BRIDGET PHILLIPSON: Gaps in support mean many workers will be left out

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented shake-up of our way of life. I know that many people in our community are concerned about what the future holds, from their personal health and that of their family, to their ability to make a living.

Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 12:00 am
Clap for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic at Sunderland Royal Hospital

While this is a hugely challenging time, we are also seeing the best of our community, as local people look out for another and help those in need.

I pay tribute to our key workers, from shop workers, to the NHS and social care, and across our public services, who are doing incredible work in such difficult circumstances.

While we can’t be sure at this stage when the lockdown will end, we do know that the effect on our economy will be serious and long-lasting.

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The scale of this challenge means we will need effective and consistent government intervention to help families and businesses ride out this crisis.

Earlier this month, I was honoured to have been asked by Keir Starmer to serve in his Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

I recognise the responsibility this carries at this serious moment in our country’s history, and it’s vital that MPs work constructively with the government.

But we must also be open about shortcomings where we see them.

This week saw the launch of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which will help employers retain staff unable to work due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Thousands of firms signed up on the first day, showing how much this scheme is needed.

Yet there are still many gaps in support which means many workers will be left out.

The government’s recent extension of Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to include both large and small businesses is welcome. But I know that the cash is still failing to get to small businesses in our area quickly enough. Universal Credit must also be urgently reviewed so it can provide adequate support to the many that need it in these difficult times.

COVID-19 will be a presence in our lives for some time yet. If we do not adapt to protect jobs and keep our businesses going, it will be harder to rebuild the economy after the crisis. We need to create a reliable path to economic recovery - but that will only come if we help enough viable businesses survive this immediate challenge.

I will be doing everything I can to ensure that the government acts responsibly to help us emerge from this crisis.