Dear Friends and Residents, I realise it’s a few weeks since I sent out an update email, for which I do apologise.
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** Vicky Ford InTouch 3 April 2020
Dear Friends and Residents
I realise it’s a few weeks since I sent out an update email, for which I do apologise. These are very challenging times and I thought it might be helpful to send out some useful links and information.
Thank you so much to everyone who is staying at home at the moment. It is making a huge difference.
My thoughts are very much with those who are unwell or have lost family members, friends, colleagues and loved ones.
I would like to thank all those on the front line, especially our doctors, nurses, cleaners and other staff in our hospitals. They are the bravest of us all. We will always be in their debt. My thoughts are also with their families. As a doctor’s wife I know how concerned we all are for those working in our hospitals.
I would also like to thank all those working in other vital areas. The staff in our supermarkets, those working in food production, our police and social workers, transport workers, delivery drivers, rubbish collectors, those caring for children of key workers and vulnerable children and the many others who are keeping the country going.
Thank you also to everyone who has been in touch by email over the past few weeks. My office team have been working extremely hard to get advice and assistance to constituents and prioritising urgent cases. I am also in regular contact with the local NHS, local Police and other key public services.
Thank you to everyone who is supporting vulnerable people at this time. If you would like to volunteer then this would be hugely appreciated. Many people have volunteered but we do need more.
To volunteer locally, please join the Essex Coronavirus Action Facebook page or check www.volunteeressex.org ([link removed]) or www.chelmsfordcvs.org.uk ([link removed]) for the latest opportunities.
Support for those who need help
A new service has been set up to help vulnerable people in our community who are staying at home. The Essex Welfare Service is for people who are unable to access the support they need at this time. If you are in need of support, please call 0300 303 9988 (tel:03003039988) .
The Essex Welfare Service is working with the Chelmsford Voluntary Service to direct the request to the many community and voluntary groups and parish councils that are giving support at a local level. In addition, a Chelmsford Community Hub has been set up. A wider Essex Community Shield is focusing support on those at the most severe risk, these people will have been contacted by their GP or the NHS directly.
It’s important that all calls for help go through the Essex Welfare Service, as they will be able to allocate requests for support to community groups, parish councils and other groups when it is appropriate.
Advice on Coronavirus
The best sources of advice are [link removed] and [link removed]. There is a huge amount of advice available on many different issues and both are updated regularly.
Advice to people overseas
Many Chelmsford residents have found themselves stuck overseas at this time, and we have been working with the Foreign Office to help them to get back home. It has been very uplifting to get messages from those who are now safely back. We are in touch with a small number who are still waiting to travel. If you are still overseas and wanting to return, please do make sure that you are in close contact with the UK Consulate on the ground where you are. Please follow their regular updates via twitter accounts. These are all of standard format eg @UKinAustralia
Advice to businesses
Please note that the Government announced new plans for support for business last night. Advice for business is available here ([link removed]) and here ([link removed]) .
Advice to individuals seeking financial support
I know that some residents have been struggling to get in touch with DWP. The DWP have brought in a large number of extra people to help with inquiries and have already helped over 1 million people. I have been warned that their lines are very busy in the middle of the day so please do call early morning or later evening. Again, there is a huge amount of advice here ([link removed]) and here ([link removed]) .
Some further information that may be of interest
Meals for older people
Age Concern Chelmsford normally run a day centre and luncheon club where elderly people can meet up and enjoy a nutritious home cooked meal for a modest price. With the current social distancing rules they have had to close the day centre but they are operating a "Meals on Wheels" service for anyone in the Chelmsford area who would like a lunch delivered to their door. The cost is £6 per day for a two course meal and you can book individual days or every day Monday to Friday . If anyone would like to book or get further details they can ring the day centre any weekday between 9.30 and 2pm. The phone number is 01245 262589.
Ideas for parents of 0-5 year olds
Staying at home is extremely hard for everyone but for those with tiny kids it can be especially so. The Hungry Little Minds website is packed full of simple, fun activities for kids, from newborn to five. You can find it here. ([link removed])
Warning from the Police about fraud
The District Commander of Chelmsford and Maldon Police has been in touch, warning about an increase in fraud-related offences. Some extremely helpful advice for victims or anyone who has concerns about this type of offence is available here. ([link removed])
If you are a victim of domestic violence or are worried about someone else please do get in touch with the Essex Compass helpline on 0330 333 7444
Update from my role as Minister
As Minister for Children and Families I have been involved in many very challenging decisions over recent weeks, including the decision to close schools. These are not the decisions one wants to have to take, but we know they are the right decisions to make as they will save lives.
My specific ministerial role involves oversight for vulnerable children, this includes all children and young people in care. I am also responsible for decisions regarding children with special educational needs and disabilities, early years provision and school meals. I am working closely with groups representing these areas all across the country to respond to issues as quickly and effectively as possible. We have worked round the clock to set up a new voucher scheme so that the 1.3 million children who normally receive a free school meal will still be able to get food easily.
At this critical time, I am deeply impressed by the way that people across the country are stepping up to the mark to help the most vulnerable and by the immense knowledge and professionalism of the civil service, teachers and social workers.
Stay In Touch
Over the next few weeks and months I will be focusing on my job to support our most vulnerable children across the country as well as supporting the people of Chelmsford. I am doing most of this by online or digital means as I need to reduce social contact myself in order to reduce the risk of my passing the virus onto my doctor husband.
My small team of assistants are also working flat out helping to answer email enquiries. Please do contact us if you have urgent issues that you need us to help with, and I do apologise if it is not possible for me to answer every inquiry directly as we are focussing on those who have individual requests that need addressing.
I am also endeavouring to share as much up to date helpful information as possible via my Facebook page “Vicky Ford” so please do follow that for updates.
Thank you everyone for all your support and all you are doing. #StaySafeStayHome.
As ever, please do stay in touch. My email is: [email protected]
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