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Financial and Social Emergency Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:46 pm, 25th March 2020

I will write to the hon. Lady with full details on that point and make that letter public. That is a firm commitment to the House this afternoon.

I am conscious that time is pressing. On support for rough sleepers, I want to confirm that the support package is comprehensive and, of course, therefore extends to some of the most vulnerable members of society. Not all of us are so fortunate as to have a stable home in case we are sick, so we are developing a bespoke response and have launched a £3.2 million covid-19 rough sleeping fund. Dame Louise Casey is heading up our rough sleeping response to covid-19, and our aim is to make sure that everyone is protected and is in appropriate accommodation. On the point raised by the hon. Member for Croydon Central, hotels engaged in this process should stay open, and the Department is working closely to ensure that that is the case. We are working intensively across all local authorities in England, and Dame Louise is focusing on high-priority areas, both in and outside London. The hon. Lady raised the issue of Grenfell, and we are absolutely clear that building sites and priority work, where appropriate PHE guidance has been observed, can continue, where the work is genuinely essential. We will be issuing further detail on this point. We want to see the Grenfell issue of cladding continue to be addressed at this time, assuming that safe practice can be followed.

On the care system, we are providing £1.6 billion for local authorities’ response to the covid-19 pandemic, to address the additional pressures they are facing. We expect that the majority of that funding will be spent on providing adult social care services, which are going to be required. I can confirm that 26,000 care organisations—care homes, home care and hospices—have each received 300 fluid-repellent masks. Obviously, many more will be needed and we are dramatically ramping up the supply of those. The Army is now involved in making sure that they are distributed across the country as required.

The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden raised the issue of children’s hospices in her question, and I can confirm that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is working on a support package for charities right now, We are working at pace and hope to bring forward plans shortly, recognising that, as she rightly said, time is of the essence in making sure that these places do not have to close. On children, young people and those who work with them, our priorities are their safety, minimising disruption to everyday life and not unduly impacting on their progression and education. That is why we have asked parents to keep their children at home wherever possible. Schools and all childcare providers have been asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children: those who are vulnerable; and those whose parents are crucial to the covid-19 response and who cannot be safely cared for at home. We are extremely grateful for the work of teachers, childcare providers and local authorities, and we will continue to monitor closely what is happening on the ground. To be clear, the position is as follows: children should be sent to school only if they have to be because someone’s work is genuinely crucial to our national response. If people are able to keep their children at home, they should do so.