The MHCLG team would like to update you on the work the Department has been doing in recent days in response to COVID-19, and to answer some of the most frequent questions that we have received from MPs.
Holiday park & caravan sites have now been closed to all, except for permanent residents who should be allowed to remain. On Friday 27 March, Luke Hall MP, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, wrote to BHHPA, UK Hospitality, and NCC, making clear that where caravan and park home sites are housing people who would otherwise have nowhere to live, or are providing accommodation to key workers or vulnerable groups, such as homeless households, through arrangements with local authorities and other public bodies, they should remain open to those groups only and not remove them from their homes. The latest Government guidance on the subject is available here.
Renters and Landlords
Nobody should be forced out of their home as a result of this epidemic. We have introduced a set of changes that ensure that no renter in either social or private accommodation can be evicted. The full package available to renters and landlords can be found here.
We are ensuring NHS and social care workers can park for free at NHS and council car parks, and on the street. You can read more about this here.
Constituents Moving Home
Whilst emergency measures are in place, all parties should do all they can to agree a new move date. If constituents are socially isolating or being shielded, it’s especially important to try and delay. The full guidance for those considering moving house can be found here.
Cremations and Burials
The Government’s emergency legislation has been amended, following concerns raised by those of all faiths and none, regarding the prospect of forced cremations. We have in particular ensured that local authorities, when carrying out these duties, must have regard to the person’s wishes, if known, or otherwise in a way that is consistent with the person’s religion of belief.
The latest Government guidance is clear that hotels that provide rooms for the homeless should remain open. Luke Hall MP, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, and Nigel Huddlestone MP, Minister for Tourism, have spoken with industry leaders to ensure they are aware. A centralised Government booking system has been set up and will be in contact with local councils to match demand for accommodation with supply across the country. The same booking system will also be used to coordinate any accommodation needs falling under any Government department during this period.
Preparation of Councils
Local Authorities have organised themselves into hubs that provide full geographical coverage of the country. These hubs have been issued with guidance and will shortly receive information about their local vulnerable people, so that they can check against their own records and contact those who need help. There is no uniform model for Local Authorities as we expect different areas to have varying demand and capacity.
Local authorities will work closely with Local Resilience Forums and continue to attend strategic coordination groups to work together to make this system work. LRFs are now stood up onto a regular reporting rhythm and have military planners in situ in all cases to support. Military planners are also advising MHCLG.
There will also be opportunities to join up with the just-launched NHS Volunteer Responders app which enables people to sign up as volunteers to provide support to the shielded individuals. Military planners are also supporting work to assist Local Authorities with preparing for the distribution of urgent food supplies. They will advise on whether they think further military resources are needed.
A £500 million Hardship Fund will provide council tax relief to vulnerable people and households to help those affected most by coronavirus.
Food and Local Authorities
Food wholesalers have confirmed they are ready to scale up deliveries straight to the door, ramping up initially from 50k parcels per week, then 150k/ 350k/ 400k+. These are standardised packages and free for the recipient. Food package deliveries will start this weekend.
We are in regular direct communication with Local Authorities and Local Resilience Forums. There is a central mailbox that has been shared with Local Authorities and set up for their queries re. shielding: email@example.com. LRFs are now sending regular email updates to MPs.
How can people apply to be on the list, and how will parcels be delivered?
The standardised food parcels will be free throughout the 12-week period.
Defra are working with the supermarket industry to develop systems to prioritise the extremely clinically vulnerable. Once this is up and running, customers will be charged in the normal way for this service. This would reduce the number of people needing to access the central free offer, although we may find new people registering for support over the coming weeks.
Individuals should discuss their daily needs during this period of staying at home with carers, family, friends, neighbours or local community groups to see how they can support you. Please visit gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable to register for the support that you need. This includes help with food, shopping deliveries and additional care you might need.
Andrea Jenkyns MP and Natalie Elphicke OBE MP
PPSs for MHCLG