[Image taken from Liberal Democrat article on World Mental Health day].
This lockdown may feel even harder than previous ones, as nine months of restrictions take their toll on all of us.
Many of us are juggling work, home schooling and the sadness of being away from family and friends. Others are dealing with anxiety after losing their jobs, and of course many people have lost loved ones to the virus.
It is important to seek help if you need it and there are lots of places to find support.
[Image taken from the Liberal Democrat campaign for sufferers of Long Covid].
We know that the after-effects of Covid can be long lasting and very distressing.
Even those who haven’t experienced the distress and trauma of hospitalisation can suffer chest complaints, headaches, fatigue and insomnia months after getting the virus. Lib Dem MP Layla Moran recently described Long Covid as ‘the hidden health crisis within this growing coronavirus pandemic,’ with an estimated 300,000 affected in the UK.
If you or a family member have had Covid and are struggling to recover, the following resources might be helpful. The experience can be traumatic and it is ok to seek help.
From 4 January, people across the whole country must now stay at home apart from the following exceptions:
- for work if people cannot work from home
- to shop for necessities such as food or medicines
- to exercise once per day at a local location. This can be with your household or support bubble or with one person from outside your household/bubble.
- to provide care or help to vulnerable people
- to attend medical appointments, get medical care or a coronavirus test, or to flee the threat of harm or violence
- All schools and colleges will move to online learning
- Schools will remain closed for all pupils, apart from the children of key workers or those who are vulnerable, until the February half-term
- However, nurseries can remain open while childcare and support bubbles will stay in place
If you need help
The Government Guidance on the new National Lockdown restrictions can be found here: www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home
If you are in an at-risk group and need help or support do get in touch with your nearest mutual aid group. They have been doing fantastic work throughout the pandemic and are deserving of our gratitude. You can find your nearest group at https://walthamforestmutualaid.org.uk
Waltham Forest Council can also help vulnerable residents to access priority delivery slots at Tesco and Iceland or to access a local food bank. You can access this help by calling the Council Resolution Centre on 020 8496 3000 from 7am to 7pm seven days a week.
Age UK Advice
Looking After Your Mental Health
Advice to renters
If you need support to stop domestic abuse please call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247.
If you are worried about your own behaviour and think you might be at risk of hurting your partner or family you can also call the Respect help line. It is confidential and free to call: 0808 802 4040.
Going to donate blood is considered essential travel and not affected by the lockdown. Please consider donating to help vulnerable people at this time. https://www.blood.co.uk/news-and-campaigns/news-and-statements/coronavirus-covid-19-updates/
Unpaid carers – now added to priority 6 vaccination group
On 31 December, the government updated its priority vaccination list to include:
- adults who provide regular care for an elderly or disabled person
- younger adults in long-stay nursing and residential settings
They will be offered the vaccine at the same time as the adults under 65 years with long term conditions. You can see the updated guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-why-you-are-being-asked-to-wait/why-you-have-to-wait-for-your-covid-19-vaccine
This is something that the Liberal Democrats have been calling for, for a number of weeks and we are pleased that this omission has been rectified - it is now in line with standard priority vaccination guidance and will be a relief to a number of people.
Celebrating the local businesses that helped to feed children during half-term.
In October the Conservative government voted against extending the ‘Covid Summer Food Fund’ to feed children eligible for free school meals during half-term. Although several Liberal Democrat councils opted to feed these children themselves, Waltham Forest Council was slow to respond.
Instead, many local businesses, schools and charities stepped in to support families in Waltham Forest. Throughout half-term they offered food parcels and hot meals for free, despite the fact that many have suffered from the financial impact of Covid-19 themselves.
We want to celebrate these local heroes including:
- Firezza in Olympic Park
- Marmelo Kitchen on Francis Road
- Deeney’s on Leyton High Road
- The Wild Goose Bakery on Leytonstone High Road
- Craftworks on Hoe Street
- The Farm Community Kitchen on Cann Hall Road
Plus of course the various food banks that support Waltham Forest residents, including:
While we welcome the government’s recent U-turn, which means that children will now be fed during the Christmas holidays, this is not a new problem. Every year, vulnerable families worry about the school holidays, when they will need to find an extra £30–40 per week to buy the meals usually provided at school. It is an absolute travesty for children to go hungry, on any day of the year.
That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling for free school meals for every child in primary and secondary school whose family is receiving universal credit, or are low-income with no recourse to public funds, and also meal vouchers for all of these pupils covering school holidays and lockdown period.
Please let us know of any local heroes we may have missed so that we can add them in. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also see our post on how to get support locally this winter.
Where you can get help, and how you can help out locally this winter.
As we enter winter, many families are facing the double whammy of increased heating and electric bills alongside further restrictions from the pandemic and potential job losses.
While the Government U-turn on free school meals during the Christmas holidays and the extension of the furlough scheme are both very welcome, support will be needed beyond half term, and the Christmas holidays are likely to be another pinch point for many families.
We have collated a list of resources and organisations working locally to support families who may be struggling in the holidays and in winter more generally. This is not exhaustive, so please let us know if there are other organisations that should be featured.
[image credit - Google streetview].
Waltham Forest Council is considering plans from a private developer to build almost 600 homes on the Homebase site at the junction of Forest Road and Fulbourne Road. WFLDs support the construction of high-quality homes to meet our current housing crisis, but the current plans fall short of the standards set out by the Council. Read the letter to the planning committee from our housing and planning spokesperson, Thomas Addenbrooke, below.
An open letter from our Services and Innovation spokesperson, Ciara Simmons.
All of the libraries in Waltham Forest are currently closed. The council says that this is due to the government guidance on coronavirus, although most non-essential shops are now open.
While it is great to see that there is now the option to order the delivery of library books and limited services available online, this is of no help to the many people in the borough either without internet access or who are not familiar with how to use it.
According to the latest Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index, 9 million people in the UK cannot undertake basic activities such as turning on a device, connecting to Wi-Fi or opening an app by themselves and 3.6 million are completely offline. The report concludes that it is the most vulnerable and disadvantaged who are the most likely to be digitally excluded, including the elderly and those on low incomes.
In any event, libraries do not just exist to provide books. They give access to a whole range of community services, from careers advice to visitor parking permits, and help to level the playing field in society.
For the sake of the many residents who rely on them, I would urge the council to reopen our libraries as soon as possible.
Ciara Simmons, Walthamstow
Waltham Forest Liberal Democrats, Spokesperson for Services and Innovation
Image credit: This image was originally posted to Flickr by JuliaC2006 at https://flickr.com/photos/81269484@N00/15082235981. It was reviewed on 21 July 2018 by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.
The latest from Caroline Pidgeon AM
Earlier this month we saw the introduction of the compulsory wearing of face masks on public transport throughout the whole of England. However, a further change is the restrictions on the older person’s Freedom Pass and the 60+ London Oyster photocard. All passengers with an Older Person's Freedom Pass, 60+ Oyster photocard or English National Concessionary Scheme pass will not be able to use them during morning peak hours, which is 04:30 to 09:00 Monday to Friday. (The Freedom Pass for disabled people will stay unaltered).
And more changes are on the way.
From Monday 22 June TfL is proposing that the Congestion Charge will increase to £15 and hours will be extended, operating from 07:00 to 22:00, seven days a week. They are also proposing to close the residents' discount for the Congestion Charge to new applications from August 1st.
Then, from September, free travel for under 18 year olds will be ended, with the Department for Transport claiming special arrangements will be made to ensure children eligible under national legislation can still travel to school for free.
The reason for all these changes that are being imposed just on London is due to policies being set by central government in its bailout deal for Transport for London. The full details of this bailout deal have now been published and can be seen here. Scroll down to page 63. And for anyone who wants a detailed understanding of TfL’s financial difficulties this is an excellent article.
Of course national government has a right to set some terms or conditions on any loan or grant it offers to TfL, but many of these conditions are petty and simply attempting to micro-manage how TfL operates. Similar conditions have not been imposed on other transport authorities around the country.
Under these changes, and many other conditions set by the Government, London’s devolved powers of government are being seriously eroded. Settling political scores has been put before the welfare of the young and older people in London.
Just how long will these changes last for?
All the above changes are repeatedly described as “temporary” but at present there is no information at all as to how long they will last for.
What we are doing?
We are strongly opposing most of these changes and especially the changes to the Freedom Pass and the ending of free travel for under 18 year olds. Ending free travel for under 18 year olds will especially hit low income families, just at a time when more support is needed for many families.
Please do support Siobhan Benita’s petition on this campaign.
Over the Summer I will of course keep you updated on all these changes. More information is also available via my Facebook site and on Twitter.
Liberal Democrat Assembly Member