18 May 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems launch calls for more mental health support for health and care staff
  • Lib Dems lead cross party push to keep pubs in business
  • People deserve an upfront answer from Powys MPs
  • Govt must increase testing capacity to maintain credibility

Lib Dems launch calls for more mental health support for health and care staff

The Liberal Democrats are today calling on the Government to ramp up mental health support for health and care staff to ensure “world-class” support for those tackling the virus head on.

Highlighting the “deep scar” coronavirus will leave on health and care staff, the party have put forward a package of mental health measures designed for rapid roll-out across the NHS and care sectors, including:

  • 24/7 access to mental health support for health and social care workers, through a dedicated helpline
  • Guarantees that health and care staff will no longer be penalised for time off due to mental or physical ill health by scrapping the Bradford scoring system and other HR practices that can create a culture of presenteeism
  • Introduce an ‘occupational health passport’ so workers do not have to relive mental health traumas if or when they change jobs
  • Additional training to ensure there are mental health first-aiders in every health and care workforce
  • Steps to standardise the quality and service offer to ensure that every health and social care worker can access the same, high standard of mental care support regardless of the region in which they are based

The roll out of these services must be for all staff, whether or not they are directly involved in patient treatment, in recognition of the wide scale of the impact of the COVID-19 across all teams. If adopted, the proposals will improve access to mental health support for all those working in health and care settings.

Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson said:

COVID-19 will leave a deep scar on our health and care workforce, who have gone above and beyond to tackle this dreadful virus. Thousands have lost colleagues, endured serious illness, or faced significant trauma.

Whilst we can hope to get a grip on COVID-19 in the coming months, the mental health impacts will last a lifetime. That is why the Liberal Democrats are proposing a series of measures to ensure no-one slips through the net as the scale of the mental health impact of this crisis emerges.

Our proposals include a mental health support hotline, open to staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our hospitals and care services are staffed around the clock, so the support services staff need should be too. In addition, we propose measures to ensure NHS and care staff are not penalised for days off due to ill health.

The UK mental health response to COVID-19 should be world-class. That means investing now to prepare for the challenges ahead. The clap for carers is not just a gesture – people want to see those on the frontline supported right through this crisis and beyond. Ministers must get on top of the mental health impact of COVID-19 by backing our measures to support our vital NHS and care staff when they need it most.

Lib Dems lead cross party push to keep pubs in business

The Liberal Democrats are at the forefront of a cross party call to protect pubs in the face of the “unique combination of challenges” created by the Covid-19 crisis.

Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper, alongside MPs from the Tory, Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green parties, are calling for Ministers to ensure pubs – a “cornerstone of British culture” – are in a position to reopen once social distancing measures are eased.

The group have written to the Chancellor to demand bespoke support for the industry including calls to:

  • Scrap the £51,000 Rateable Value cap for pubs, allowing pubs to access the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.
  • Stop pubco landlords from charging rent to their tenants through the crisis.
  • Extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for the hospitality sector for the duration of social distancing measures and adopt a tailored approach to taper down the scheme in line with the ability of pubs to re-open on a viable basis.

Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans, said:

Pubs are an iconic part of our social and economic fabric. They are the hub of many communities and play a key role in the wider economy, employing nearly half a million people directly and supporting so many other jobs – not least in brewing and entertainment.

ight now, many pubs are saddled with enormous rents, payable despite the fact that their doors are closed. On top of this, many are unable to access Government grants because they’re based on the broken business rates system. They are on a financial precipice.

The Chancellor must take radical action to prevent beloved pubs from permanently closing their doors. He must scrap the unfair rates cap that prevents so many pubs from accessing vital funds, and prevent pubco landlords from charging exorbitant rates to their tenants whilst they are unable to open their premises.

Longer term, we are calling for wholesale reform of the broken business rates system, which has been exposed as completely unfit for purpose.

Ministers must act urgently to support UK pubs through the COVID crisis, or risk leaving a gaping hole in communities across the UK and the loss of a wonderful part of our heritage.

Tom Stainer, Chief Executive at CAMRA said:

We welcome this letter, which highlights vital issues facing pubs during the Covid-19 lockdown. It has been estimated that up 19,000 pubs are now at risk of permanent closure as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, which also means that jobs are on the line, and consumers stand to lose out on the social and wellbeing benefits of pub going.

Up to 20% of pubs may not be eligible for grant support due to their high rateable value – but that doesn’t mean they are better able than smaller pubs to weather this storm, so it’s imperative that the grant scheme is extended to offer them support.

CAMRA has also called for pub companies to cancel rent for tenants and is seeking assurances that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be available to pubs and brewers until the end of social distancing measures. We’re delighted to see MPs doing the same and applaud their efforts – hopefully, the Government will listen.

People deserve an upfront answer from Powys MPs

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have today called for Fay Jones MP and Craig Williams MP to explain why they voted against a key amendment to the Agriculture Bill in Parliament last week.

The amendment, tabled by Conservative MP Neil Parish (Tiverton & Honiton), would have made the UKs current food and animal welfare standards, which are much higher than those of countries like the US, a requirement for any future trade deal.

Passing this amendment would have seen off any attempt to dilute these standards in exchange for a quick trade deal. Campaigners and farming organisations such as the National Farmers Union (NFU) supported the amendment.

The voting down of this amendment comes after many have expressed concerns at reports the UK is set to propose slashing import tariffs on lower quality US food imports in and effort to seal a free trade deal.

Both Fay Jones and Craig Williams voted with the Government at every stage of the Agriculture Bill’s progress through Parliament, including voting against this key amendment.

Jane Dodds, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader and former MP for Brecon & Radnorshire, said:

I am incredibly disappointed that both Powys MPs voted against this crucial amendment. Passing it would have protected Welsh farmers from low-standard food imports and shown that we truly back our farmers.

The Conservatives can try and spin it all they want, but NFU Cymru and many others supported the amendment and what it was trying to achieve. By refusing to vote for it, Ms Jones and Mr Williams have left farmers across Powys vulnerable and uncertain about the future.

Our farmers deserve better than to be sold out for a quick trade deal. They also need to know that their MPs will stand up for their interests, even if it involves going against their party.

Warm words are not enough, we need to see that they mean it and follow through on what they say. I hope both will provide a full and upfront answer as to why they voted against this amendment.

Cllr James Gibson-Watt, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Powys County Council, added:

It’s deeply concerning to see Powys MPs refusing to stand up and back Powys farmers. Our MPs have a duty to stand up for our communities and do what is best for them, not simply what they are told to do by their party’s whip.

I hope both will give their constituents a clear answer on why they voted as they did. So far all we have seen is Fay Jones saying she was concerned about the specific wording and a vague remark that this could affect existing trade deals.

This fails to explain why the NFU backed it, and why more than 20 of her colleagues did too. I hope their response will contain more detail than what we’ve had so far.

Govt must increase testing capacity to maintain credibility

Responding to reports that everyone over age of five in the UK with symptoms can now be tested for coronavirus, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

The coronavirus crisis is leaving the most vulnerable at risk. Thousands of families will face financial hardship and people are rightly worried about their loved ones.

The move towards testing everyone over the age of five with symptoms is welcome. However, Ministers must explain why the level of testing is still so low compared to some countries, what is being done to increase capacity, particularly in care homes, and to speed up processing of results.

We must ensure no one is left behind as we tackle this cruel virus. We cannot afford to see Ministers throw away valuable time, as we have seen with the delayed test and trace app despite effective models that could be used.

The Government must urgently implement a comprehensive test, trace and isolate system to keep people safe and ease the lockdown.