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Today's Headlines

May 28, 2020 9:53 AM
By Danny Simm

Govt strategy must also support people in isolation

The Government will today rollout it's test and trace system across England, a system to find people who come into close contact with those infected with coronavirus.

  • The Coronavirus crisis is leaving people rightly worried about their loved ones. Sadly, the Government has left confusion in it's wake this week and there are plenty questions still to answer.
  • Central to the Government's strategy must be a comprehensive test, trace and isolate system. Time and again, we have seen Ministers announce the next steps but never an effective plan to support people in isolation, thereby stopping the spread and saving lives.
  • Ministers must come forward with these clear and honest answers, in addition to addressing the obvious issues with their app and why the level of testing remains so low across the UK compared to some countries.

PM must instruct Home Sec to lift no recourse to public funds rule for coronavirus crisis

The Prime Minster appeared before the liaison committee last night where he stated he would "see what we can do to help" those with no recourse to public funds.

  • It's unbelievable that someone who's been an MP for 12 years - and is now the Prime Minister - appeared to not have even heard of a rule that bars migrants from accessing crucial support from the government.
  • The 'no recourse to public funds' rule is particularly damaging during the coronavirus crisis, preventing many families who have lost their livelihoods overnight from accessing the Universal Credit safety net.
  • Liberal Democrats have been urging Priti Patel to lift the rule for the duration of the crisis, so migrants - like everyone else - are given the financial support they need to stay at home.
  • The Prime Minister must now instruct the Home Secretary to make that so by lifting the 'no recourse to public funds' rule.

Hancock agrees to look into reviewing lockdown fines

Yesterday at the daily press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated the government will look into reviewing fines imposed on families travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown, only to be rebuffed by the treasury just hours later.

  • The British public have made huge sacrifices over the past two months, losing their freedom, their livelihoods, and in many tragic instances - someone they loved. Ministers' determination to keep defending the actions of Dominic Cummings are an insult to every single person following the lockdown measures in place.
  • The fact that the Health Secretary agreed to look into reviewing fines imposed on those travelling for childcare during lockdown shows that the Government are in an untenable position.
  • If what Dominic Cummings did wasn't against the rules, then why have others been fined for the same actions? There is no answer other than there is one rule for Dominic Cummings, and one rule for the rest of us.
  • The trust between the government and the British public has been broken, at a time when it is absolutely crucial if we are to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives. The longer Dominic Cumming stays in post, the longer the Prime Minister and his government not only risk public health, but their ability to fight the virus altogether.

Govt must act to tackle disproportionate use of emergency police powers on BAME communities

Analysis published yesterday by Liberty Investigates and the Guardian showed that Black, Asian and ethnic minority people in England are 54% more likely to be fined under coronavirus rules than white people.

  • Like everyone on the frontline of this crisis, our police have a very difficult job to do to help keep us all safe. That job requires the consent and cooperation of the public, and the disproportionate use of these powers against BAME communities risks undermining that consent and cooperation.
  • Liberal Democrats have consistently been warning Government Ministers that they need to make sure these powers aren't used disproportionately against BAME people, like Stop and Search powers are. These figures show that much more needs to be done in that regard.
  • The Government must urgently review the use of these powers to identify why BAME people are more likely to be fined, and take action to ensure this trend does not continue.

Govt must invest now in mental health support given impact of COVID-19

Statistics from the ONS published yesterday revealed that across Great Britain from 3 April to 3 May 2020, some 80% of adults were worried about the effect that COVID-19 was having on their life.

  • The majority of people right across the country have experienced a tangible, detrimental mental health impact as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Ministers must recognise that the mental health scars of COVID-19 will be deep. We need to see investment now to ensure that people - regardless of where they live - can access the support they need, when they need it.
  • That's why the Liberal Democrats are calling for the Government to urgently increase funding for and provision of mental health support. We are calling for access to mental health support 24/7 for those working in health and care, many of whom are enduring daily trauma, and better funded, clearly signposted support for every single community.
  • Given the severity of the COVID-19 crisis in the UK, which has unfolded on his watch, the Prime Minister must act to ensure we provide a world-leading mental health response. The recovery of people across our family of nations requires it.

Increase in prison staff Covid-19 cases show Govt allowing prisons to become crucible for virus

Figures released yesterday showed the number of prison staff with coronavirus has increased dramatically, with 873 staff having tested positive across England and Wales.

  • The figures showing the dramatic rise in Covid-19 cases amongst prison staff demonstrate that the government is allowing prisons to become a crucible for the virus.
  • Whilst our prisons remain overcrowded and the government refuse to release all low-risk prisoners, there is no chance of social distancing. This puts the health of both staff and prisoners, as well as our communities, at risk.
  • The government must listen to prison governors and end overcrowding in prisons before the consequences become even more severe.
  • Liberal Democrats are calling for Ministers to release all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences and suspend any new short sentences. With tough licence conditions and electronic tagging, the government can keep our communities safe from both crime and the spread of coronavirus.

Govt must scrap Vagrancy Act as part of plan to end rough sleeping for good

It was announced that £53m will be provided for support services to help rough sleepers in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

  • COVID-19 forced the Government to take urgent action to end rough sleeping. These efforts are welcome, but that action should have been taken years ago, as the Liberal Democrats have long-called for. Now we must seize the opportunity to ensure that we never return to the status quo and end rough sleeping for good.
  • The Government must urgently pass legislation to scrap the Dickensian Vagrancy Act, which unfairly penalises people for sleeping rough. Instead we need to support people in finding secure accommodation. The additional funding announced will help, but we need to ensure it is sufficient for the long term.
  • Ministers must also make sure local authorities can be confident that they will have access to the resources they need to provide safe, secure accommodation for all those at risk of sleeping rough into the long term, not just through the current crisis. This must include ongoing support for those in emergency accommodation.