Dear People of Chelmsford, I know you are worried about the impact of the corona virus. We all are. We have never seen a threat like this before, and it is extremely serious.
I would like to start by thanking all those on the front line, especially our doctors, nurses, cleaners and other staff in our hospitals. They know they are being exposed to the virus, but 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 our loved ones working in our hospitals.
It is absolutely vital that we try to slow the spread of the disease, as this is crucial to preventing even more pressure on our hospitals and making sure that our NHS staff can do their very best to care for those who are ill. The Government is following the medical advice of the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty. I have attended briefings and conference calls with Dr Whitty since the virus first was discovered in China. He and his team at Public Health England are world leading experts, so please do follow the Government advice which he is setting. The latest advice and help is available on the website gov.uk/coronavirus.
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, transport workers, delivery drivers and the many others who are keeping the country going. The Government is working flat out with food suppliers to ensure that our stores are well stocked. I am assured that there is sufficient food and other supplies for all, but people do need to shop responsibly and stop stockpiling.
This period is going to be especially challenging for those with health conditions and older people who are vulnerable and need to stay as far away from other people as possible. There is also a group of around 1.5 million people who are at most severe risk due to their health conditions, these people are being asked to completely shield themselves from others. A support network is being established locally and nationally to give extra support to those who are advised to shield. Thank you to everyone who has offered to volunteer to support others. You can sign up via the Facebook page “Essex Coronavirus Action” group.
I know that many people are concerned about the financial impact that this will have on their lives. The Government has already announced a huge package of support for workers and businesses, more funding for the NHS and more for social care and local councils. I know that ministers are constantly looking at areas where more support may be needed.
As Minister for Children and Families I have been involved in many very challenging decisions over recent days and 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. 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.
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 by 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 in Chelmsford are also helping to answer emails. Please do contact us if you have urgent issues that you need us to help with.
With kind regards,
Vicky Ford MP