. Try to ensure your routine includes time spent outside, whether that be in the garden or on your balcony and if possible spend your daily exercise outing in nature
  4. Try to maintain a sense of routine, waking up and going to bed at healthy times and assigning times to particular activities throughout your day
  5. Try to vary your activities away from just screen time i.e. not phone, tv, laptop repeat, find time to enjoy reading, cooking, working out, phoning friends and so on
  6. Keep up social interaction whether with other members of your household or via apps like facetime and skype.
  7. Limit your news intake and allow headspace for other thoughts than just the coronavirus
  8. Try to actively encourage positive thoughts and don’t fall into negative spirals
If you’re having mental health problems, these helplines and support groups can offer expert advice.

4.  Contacting me for help

Despite the coronavirus outbreak I will be continuing to work on constituent cases via email, and my office will be increasing the opening hours of its telephone line. I will, however, be closing my office to members of the public and holding my regular advice surgeries by telephone until further notice.
This is to ensure that we maximise the number of people we can help remotely and minimise the risk of spreading infection.
If you or someone you know needs to get in touch with me - please contact me at this email:
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Copyright © 2020 Sarah Jones, All rights reserved.

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