As the fight against Covid goes on, the support continues
Column by Gareth Davies, MP for Grantham
Nobody wants this latest round of restrictions on our daily lives.
Faced with country-wide hospital Covid admissions increasing rapidly, the advice to the Government was that a time limited round of control measures was required to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed during the winter.
Every single one of the over 49,000 deaths so far is a tragedy, but we must not forget that there are costs to restrictions, too. Not just financially, but to mental health and to loneliness.
I know how worried people are – about their health, their families, their jobs, their businesses and the future.
Nobody takes these decisions lightly and I don’t believe the Government is.
However, it is right, that as our high streets are once again asked to close, the support available continues.
The Government has extended the furlough scheme, expanded the self-employment income support scheme, extended the hospitality VAT cut and rates relief, extended the mortgage payment holiday for homeowners and extended the discounted loan schemes.
The Government also continues to support our local councils in targeting the most vulnerable in our communities.
The Covid Winter Grant Scheme will see councils across England sharing an additional £170 million in ring-fenced funding to help vulnerable families and individuals, with Lincolnshire County Council receiving £2,223,450.
Our councils have proven to be incredibly effective throughout this crisis at getting support to where it is needed most because they know our community and they know our people.
While cash payments have been increased through Covid for those on Universal Credit with a significant £9.3 billion boost in welfare spending, it is the localised measures that will prove most impactful for those in greatest need and this is just one of the reasons why many, including parents and teachers, believe national supermarket meal vouchers, as proposed recently, just don’t go far enough and are too blunt an instrument.
Instead, this week we heard that another £220 million will be invested in extending the very effective holiday activities and food programme for example, and £16 million in funding will be given to food distribution charities who are at the coal face of fighting poverty in communities.
All in all, taxpayers have so far spent five times the national defence budget on supporting our people across the country.
This £200 billion of support is unprecedented and while I am mindful of the long-term impact of it, it is necessary and for some may never be enough.
While the UK economy is resilient, I know that we have people who are vulnerable, without jobs, and who continue to struggle, and that will continue to be my focus long after our battle with this virus is over.