Cllr Jim Dickson is the Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care (job-share) and a councillor in Herne Hill ward.
With the country now in Lockdown once more and London declaring a ‘major incident’ as the rapid spread of Covid-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals – following a failure by the government to take proper scientific advice pre-Xmas on the infectivity of the new strain of Covid – Lambeth’s local services provided by the council and NHS working closely together have geared up to support our local community. As well as ensuring our emergency food and medication offer for those who are medically shielding and other vulnerable residents (and including free school meal vouchers for children) is communicated to all who need it, we are ensuring that our local versions of track and trace and Covid testing are made much more effective than the shoddy but expensive versions offered by the government.
We have brought onstream mass Covid testing using Lateral Flow devices for those with no symptoms – now sited at the Town Hall in Brockwell Park and at Brixton Windmill (with more sites to follow) – and are working with the NHS to urgently roll out vaccinations. The Primary Care Networks began vaccination in December and are on target to complete Priority groups 1-4 (including over 80s, over 75s, care home residents and staff and front-line health and care workers) by mid February. We are already planning the roll out to the larger vaccination sites which will be needed as the programme expands to larger population groups including over 65s and 60s beyond February. We are working closely on messaging and engagement around ‘vaccine hesitancy’ amongst parts of our Lambeth communities, acting on evidence that this is more prevalent amongst some Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic residents. A campaign will be rolled out shortly.
Politically we will continue to call out the government’s string of recent dangerous missteps in everything from lockdown timing, the failing tier system, botched school closures and failure to equip the education system for online teaching over the next 6-8 weeks and beyond including rejection of offers of subsidised broadband. We will continue to demonstrate the positive effect of Labour council can have on local people when a crisis hits including an economic resilience package for businesses, support for our care homes and joint work our VCS and local mutual aid groups.
We will only survive this next – and we fervently hope- final stage of the pandemic if the government follows our lead and begins to provide the support to our communities they need to get through this. As a minimum that means the government must extend the eviction ban for longer than 6 weeks, make permanent the temporary £20 Universal Credit uplift, extend the business rates holiday to protect jobs and guarantee pay for all key workers self-isolating. It needs to help us take all street homeless people out of harms way once more.
If we are to build a fair society with decent jobs for everyone, we need to beat the pandemic. Getting everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible is how we do it. Let’s do it together. Let’s vaccinate our whole community quickly.