(This article is by our researcher, Georgia Marks)
Coronavirus has brought life to a standstill for most of us. However, some of the most vulnerable members of the population may suffer the most. What can be done to try and help those who are most at risk or vulnerable?
The recent panic buying spate has had a major impact on the food supply for those who access food banks. It is clear that greater awareness is needed as to the impact of stockpiling on the great amounts of people living with food insecurity. People are keeping most of their non-perishable goods in the event of lock-down, which is likely to have a major impact on food-banks. Therefore, it is crucial that people give where they can to those most in need. The Trussell Trust have also said that if you are not an at risk group, to volunteer if you have the time and are willing to do so.
However, government have a part to play in fostering a system of inequality. Whilst Universal Credit payments are still being processed during the outbreak, more should be done to address the 5 week waiting time. Those who may not receive statutory sick pay are most vulnerable here and there needs to be a willing and a move by Government to move towards shortening the wait time.
The Self-employed & Small businesses
Following the announcement from the Chancellor on packages to help businesses during the coronavirus crisis, the Welsh Government has been given an extra £1.1 billion to help support the economy. However, First Minister Mark Drakeford has described the package as “wholly inadequate to meet the scale of the challenge.” Further, he has called for a tax holiday to all businesses.
The key concern here is for small businesses and those who are self-employed who will particularly struggle in the current climate. Therefore, it seems that there needs to be greater connectedness between Welsh and UK government in this regard, as otherwise people in Wales are at risk of being in further financial detriment.
One of the greatest concerns in having to take time off work for Coronavirus or having to close your business is likely to be ‘how will I pay for everything?’ On Tuesday, the Prime Minister unveiled that homeowners who lose income because of the coronavirus will be offered a three-month mortgage holiday. This is promising news for homeowners but there are clear risks and concerns for those who do not own their own home and rent instead. Prior to this announcement on Tuesday, the Labour party has urged the government to ban the eviction of tenants whose income has been hit by the outbreak and to allow rent deferrals. This stance was mirrored by Labour’s shadow chancellor, who suggested that the package did not go far enough to help people in the private rented sector.
More could be done to help renters whose income may be impacted by the Coronavirus.
Other fears linked to self-isolation may be ensuring you have the necessities in stock. In this uncertain time, local action seems to be filling the gaps not addressed by government. There have been greater introduction of Mutual Aid groups. These groups are providing people most in need with support, ranging from things like picking up their prescriptions to doing their weekly food shop. This is particularly important given the current discussions that those over 70 or vulnerable to stay indoors within weeks. Although this action inspires us all to support one another, this will not be successful in isolation. More needs to be done by both UK Government and Welsh Government to ensure that those who self-isolate do not end up going without.
Homeless & Self-isolating
However, there needs to be greater consideration for those who face barriers to self-isolation. Leading homelessness charities have written to the Prime Minister asking for homeless people to be recognised as a vulnerable group. It has been argued that the provisions in hostels and day centres fail to ensure that homeless people can self-isolate. They call for greater testing, shelter and accommodation. This is particularly significant given research that has found homeless people report greater ill-health than the general population. Therefore, greater action needs to be taken by Government to ensure that funds can help homeless people to self-isolate.
In general, it seems that more could be done to consider the needs to vulnerable groups in society during the Coronavirus pandemic. Whilst there are steps towards helping the public, the pace of this needs to match the speed at which the virus is impacting them.