Sadly, we face another three weeks at home. While this decision was expected and rightly based on the scientists and expert’s opinions it is undoubtedly a challenge for individuals and businesses alike.
It is important to remember that this decision was not reached lightly, and it has been extended to help us break the curve and lower the spread of this wretched virus.
The South West preparations, in expectation of a peak, have been well organised and I have been in constant contact with our NHS trusts, Councils and local volunteer groups. Their work, given the time frame, has been nothing short of remarkable. While there have been some shortcomings, I do believe that we are taking the right steps.
Where there are problems we will all work to address them.
My office is open continually during this difficult period and I am here to help so please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Tel: 01803 868 378
In this update I cover the following topics:
· PPE / Testing / The Fleet
· Furloughing update
· Fishing Industry
· South West MPs Action
PPE / Testing / The Fleet
Firstly, PPE remains a huge issue. But I was pleased to see that over the Easter weekend a sizeable (1.3m pieces) of PPE were delivered to the South West. These are now being delivered to hospitals, care homes, nursing homes and to those in social care.
There are some serious questions that need to be answered regarding our PPE supplies. Those questions will be asked.
In the meantime, if you have a shortage of PPE then please use the following links:
· Purchase through the market – Applegate Supplies https://www.applegate.co.uk/suppliers/ppe-industrial-supplies-3166307
· Order through National Supply Disruption Resource - https://www.supplychain.nhs.uk/covid19/ordering/
· Contact Devon Clinical Commission Group –
· Contact Devon County Council
If you have any difficulty with any of the above, then please can you contact me.
Testing – Frontline NHS staff can be tested in Plymouth. This is obviously welcome, but we need more testing sites across the South West and I have made calls to the Department for Health for this to become a reality. MPs across the South West (see below) have also joined together to call for more testing hubs.
The Fleet – It is very welcome to hear that the Fleet (aka Riverview Dartmouth) nursing home is opening with 14 beds (to be increased to 24 beds). This is welcome news and will alleviate pressure on local hospitals as well as provide health care security for those in Dartmouth.
I am working to ensure that Dartmouth’s healthcare needs are met, as well as ensuring that no rural or urban community is left behind when it comes to health facilities.
Furloughing - Update
It is worth noting a significant amendment to the furloughing rules:
You can now furlough if you started on a PAYE payroll scheme on or before the 19th March. This is a change from the previous 28th February.
The furloughing scheme will run for the 1st March for four months. The online service will be available by the end of April 2020.
Please remember if you are a director you can furlough yourself and still perform your statutory obligations to your company.
Details on the furloughing scheme can be found here.
This week I was delighted to see DEFRA announce a new package of support for the fishing sector. Thanks to the likes of Jim Portus, Beshlie Pool, the Brixham Trawler agent team, the many fishermen from across South Devon for their advice and guidance and helping push the government to make this announcement.
This support will make a difference to a vital sector of our local economy and community.
The Government has announced:
· For the catching sector, the fund will be open to under-24m vessel owners with fishing licences registered in England who recorded sales of £10,000 or more in 2019.
· Grants will be made to help cover fixed business costs. For the catching sector, this will be calculated from the average business costs for the size of the vessel, as surveyed by the industry annually.
· Details of the eligibility criteria, including the criteria for the aquaculture sector and support for local projects, will be announced in due course by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
· The MMO will administer the fund, contacting eligible registered owners and licence holders directly in stages with details of how to apply, starting on Monday, April 20 through to early May.
· Payments will be made for up to three months.
Further details on the government’s scheme can be found here.
There are a number of other avenues of support and there are outlined below. If you know a fishermen or business in need then please do share the below information.
· Fishmongers' Company & Seafarers UK Rapid Response grant programme - £500k available in grants of up to £25k. Application form and guidance notes here. No match funding required
· Maritime Fisheries Fund (MFF) grant details here - note that applications below £100k don't have to go to the grant panel, so can be turned around on a rolling basis Expressions of Interest can be submitted with the Marine Maritime Organisation then be able to supply a 'proceed at own risk' nod. Industry applicants should get ~75% funded for projects, dependent on the article they're applying under (note the marketing article is open, which hadn't been under EMFF for a while). Note that Fishmongers and Seafarers can be applied to, to provide the 'match' of 25%.
· Best people to advise on grant applications (including through other bodies) are the Fisheries Animateur Project - a brilliant resource designed to help steward fishing groups through the application processes or help them find the right grants for their needs
· There is this new interactive map for the ‘FishOnFridayUK’ website which is designed to help people find fresh fish sales points wherever they are in the UK. Any local businesses that want to be on the map just needs to email email@example.com with their details. To note - this is undergoing a much more substantial re-development and will be something properly interactive and exciting by September
· Lastly, these guides for Seafish on direct selling, setting up collective fresh fish van sales and promoting fishing businesses. There are posters/social media materials for free download. Please help this vital sector by sharing these details.
The total government support is £750m. Although the full details have yet to be set out, my understanding is that it may well be outlined as follows:
1. National Emergencies Trust: The government will match-fund money raised privately through public appeals/children in need etc. This will be distributed through the Community Foundation Trust. In Hertfordshire, this is the Hertfordshire Community Foundation Trust.
2. Government Departments: The government will distribute c.£360m through government departments. So, any charity that is currently funded by a government department, such as the Home Office or Department of Health, will now be able to receive funds from the departments that typically fund them.
Hospices - £200m of the £360m mentioned above is specifically for hospices. If you are a hospice and are funded by the Dept of Health, make sure you contact your regular contact at the Department to make sure you are on their radar for when they start allocating funds. For those who are not currently funded by the Department of Health, I am checking further what is going on but (to be very frank) I think you are unlikely to get funding from Department of Health at this time because their priority will be on the hospices that they already fund.
3. National Lottery: The lottery will allocate funds to certain charities, on the basis of very strict criteria (still being finalised).
Advice for charities
Do the below ASAP – if you do, you will be ahead of the game and will have a better chance of securing much-needed funding.
1. Prepare documents of no more than one side of why your charity, or a particular programme of work with a particular charity, needs financial support now
2. If you are currently funded by any government department, even in part, please get in touch with your regular departmental contact to make sure they know you need support at this difficult time
3. All local charities should be eligible for help. Get in touch with them your local council (if you don’t have a contact already) and make sure they know you need support (perhaps by sending them a short document outlined in point (1).
PLEASE NOTE: This is my advice based on the conversations I have had with various ministers and departments. Details are potentially subject to change.
South West MPs Action
Each week MPs from across the South West gather together (on Zoom, of course) to discuss issues from our respective constituencies. As you would expect there is a great deal of cross over and consensus about what steps must be taken.
PPE, testing, hospital preparedness rank amongst the most discussed issues. This week also saw the following other issues raised:
· Bank loans
· Second Homes
· Business rate pay-outs
We have decided to collectively to write to the banks asking them for an expedited response to those businesses applying for loans and for a response on why the process has become so overly complicated (despite assurances of that the process would be made simple).
We have also written to the government expressing our concern around:
1. Care Homes and access to PPE
2. The location of Urgent Dental Care Hubs and the need to re-open established dental practices to be able to accommodate demand
3. Testing hubs – Calling for an increase in testing hubs across the South West
Of course, we are all continuing to work with our local volunteer groups, councils and trusts to ensure that coverage remains comprehensive.
The challenges ahead remain great and it will not be easy, but the collective action of many has allowed us to see an extraordinary volunteer network rise up and ensure that we are prepared.
Thank you to you all for your work and help within your communities. If you would like to volunteer then you can find your local group on the following document, here.
With very best wishes,