“With the news this week that we are thankfully being told we could be past the peak of this health crisis, increasingly our thoughts turn to life after lockdown.
At this stage there are still many unanswered questions about what that will look like – how will we all begin to restart our lives, and revive our economy, while staying as safe and healthy as possible?
We all want to get children back to school, everyone back to work and businesses up and running – but at the same time, we want to protect everyone, particularly our most vulnerable, from coronavirus – and above all avoid a devastating second peak of the virus.
These are difficult questions and we hope some will be addressed by the government in their announcement next week.
However, as I said last week, even as we continue our immediate welfare response for the community, as a council we are already working hard to prepare for the sustainable revival of our economy.
Covid-19 has had a massive effect on all of us – particularly those who were already vulnerable – and we are acutely aware of the impact on them, and also on the many more who have lost jobs, had their income reduced, or whose business is now struggling.
That is why our work now, to ensure that our borough emerges in the strongest possible position, is absolutely crucial, so that those opportunities, those jobs, those affordable homes, are ready for those who need them.
Our work to support businesses has been a key part of our response to Covid-19 from the outset and continues to be a huge priority for us.
As well as reaching out to thousands of small businesses locally to support them and ensure they take up their government grants, we are also representing Croydon’s interests at a national level and ensuring that others are not left behind.
As an ambassador for the national #Raisethebar campaign launched by Croydon BID, I will be personally doing all I can to lobby the government and ensure that retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or over, receive the help and support they deserve.
At the same time, we continue our drive to help residents into employment. Croydon Works, our jobs brokerage service, is working closely with CALAT (Croydon Adult Learning and Training), to help those who are out of work access training and opportunities. You can find out more information here.
Campaign to combat domestic abuse
While we are being told we could be past the peak, we are not out of danger – and we remain very aware of the impact of the continued lockdown on those who are not safe in their homes.
On Monday, we will be launching a new campaign, creating safe spaces in supermarkets, so anyone experiencing domestic abuse can speak to any member of staff, who will provide them with a private area in store and access to a phone to seek help and support.
Croydon FJC, which offers support to those experiencing domestic abuse, and the police, have worked closely with some stores to develop this. More details, including the supermarkets that are participating, can be found here.
Hundreds of posters have also gone up in Croydon’s off-licenses publicising local and national domestic abuse support services.
The message is clear – if you are not safe in your own home, please, seek help – we have extended the hours of Croydon FJC, and they remain open for drop-ins. You are not alone.
New scheme to keep your streets safe
I’m pleased that this week we have introduced some temporary road closures, to help keep residents fit and healthy. The closures will make it easier for people to get outside and exercise safely, while still following the social distancing rules.
This will also help to reduce traffic speeds which I know have been a concern with less cars on the roads.
I hope this scheme will go some way towards making it easier for everyone to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. You can find more details here.
But I must be clear – while we look to the future, the peak of this health crisis may be past but the danger is not. This pandemic is very far from over.
We have made much progress, but now is not the time to relax. If we want to continue this recovery, we must continue to follow the guidance on social distancing in our parks, on our streets, and in every aspect of our lives.
And we must not forget, that while the direction of travel is positive, there are many, many people who are still very much in the eye of the storm.
I am thinking of those who are unwell, at home or in hospital; those who are grieving for lost loved ones, and those working on the frontline – in our health services, in our care homes, social workers, and all those delivering essential local services.
My thoughts as ever remain with them, and my heartfelt thanks to all our key workers again.
Thanks also, to all of you for all you are doing for our borough. #CroydonTogether will get through this – and we will emerge stronger than ever.