This has been, by any measure, an extraordinarily difficult year, writes Helen Hayes…
My thoughts are with everyone who is facing this Christmas grieving the loss of a loved one, whose job or income has been impacted by the fallout from the pandemic, who has experienced the debilitating health impacts of coronavirus, or has been impacted by loneliness and isolation during the lockdown.
In difficult times we have also seen the best of humanity in so many ways. We can celebrate our frontline workers in the NHS, social care, emergency services, in our schools and councils, retail and other public services who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, often putting themselves at risk to continue their important work.
We can be proud of the thousands of residents across Southwark and Lambeth who got involved in mutual aid groups, looking out for their neighbours and making sure no-one went without everyday essentials, and the many shops, cafes and restaurants which stepped in alongside our councils, food banks and local groups to provide free food for children in need over the October half term, when the Tory government refused to help.
We still have a long way to go, the virus is still claiming hundreds of lives every day and the announcement this week that London is being placed under Tier 3 restrictions is a devastating further blow to everyone who works in hospitality and the performing arts in particular. But there are signs of hope at the end of this difficult year. The scientists who have worked relentlessly to develop safe, effective vaccines so quickly also deserve our gratitude, as last week the first vulnerable elderly residents in Southwark and Lambeth received the protection of vaccination.
Moving forward to the New Year, and the hope that life will begin to return to normal, we must make sure that we don’t allow things to return to business as usual.
Coronavirus has shone a light on some deep inequalities in our communities, from the appalling impacts of the disease on our elderly, vulnerable and Black, Asian and minority ethnic residents, to the terrible funding crisis in social care, the scandal of holiday hunger amongst children and many other issues.
The Tories have failed to deliver a detailed action plan for addressing the health inequalities of coronavirus, they have continued with their devastating cuts to our local councils and they voted against giving free school meals to children over the October half term.
In 2021, we owe it to all those who have lost their lives to this terrible disease to hang on to the best of what we have been during this difficult year. Along with my Labour colleagues, I will work tirelessly to demand better of this Tory government too.
I wish you and your family a peaceful Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.