At this time of crisis, it is essential that we get children back into schools across the Borough of Kingston at the earliest opportunity because each day that children are stuck at home, the disadvantage-gap grows wider, and the most vulnerable children risk falling through the cracks.
However, we must ensure that schools are safe for children to return en masse. The evidence around coronavirus transmitting less easily between children is not yet conclusive and I fear that the Government might be more anxious about parents returning to work than keeping children safe.
Whilst we all understand the need to lock down to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, we must also ensure that we're looking after our mental health as well as our physical health. That’s why now is a good time to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.
We all feel the stresses and strains of everyday life, and some of us have deeper underlying mental health issues to cope with. Connecting with people can make a big difference, and for me, in these difficult times, what makes the difference is spending quality time with my wife and children.
Being there for someone can sometimes be the most important step, and that’s why the Mental Health Foundation's theme this year couldn't be more appropriate: Kindness.
As thousands of people return to work under new government guidance, it's more important than ever that people have the opportunity to commute by bicycle if they wish to avoid public transport. Along with my colleagues – Sarah Olney MP, Cllr Caroline Kerr and Cllr Gareth Roberts – I've called for Richmond Park to be reopened to commuter cyclists.
Richmond Park is a prime route into central London for many people in the constituency and reopening it would significantly cut travel times, reduce congestion on surrounding roads and, by making the journey more pleasant, encourage even more commuters to take up cycling. It would also ease the pressure on our public transport and help more people in social distancing when commuting.
Our joint letter to the Chief Executive of The Royal Parks, which manages the Richmond Park, asks for them to reopen the park to commuter cyclists as soon as possible. Scroll down to read the full letter.
Do you need help dealing with Covid-19 - either keeping a business going or dealing with personal and domestic problems? Here's information on help and advice available from the government and Kingston Council, plus a link for those who want to volunteer to help others in the community.
Government Job Retention Scheme
The government has produced new guidance on its job retention scheme specifically for businesses. The scheme has been extended to the end of June.
You can read more about how the scheme works here.
You can calculate how much you are entitled to claim here.
There is also a step-by-step guide to help you through the process of applying here.
Support if You Feel at Risk of Domestic Violence
The Kingston One Stop Shop and face to face meetings are closed until further notice. Support is still available by contacting The Kingston Domestic Violence Hub on 0208 547 6046 (Monday - Friday 9 - 5:30pm).
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is open 24 hours (including weekends) to offer advice - 0808 2000 247. In an emergency, always dial 999.
Volunteering in the Community
Kingston charities and voluntary organisations are looking for volunteers during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Many regular volunteers are over 70 years old or have underlying health conditions, so they are self-isolating and not able to get out and help. At the same time, there is a greater need for voluntary services to help protect the vulnerable in our community.
If you can spare the time, Volunteering Kingston can help match you up with an organisation that needs your help. They are particularly keen to talk to people with social work or care work experience, but please get in contact no matter what experience you may have.
They also have some great advice on how to volunteer informally in your community, whether that's checking in with neighbours and friends, organising a regular phone or video chat to raise their spirits, or donating to a foodbank.
For more information, visit the Volunteering Kingston website now.
Asking for Help
If you or someone you know needs support, Kingston Council is here to help. Simply complete this online form, either for yourself or on behalf of someone else, and you will be contacted. You can complete the form at any time.
For those without online access, you can phone 020 8547 5000. If your request is not urgent, please try to call between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. (If your call is urgent, the number will be answered out of these hours - but please note, the out of hours service is for urgent calls only and your support in ensuring it is kept free for the most vulnerable during these times is appreciated.)
For all medical enquiries please contact the NHS on 111.nhs.uk or call 111.
Coronavirus Business Disruption Loan
Kingston Chamber of Commerce has informed its members that the Coronavirus Business Interruption Load Scheme (CBILS) is now available through participating lenders. It's designed to support SMEs which don't meet a lender's normal lending requirements for a fully commercial loan but are considered viable in the long term.
Note: The borrower will remain liable for 100% of the debt. The CBILS guarantee is to the lender, not the SME (the borrower).
More information is available from the British Business Bank.
Using Our Parks
Kingston Council is keeping all parks open for exercise, so that people without easy access to green space have somewhere to enjoy. However, people should stick to government guidelines when using these green spaces.
Do not visit a park if you have any symptoms – fever, coughs, shortness of breath. See NHS guidelines if this applies to you.
- Stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily. If you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air.
- You should only go outside alone or with members of your own household. Gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces have been banned and the police will enforce this.
- Do not use parks for picnics or sunbathing.
- Keep moving and spread out when you are in parks or green spaces.
- Observe social distancing, staying at least 2 metres apart from other people.
- Please keep your dog on a lead, at all times, in public spaces to ensure you can safely keep 2 metres away from others.
- If the park is crowded do not enter if you cannot safely observe social distancing.
- Use all areas of the park that remain open so you can maintain an appropriate distance from others.
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