It feels like we have nearly climbed mount Covid-19, but as we edge towards the summit, there is another peak beyond. As the infection and mortality rates fall, it diminishes the fear which has gripped us these last few months, providing we keep our distance (and the science still points to 2m), wash our hands and follow all hygiene advice, we will conquer this disease.
However Covid-19 has left its mark. For some, the loss of loved ones has been all the more painful due to restrictions to keep us safe. Others are still battling Covid-19 or are on the slow path of recovery. While a second wave still taunts us, the next crisis has arrived. This time it’s economic.
Last week we hoped for a rescue package to save people from the dole queue and guarantee jobs for the future. Instead of investment, we were served short term, gimmicks like a meal deal.
York’s economy does not hold the resilience necessary to protect everyone’s livelihoods since insecure, low paid, work seeds recessions. Many businesses are on the edge of collapse as bills mount and custom falls. The Government offered just two extra weeks furlough in response. After 4-months of waiting, according to Excluded UK, 3m people and businesses across the UK are still yet to receive any meaningful Government support and I’ve joined the Excluded UK APPG to push the Government to urgently address this.
While welcoming investment in retrofitting homes and public amenities, as embedded in Labour’s Green New Deal, we also needed to see investment in the bioscience and aggrotech industries, where York could lead the revolution in green collar jobs; jobs for local residents.
Developing advanced rail, and the digital and creative sectors here in York would open up new opportunities to the city. This weekend I have written to the Government to urge them to seriously consider the York Central site as they plan to move civil servants from Whitehall to the regions.
In buying local, we support local jobs in retail. Having a reputation that York is safe will build confidence. I have called for a quiet morning in York so more vulnerable residents can feel safe and at the same time support our high streets.
Scrapped by the LibDem/Tory Coalition in 2011, Labour’s Future Jobs Fund has been reinvented. I hope that now all young people in York will have access to education, training or work, to ‘kick start’ their careers, not just jobs for the short term.
Labour is eager to tackle sustained regional inequalities, investing in those areas where well paid jobs have been absent. It is in our DNA; it is in our name – ‘Labour’. Labour is there, fighting for you during these hard times, and is there to help meet your needs too.
To move on, we must all listen and learn. We will need a comprehensive national and local public enquiry. There is much to reflect on with the UK having the second worst mortality rate in the world, despite our amazing NHS. The Government were slow to lock down, didn’t have the necessary PPE, abandoned the track and trace in favour of herd immunity and discharged Covid-19 residents into care homes, causing the catastrophic loss of our frailest residents.
Having first challenged the Council after learning they were locking families out of funerals, I changed Government guidance to enable families to grieve. Now, having dug deep through piles of statistics, research and evidence provided by families and whistleblowers, I have also uncovered why York has a disproportionately high level of care home deaths.
Many of our care homes have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep residents safe, providing outstanding love and care. I can’t praise them enough. However, there has been another story which must be exposed and addressed.
Care and safety failure caused harm. Infection spread and families were not kept informed, while neither they, GPs or the CQC (the inspectorate) could visit, some residents died. This should never have happened. We need transparency, not secrecy, to really expose what happened. I am grateful to all those concerned staff and families who have shared their stories, and I will not give up on the Government, Council, care homes and the whole care system until we can guarantee far higher standards of care, treat our care staff better and keep residents safe.
We all have our Covid-19 stories and wounds. We now need to heal. I will work with you through this next step of the journey.
Please follow the link below to read the full article on the York Press website: