“We are all at risk from Covid 19, but homeless people, particularly those who are rough sleeping, can be amongst the most vulnerable”, Workers Party spokesperson Conor Duffy says.
Calling for a specific Covid 19 response package to meet their unique needs, Conor said, “homeless people are three times more likely to experience a chronic health condition, including asthma and COPD”.
“The support they depend on needs to be secured and strengthened as the demands on all resources increase at this time. It is vital that homeless people are recognised as a vulnerable group and that the Northern Ireland Executive steps in now to protect and enhance the vital services they need”, he said.
“I have been in touch with the Department for Communities and the Department of Health to bring these issues to their attention”, Conor added, “and, as a minimum first step, I am calling on the Executive to announce a programme of measures including:
securing hotel style accommodation to meet the increased need for self-contained accommodation so that people can self-isolate.
ensuring that anyone who is at risk of, or is already homeless, can access self-contained accommodation.
providing additional financial support through the Universal Credit system to ensure that people are not pushed into homelessness.
protecting renters from evictions
rapid access to testing for the virus and healthcare assistance for people sleeping rough and living in hostels and shelter accommodation
recognising frontline workers in homelessness organisations as an emergency service
allocating an emergency budget to fund homelessness services”.
Workers Party representative, Paddy Crossan, has called on the Communities Minister to announce an immediate and comprehensive package of financial support for the voluntary and charitable sectors here.
“Voluntary and charitable organisations play a vital and often life sustaining role in our society. Their work is affected by the Coronavirus pandemic in the same way as small businesses: they face many similar problems”. he said.
“I have written to Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, and the Emergencies Leadership Group which she is heading up, calling on her to announce a package of measures to support the voluntary and charity sector through this crisis. We not only need their valuable work now; we also need to ensure that they will still be here when this emergency has passed”, Paddy said.
“Many, many people in the community are dependent on the support of voluntary and charitable organisations: the young the elderly, victims of domestic violence, refugees and asylum seekers, people with disabilities and those living with mental health problems. For many they are a safety net and a lifeline.
“In their battle for survival every day counts. The Minister must act immediately,” Paddy added.
I have asked her to address the following measures specifically as a first step to ensuring the survival of this vital support network.
Extend support for small business to the voluntary / charitable sectors
Ensure that all charities and voluntary organisations are eligible up to 80% of salaries for retained workers
Set up a ‘stabilisation fund’ to help charities stay afloat during the pandemic
Establish a loan guarantee scheme for charities needing overdraft facilities to cover cashflow problems
Approaches the National Lottery to secure additional emergency funding
An Emergency funding package for food banks to allow them to continue providing vital support
The Workers Party has echoed calls by the trade union movement and others for the immediate and enhanced protection of workers in all essential services.
It is very clear that many workers delivering essential services are being put at risk by their employers who are refusing to adhere to public health guidelines on social distancing and personal protection measures.
It is also clear that a number of companies whose businesses are not essential in the current crisis are continuing to trade and are putting the workforce at unnecessary and unacceptable risk.
If employers cannot protect their workforce they should close down immediately
The Party is calling on the Health and Safety Executive to enforce public health and government guidelines by ensuring full compliance with safety measures at work and is also calling for an immediate Executive Order to be enacted by the Assembly directed against those non essential firms which continue to trade. .
Workers providing essential services which are keeping our society function at this critical time are being put at serious risk through the lack of personal protection equipment and social distancing measures. Other workers re being told to report for work in non essential services and in dangerous and unhealthy conditions like some call centres and production lines.
Unionised workforces at least have power and leverage to effect change but many, many thousands of workers are in non-union firms and are at the mercy of employers who place the relentless pursuit of profit above health, well being and life .
Those who put their workforce at risk must be challenged and sanctione. Those who continue to trade without justification should be closed forthwith.
Such developments, however, must take place in the context of providing effective financial support measures to avoid mass redundancies and to ensure that jobs are protected and workers paid.