Bridget Phillipson Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South
Coronavirus is having an impact on everyone’s lives, but it’s clearly affecting the communities and groups that have suffered most from the last decade of Tory government.
I’m particularly worried about the impact this crisis is having on our region.
Before COVID-19 hit, almost a quarter of children in the North East were living in poverty.
This is a scourge which limits the life chances of children, damages our society as a whole, and worst of all, is avoidable.
Throughout this crisis, we have been clear that we will work constructively with the government, but this does involve calling out ministers where mistakes have been made.
Sadly, recent weeks have shown how the government is letting vulnerable families slip by the wayside.
We know that ministers don’t plan to provide access to free school meal vouchers over the holidays – a move that will hit many low-income families.
Education is central to children’s lives, and we want to see schools safely open to more children as soon as possible.
But the Prime Minister hasn’t provided the leadership or strategy we need to make this happen. We urgently need to see a plan to allow children to catch up on the learning they’ve missed, or we will see the gulf in attainment widen even further.
The ability to work from home is a privilege in this crisis that many people in our community do not have.
Only a third of workers in the North East say they can work from home, compared to half of workers in London and the South East.
Women are also bearing the brunt of the economic impact. Figures now show that it’s mams who are most likely to have been furloughed, quit or lost their jobs, leaving them at greater risk of financial hardship.
As our country comes we need a recovery that is not only smooth and full, but also inclusive – which means those with the broadest shoulders should help carry the load.
In recent weeks I’ve been debating the Government’s Finance Bill in Parliament, which sets its priorities for the next year.
It is simply not fit for times of crisis. Its soft approach towards tech giants when our high streets are struggling shows just how out-of-touch the Government is on the pressures we face now.
My priority in the weeks and months ahead is to urge ministers to avoid the mistakes of the last decade, and work to build a lasting recovery that sees no community left behind.
Bridget’s article was originally published in the Sunderland Echo.