Moulsham Times Column from Vicky

As we continue lockdown I would like to thank everyone for all you are doing to stay at home and protect the NHS.  As a doctor’s wife I see the pressure our NHS staff are under, but by staying at home we are all helping to slow the spread of the disease and to save lives.

Thank you also to everyone who has been in touch by email over the past few weeks.   My office team have been working 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.

These are very challenging times and I thought it might be helpful to provide readers with some of the links and information that has been shared with me.

Advice on Coronavirus  I know that there is a lot of false information circulating. The best sources of advice are https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus and https://www.essex.gov.uk/topic/coronavirus. There is a huge amount of advice available on many different issues and both are updated regularly.

Volunteering  Many people across Chelmsford are supporting vulnerable people at this time.  Thank you.  Many people have volunteered but over the coming weeks there may be a need for move volunteers. To volunteer locally, please join the Essex Coronavirus Action Facebook page or check www.volunteeressex.org or www.chelmsfordcvs.org.uk.

Support for the Vulnerable  The Essex Welfare Service has been set up to help vulnerable people in our community who are staying at home and are unable to access the support they need at this time. They can help with deliveries of food, medicine and essential supplies. If you do not have help from friends, family, neighbours or local organisations, and you are over 70, pregnant or have underlying health issues, please call the Essex Welfare Service on 0300 303 9988

Support for our Hospitals  The Mid and South Essex Hospitals Charity has launched an emergency appeal to support the health and wellbeing of patients and staff at this time. Donations can be made via -

www.justgiving.com/campaign/msehelpyourhospital. Offers of goods or services including PPE Equipment can be directed to MSEHelpBureau@southend.nhs.uk.

Support for those who are Pregnant  A new maternity app launched last year is providing women with seven-day access to a secure direct chat forum from our midwifery staff. This is available to women booked to give birth at Basildon, Southend or Mid Essex hospitals. Maternity Direct is thought to be amongst the first of its kind in the world. Crucially, the app will allow women to access support during the current pandemic without leaving home. It was developed by midwives from Basildon and Thurrock Hospital and is now being rolled out at Southend and Mid Essex hospitals.

Update from the Ambulance Service  I had an extremely helpful update from the Chief Executive of East of England Ambulance Service last week. The service has been performing extremely well at this challenging time. They have been working with the hospitals to ensure that they can move patients from ambulances into hospitals much more quickly and are now not seeing any delays at the hospitals. In Mid-Essex they are also supporting the three local hospitals with transfers of patients between sites.  They are also being supported with drivers from both the fire-service and the army.

Warning from the Police  Essex Police have warned me about the increase in fraud related offences.  If you are concerned about fraud there is helpful advice  available here.  The police have also warned about possibility of under-reporting of certain crimes during this lockdown period. This is particularly the case with domestic abuse. 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.  If you are worried about a child that may be suffering abuse or neglect, please do contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.

Grants for Businesses  The Government has given Chelmsford City Council £31 million to deliver two grant funding schemes to support local businesses. Chelmsford City Council have already paid out over £19.3 million of this grant funding to over 1,400 Chelmsford businesses to support them in the current crisis. There is still £12 million to be claimed. If you are a local business in Chelmsford and think that you might be eligible for this support, please do look into submitting an application on the Council website here, https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/business/coronavirus-guidance-for-businesses-and-employers/application-business-support-grant/.

Update from Essex Highways  With strict social distancing rules in place, Essex Highways teams are still out on the county’s roads and continuing with their road maintenance. Crews have been out every day to mend potholes and repair other defects including mending streetlamps, traffic signals, white lines and signs. It is important to keep our roads safe for emergency services, for supplies to move and to enable key workers to carry out their critical roles. In just one day last week crews repaired 44 potholes. You can continue to report potholes or other problems online at www.essex.gov.uk/highways.

Update from my role as Minister  As Minister for Children and Families I have oversight for vulnerable children, including all children and young people in care, children with special educational needs and disabilities, early years provision and school meals.  I would like to thank everyone who is supporting children at this time, including teachers and early years providers, social workers and foster carers, and of course parents and children.

I am working closely with groups 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.

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. Essex County Council are still operating their Essex Library Service with access to e-books, e-audio and e-newspapers. For those with babies and toddlers they are running on line rhyme time, you can find more details here.

Stay in Touch  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 so much to everyone who is staying at home at the moment. It is making a huge difference. #StaySafeStayHome.

As ever, please do stay in touch. My email is: vicky.ford.mp@parliament.uk