Alongside the rest of England, Oxford has entered a period of national restrictions until December 2nd. I am proud of how Oxford people have once again come together to help each other during these difficult times.
The Oxford Hub and its associated support networks have remained in place throughout and are staying open now, for referrals and to provide a range of practical support. This includes a phone link service if you are struggling with loneliness – or just want someone to check in every once in a while. As we enter what looks to be a particularly difficult winter, I would urge anyone who may be struggling with their mental or physical health at this time to seek professional support. Doctor’s surgeries in Oxford remain open for a range of consultation options, including over the phone.
This has been a tricky time financially and many are concerned about their businesses, livelihoods and paying the mortgage or rent. On Thursday, the Chancellor laid out additional economic support available through this current set of restrictions. Furlough at 80% has been belatedly extended until March, subject to a review in January. The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme will similarly be open for a third grant. However, many restrictions on eligibility continue – a major problem for the around three million people who have already been excluded from previous financial support. It is also currently unclear what additional business support in areas under extra restrictions will look like after November, and whether areas that remain under restrictions will get further funding or otherwise.
No one should lose their home because of this crisis. I would encourage anyone concerned about debt, rent arrears or eviction during this time to reach out to our local advice centres, or to the charities Step Change and Shelter, all of whom are able to provide advice and support for those struggling. I am calling on the government to continue support for people with rent to pay as well as those with mortgages. Right now, we need to see Local Housing Allowance raised so it actually covers the average cost of renting in Oxford, and the waiting time for the support for mortgage interest scheme should be reduced.
While the government has provided some further support for the new restrictions, I am worried that this difficult time has been compounded by the Chancellor’s reactive approach to the crisis. Last week, I called on the Chancellor to set out a proper plan for the next six months, so businesses and workers can have as much certainty as possible. This second national lockdown must also be used to finally sort test, trace and isolate, so we have a clearer path out of this crisis.
If you need support accessing any of the support outlined above, my office and local advice centres remain open for support over email or the phone.