Evening Standard comment: More needs to be done to help most vulnerable | Drugs fight must go on

Evening Standard Comment
·3-min read
 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

At the start of the pandemic, it was trendy to call Covid-19 a great leveller, impervious to class or ethnicity. Even the Prime Minister could get it.

Now we know better. Who you are, where you live and what you do for a living has a direct impact on your chances of losing your job or contracting the virus.

As the original furlough scheme comes to an end this weekend, we can see the scale of economic damage wreaked across the country by Covid. 

As we reported last week, six London boroughs — Newham, Haringey, Barnet, Brent, Hounslow and Waltham Forest — have suffered both the highest level of furloughed workers in the UK and soaring numbers claiming unemployment benefits.

The pandemic has hit the poor especially hard. Those on lower incomes are more likely to be employed in the most heavily disrupted sectors, such as hospitality. 

Indeed, a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) finds that the pandemic risks exacerbating pre-existing child poverty, inequality and regional disparities.  

Covid has also revealed to many just how meagre our welfare state can be. People have lost their jobs and are finding that government support simply is not enough. The £1,000 increase to universal credit is welcome, but it is only temporary and does not reflect high fixed costs such as rent, utility bills and food.

This is compounded by the crisis charities are facing. During lockdown in spring, the sector reported it could face a £4 billion shortfall at a time when people need their help the most. 

The Charities Aid Foundation has found that half of charities do not think they can survive more than a year.

Furlough helped them save money on staff but at the expense of workers serving their communities.  

The Government has done a huge amount but there are now wide cracks opening for the most vulnerable.

The holiday school meals has already damaged its reputation and with Labour pulling five points ahead in the polls, the Tories need to show they are a party that cares about the poor as well, both in the capital and the North.  

Drugs fight must go on

While most of London’s attention is concentrated on the pandemic and its fallout, another disease is affecting young people in the capital — violent crime.

A toddler out with her mother last night witnessed the aftermath of a triple stabbing which left a 15-year-old boy dying on our streets, the 13th teenage life claimed this year. One can only imaging the impact this had on her.

Homicides are often driven by the drugs trade. Drugs offences leapt by 43 per cent in London between April and June, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The Met and British Transport Police have made huge strides in dismantling networks, particular county lines gangs. But the fightback cannot slow if we are to avoid future bloodshed.

Young Londoners, already hardest hit by job losses and the ending of the furlough scheme, must remain our priority to avoid further exploitation.

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15-year-old boy stabbed to death in south-west London