A year ago today we went into our first national lockdown, so I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know what I have been doing in Parliament, and across Hallam, to represent you during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

I know the past year has been very difficult and uncertain for many of you. I have received messages from thousands of constituents, concerned about your businesses in Hallam, worried about your loved ones in care homes, or struggling on the front line. I am continuing to do everything I can to ensure everyone gets the support they need. Since I was elected, I have responded to over 12,000 constituency enquiries and have been holding weekly surgeries online.

A massive thank you to everyone in Hallam

I wanted to thank everyone in Hallam for everything you have done to help us get through this crisis. It has been amazing to see so many of you come together to fill the holes in the Government’s support package – from our vital frontline workers, to volunteers across the city. 

I know it has not been easy. I have visited food banks in Sheffield and heard about the huge increase in the numbers using their services. I also visited local businesses during the November half term, to hear about their amazing work providing free school meals. I am currently working with local and national campaigners to advocate for the Right to Food to be enshrined in law, and have continuously held the Government to account on their failing food strategy throughout this pandemic.

Olivia visits local businesses during the November half term.
Olivia visits local businesses during the November half term.

Supporting our NHS through this crisis

Sheffield Hallam is home to many who work in the NHS or social care. Through my work on the Public Accounts Committee, I have been holding the Government to account of their failure to deliver adequate PPE to front line workers and I have written to Ministers highlighting the issues you have described to me accessing protective equipment. I have also been in contact with care homes in Sheffield Hallam to hear about the numerous issues they have faced and have raised these issues with local and national Government. 

Olivia joins volunteers making PPE.
Olivia joins volunteers making PPE.

I have scrutinised the vaccination programme and worked with the local Clinical Care Commissioning Group and NHS England to iron out problems with local vaccine delivery and how information about the vaccine is communicated.

It was also my pleasure to chat with Dr Andrew Lee, a public health expert at the University of Sheffield, about the public health measures that are being taken to tackle the virus.

If you are eligible, you can book your vaccine here and if you are struggling to book a vaccine appointment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with my office. 

Standing up for for businesses and workers 

Many businesses and business owners have been in touch about support during the Covid restrictions. I have been liaising with the council to help those who need it get access to grants, and I have written to Ministers to highlight the issues with accessing support such as the Coronavirus Self Employed Income Support Scheme.

Similarly, I know that many workers have faced uncertainty and I have been keen to make the Government aware of the difficulties people have had in accessing the furlough scheme.

If you run a small business and are unsure of what support is available, Sheffield City Council have the full guidance listed on their website. 

Olivia has been campaigning for more support for Hallam
Olivia has been campaigning for more support for Hallam's breweries.

Reaching out to Hallam’s schools and early years 

I understand that the closure of schools has been difficult. I have been in touch with internet providers to ensure school children who cannot afford an internet connection are provided one and I have asked parliamentary questions about the hardware and software that has been made available to children and young people during the covid outbreak. I have also asked Ministers to clarify when the plan for alternative arrangements will be published and what training and support will be given to teachers to award teacher assessed grades fairly.

I am conscious, too, that early years settings have struggled over the last twelve months and have often been left out of government support. I have written to the Department for Education calling on adequate funding for the sector and more information about the scientific evidence informing the decision to keep early years open.

Olivia speaks to the BBC about support for nurseries.
Olivia speaks to the BBC about support for nurseries.

Campaign win!

After constituents got in touch to share with me that they were being made to attend pregnancy appointments alone, due to NHS guidelines, I launched a campaign in Hallam and in Westminster. I raised this issue with the Minister responsible and wrote to our local CCG.

I also spoke in Parliament and to the local and national press about my own experience. The government has now changed the guidelines and birth partners are allowed to be present at all times at Sheffield’s Jessop Wing maternity unit, and maternity units across the country. This is a huge win for campaigners, and will make such a big difference to so many people.

Olivia welcomes changes to maternity support rules.
Olivia welcomes changes to maternity support rules.

You can read more about other issues I have been raising here. 

You can also contact me via email at olivia.blake.mp@parliament.uk or call my office on 0207 219 3552. My team and I will do everything we can to support you. 

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