Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Current News

In the face of this unprecedented Coronavirus crisis the government is rightly telling people to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus, to protect our NHS and to save lives. 

However for many families in Camberwell and Peckham this is much harder than it is for others. Camberwell and Peckham has, of all the constituencies in the country, the highest number of families living in council or housing association flats.  It is really hard for parents with young children who live in small flats with no outside space.  During this lockdown here’s no nursery or play group and no chance to pop round to hang out with a group of friends.  For these families it’s crucial to have the opportunity to spend one hour getting a breath of fresh air and for the children to be able to run around. 

We have wonderful green spaces in Camberwell and Peckham, from big areas like Burgess Park and Peckham Rye to little gems like St Giles Churchyard and Lucas Gardens. But as it the weather gets hotter they’re getting more crowded.  Our parks are a precious public asset.  In this lockdown they need to be for those who need them most, local people who don’t have gardens. 

I’m suggesting that there should be a rota for our public green spaces.  So that you would know that on a particular day your estate would have priority on a park. 

What about advising those who live in houses with gardens not to use the parks?  They can use their own gardens and walk on the streets.

And what about having a radical extension of road closures?  There is so little traffic.  Side roads could be closed except for access. That would take the pressure off the parks as people could walk in the street instead of crowding onto pavements.  It’s hard to keep 2 meters apart when you are wheeling your buggy on a narrow pavement. And a rota would reduce the danger of the few cars that are on the road speeding dangerously because of the lack of traffic. Let’s give the roads over to people walking and cycling.

Most people are abiding by the social distancing rules.  The police are there to check up on those who don't. Let’s make this lockdown more bearable for children cooped up in flats by giving them the freedom of our parks and let’s make out streets safer by giving children, not cars, priority in our streets.

 

We need a rota for parks for families without gardens of their own - Southwark News

In the face of this unprecedented Coronavirus crisis the government is rightly telling people to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus, to protect our NHS and to...

 

 

Dentists need financial support to survive COVID-19 crisis - My letter to the Chancellor

   

Careworkers might not be the first people we think of when we picture our vital workers leading the fight against Coronavirus. But they are very much on the frontline looking after the most vulnerable and to do their job they have to be in close physical contact with those for whom they are caring and their co-workers.    

There are 8 residential homes care in Camberwell and Peckham and I’ve contacted them telling them how much we value their work and offering to take up any of their concerns. I was dismayed to hear that staff feel that they don’t have the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they need to protect the elderly people they help, or keep themselves and their families safe, that there are shortages of staff as people have to self isolate and that the government is not properly focussed on them. 

Even before the Coronavirus hit, years of government funding cuts, outsourcing and privatisation had already left the care sector and it’s staff at breaking point. But with this deadly virus we are now seeing the full tragedy of the cuts and neglect play out.

Carers are unappreciated and underpaid, often on zero hours contracts, without entitlement to holidays or sick pay. If they don’t go into work, they don’t get paid. 

This does not help prevent the spread of the virus. One careworker told me she worries every day about whether it’s better for her to come into work fearing she could spread the virus to the vulnerable people she helps, or to stay at home, which would compromise safe staffing levels and the quality of care.

Carers tell me they are worried that because they do not come under NHS management they will be forgotten in the Government’s testing programme of critical healthcare staff.

A number of staff said they’d been turned away from supermarkets during the early access hours for health workers because their ID badges are not NHS, and by the time they finish their shifts the shelves are empty.

I’m pressing the Government to treat dedicated staff working in our already overstretched social care sector with the same priority as frontline staff in hospitals. 

All care workers must urgently be given adequate and effective Personal Protective Equipment, be included in the testing programme and the Government must issue guidance to supermarkets to ensure they recognise and prioritise care home staff for online shops and designated early hours. Before Coronavirus struck there were already vacancies for social care workers. If we don’t protect carers, as they protect society's most vulnerable, we risk losing more of this vital workforce over the coming weeks, and potentially for good.

 

The social care sector and its workforce have been taken for granted for too long. The Coronavirus crisis has exposed how vital they are. 

When this pandemic is over one of the Government’s first priorities must be to create a National Care Service, like our NHS. 

And in the meantime, every Thursday, I’ll be clapping for our care workers as well as our indispensable NHS. 

Care homes cannot be left behind in our battle against Coronavirus - South London Press article

Careworkers might not be the first people we think of when we picture our vital workers leading the fight against Coronavirus. But they are very much on the frontline looking...

Coronavirus Crisis report 1

Read my Coronavirus Crisis Report 1 - 2nd April 2020 here  

Link to letter here

 

Full text below: 

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Fairness for the Self-Employed and Freelancers in the Creative Industries throughout Coronavirus Crisis - Letter to Chancellor

Link to letter here   Full text below:   

31.03.2020_-_Letter_to_Dominic_Raab_MP-page-001.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

31.03.2020_-_Letter_to_Grant_Shapps_MP-page-001.jpg

Helping Constituents Stranded Abroad Get Home - My Letters to Foreign Secretary and Transport Secretary

         

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Police officers on frontline need Personal Protective Equipment - Letter to Home Secretary

I have been contacted by a number of people in Camberwell and Peckham who are understandably very anxious about empty shelves, the lack of key groceries and cleaning products and delivery slots. I appreciate this is a very difficult and unsettling time. 

I have written to the 10 major supermarkets with one or more stores in Camberwell and Peckham to ask what reassurances they can offer local people about the steps they are taking to ensure shelves remain stocked with food and essential supplies throughout the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic.

I've also asked supermarket chief executives to let me know what adjustments they are making to ensure elderly and vulnerable people can get the supplies they need, including prioritising them for online food deliveries and creating designated shopping hours.

I enclose the determined and sensible response I've received from Iceland below. I share Iceland's frustration with those whose actions threaten others. 

I will post the other supermarkets' replies I receive as they come in.

 

Coronavirus - my letter to local supermarkets

I have been contacted by a number of people in Camberwell and Peckham who are understandably very anxious about empty shelves, the lack of key groceries and cleaning products and...

The government is rightly taking tough powers to enable it to take action necessary to cut the number of deaths in this corona virus crisis. And they are rightly giving strict advice about what we must do to protect ourselves during the epidemic.

The Prime Minister’s updated advice on 16th March asking people to “social distance” is following the medical evidence but it is affecting pubs, shops and restaurants. The government need to ensure they can survive past this crisis. 

Coronavirus is already hitting small businesses struggling as supplies from abroad dry up or employees have to take time off. So they will need compensation quickly.

The government has paused business rates which is welcome. There needs to be rent relief, suspension of utility bills and compensation payments too. 
Local help for small businesses in Southwark: 
Southwark Council have set up an advice service for businesses: email SouthwarkBusinessDesk@southwark.gov.uk
They have also set up an emergency support service for those in financial hardship on 020 7525 2434
We can all do our bit as individuals by not risking ourselves and others and sticking to the advice.

The government will be keeping the public informed and also making itself accountable to Parliament. But Parliament will work very differently with only a few MPs allowed in the chamber. The Human Rights Committee which I chair has agreed to suspend our meetings but instead make our decisions by email. My dedicated caseworkers who help with my work for constituents who have problems including benefits, immigration or housing are still doing their work but doing so from home, working online. 

The bottom line is that the government needs to do everything possible to protect lives and we need to act on that advice and play our part in these unprecedented times. 

Coronavirus - help for local businesses

The government is rightly taking tough powers to enable it to take action necessary to cut the number of deaths in this corona virus crisis. And they are rightly giving...

Coronavirus is a new virus, there is no vaccine or treatment and we don’t know what path it will take.  What we do know, though, is that it spreads rapidly and the elderly and ill are most at risk.  So every action possible must be taken to contain it and care for those who fall ill.

King’s College Hospital will be in the front line.  But King's is already overstretched after years of cuts from the Conservative government and with more people needing care. People already regularly wait longer than 4 hours in A & E and bed occupancy levels are 94%, well above the 85% limit  So it’s vital that the government give Kings more money to bring in more staff and open up more beds. And they need to give extra resources to the Maudsley too so that people in mental health crisis are cared for there and not left waiting in Kings A and E.

King's was the first hospital to report that patients had contracted coronavirus and everyone saw that on the news.  But there was no information to tell patients whether they should go in for outpatients’ appointments or if planned surgery was going ahead.  Nothing to tell visitors whether they should come as usual or stay away.  And no information to GPs on whether they should continue to refer patients to Kings as usual despite the coronavirus outbreak.  The NHS communications system needs to be much quicker so everyone knows they can just look on the website for the up to date position.

The Prime Minister has promised that people who stay off work because they are ill with suspected virus or if they are “self-isolating” will get Statutory Sick Pay from the first day off.  But we need to ensure that that change actually happens on the ground. We don’t want people feeling that they have to go in to work when they are feeling ill or risk infecting others because they can’t afford to stay off.  And there will need to be help too for people who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, because they are self-employed or on zero hours contracts. There are 2 million people in this country who don’t earn enough to qualify for sick pay.  The government must set up a special fund and payment system for them. Nor must the government cancel the benefits of people who are unable to go to Job Centre appointments or job interviews because they are ill but can’t get a doctor’s certificate or self-isolating. The benefit sanctions regime can be a blunt instrument at the best of times but it must take account of coronavirus.

Coronavirus is hitting businesses too as they struggle as supplies from abroad dry up or employees have to take time off. So they will need compensation too.

It’s inevitable, as the virus progresses, that there will be new challenges and unforeseen problems.  And there have been reports that Parliament will be shut down so that we don’t spread the virus to the 650 different constituencies represented in Westminster.  But we must keep the pressure on the Government to help people who need it and back up the NHS and that’s Parliament’s job.  It makes sense to consider that at some point we might need to stop the thousands of visitors who come every day to Parliament.  And we might need a slimmed down version of Parliament, with fewer MPs (nominated from each country, region and party) operating out of our mini-chamber in Westminster Hall.  But the Government need to be accountable publicly for what they do in this most challenging of times.  And Parliament must be able to continue to effectively scrutinise it.

Coronovirus will not wait - govt must give NHS money it needs - Southwark News

Coronavirus is a new virus, there is no vaccine or treatment and we don’t know what path it will take.  What we do know, though, is that it spreads rapidly...

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