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Lib Dems Demand Five-Point ‘Frontline Support Package’ For Those Risking Lives

Published on: 22 Apr, 2020
Updated on: 25 Apr, 2020

Zoe Franklin, parliamentary spokesperson for the Guildford Lib Dems.

Zöe Franklin, Guildford’s parliamentary spokesperson, has joined her Westminster colleagues’ call to set up a government five-point “Frontline Support Package” for the NHS and other key workers risking their lives to help deal with the Coronavirus crisis. 

And her call has attracted support from the Guildford Greenbelt Group leader at Guildford Borough Council and the chairman of the Guildford Labour Party.

She says the government should take measures to scale up the procurement of PPE as well as a frontline service reward to recognise the risks, similar to the £29-a-day Operational Allowance for Armed Forces personnel deployed to dangerous areas (see details below).

Ms Franklin said: “Day after day, several million key workers are risking their lives to protect others. At the forefront are NHS and care staff who work long hours in our hospitals, care homes, hospices and wider health and care sector. That these Coronavirus heroes are properly protected is crucial.

“The top priority for frontline staff is protection. We should never ask our military to risk their lives without the proper kit, and we shouldn’t be leaving health and care workers without sufficient protective kit either.

“That so many key workers do not have the equipment they need to protect them from Coronavirus is simply unacceptable. Only this weekend, Surrey County Council issued an urgent plea to the public for help to produce PPE because local stocks are running low. Now the government must do far more.

“When the country emerges from this crisis, we must also properly recognise those who were willing to serve and make sacrifices, just as we do with military forces. The Lib Dems are calling on the government to look at creating a frontline service reward, similar to the deployment allowance frontline troops receive. There are many low-paid workers on the Coronavirus frontline, and we must show our gratitude.

“Quietly, key workers on the frontline every day perform acts of bravery to save lives. Liberal Democrats want to ensure they get the protection and support they need now, and the recognition and thanks they deserve when the epidemic has passed.”

The Frontline Support Package demands

  1. Protection – PPE kit for all key workers NOW. 
Ministers have had since January to sort proper protective equipment for frontline staff, yet still many workers aren’t getting safe protection. Bureaucracy is stopping manufacturers and importers getting more PPE to our NHS and social care staff. NHS procurement must be strengthened and ministers should require delivery firms to support the military in their huge logistical effort to distribute kit.
  2. Practical Help – Food deliveries, accommodation & transport. 
With NHS and care staff working long hours and worried about their own families, they deserve extra help and support with the practical things in life, if and when they need it during the pandemic. So, for example, the government could partner with more hotels to offer accommodation to key workers who are self-isolating or who have vulnerable people in their own households.
  3. Frontline Service Reward – A new one to recognise the risks frontline staff face. 
Just as military service personnel receive a deployment allowance of £29 per day on active duty, a similar principle should apply to NHS and care staff putting themselves in danger during the Coronavirus epidemic.
  4. Bereavement and funeral support 
The NHS has a “death in service” scheme, but it is not as generous as the military one and many key workers on the frontline are not eligible. Ministers must ensure every NHS and care worker becomes eligible. The government should fund it and ministers must agree to pay for all the funerals of key workers who died trying to protect others from Covid-19.
  5. Coronavirus Service Medal 
All key workers on the coronavirus frontline should be awarded recognition for the risks they have faced, with a new “Coronavirus Service Medal”. They are playing a major role to keep our country safe and that should be properly and formally recognised.

Cllr Susan Parker

Cllr Susan Parker, leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group, commented: “I completely agree with Zoe’s comment. This isn’t a party issue; all people of goodwill, from all parties and none, should share her views. It’s urgent. This isn’t just a party attack on the Tories, either (although it is a valid criticism of the cabinet).

“Jeremy Hunt is on the right side of the issue here, as is Rory Stewart. It’s outrageous that NHS staff and care workers don’t have enough PPE, nor the right kind of PPE. Our medical staff are frequently photographed in flimsy aprons and hand gloves only, with paper masks; but most doctors overseas are wearing hazmat suits.

“In Naples, where they had warning of the problems in north Italy, they haven’t lost medical staff because of decent PPE. Our government are not doing a good job here; they reacted late, and they are still making poor decisions daily, more interested in the politics and spin than healthcare.

“I understand they didn’t order the PPE they promised from Turkey until Sunday (the day after it was supposed to arrive); chose not to participate in the EU joint procurement scheme to ensure there will be enough PPE across Europe, three times; and ignored offers of PPE from UK suppliers, who have now given up on the domestic market and are now exporting the stuff because the UK isn’t buying it even though it is produced here.

“It is an absolute scandal, and far too many people are still dying as a result. We will, by the time this is over, have the highest death toll in Europe if we don’t already. We should all join to demand that the government focuses properly on this health crisis now.

“The economic consequences of lockdown are bad; but to avoid those, we shouldn’t want to, ‘Take it on the chin’ as proposed by Boris Johnson or, ‘Run it hot’ like Michael Gove and Rishi Sunak.

“Herd immunity” doesn’t work because we don’t have a vaccine, and it won’t work until we do, unless we are prepared to accept 500,000 deaths here. We need comprehensive testing, quarantining of infected people, widespread use of masks to protect people on whom we might breathe (most masks protect other people, not the wearer so it works if most people wear them) and careful planning of the moves out of lockdown.

“Then, in due course, we can cautiously emerge from lockdown – as those countries that reacted promptly, and have those processes in place, like Germany and Austria, are already doing.”

Brian Creese

Brian Creese, Guildford Labour Party, added: There is much to agree within the Lib Dem press release. Few would argue that the PPE should have been in place before the crisis evolved, in line with the planning processes, and it is bewildering to understand how the government has got this so wrong.

“Guildford Labour understands just how much brilliant work is being done by voluntary bodies to ensure food and other essentials are getting through to those in need; our community has really shown what it can do when times are difficult.

“We are a little more dubious about a ‘Coronavirus Medal’; we would like to see key workers – NHS staff and others – properly rewarded for the work they do all year long, and properly resourced so they can do it with maximum safety and security.

“We all recall with great sadness the way this government rejected pay increases for the nurses only a short while ago – that is the insult that rankles. Similarly, we hope the Lib Dems in Westminster will now reject an immigration scheme which identifies key workers solely by salary. If we have learned nothing else, sure we now understand that key workers are not identified by how much money they take home.”


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Responses to Lib Dems Demand Five-Point ‘Frontline Support Package’ For Those Risking Lives

  1. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    April 22, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    Whilst I agree with some of the ideas the Liberal Democrats, through Zoe Franklin, have put forward, I am confused by The Dragon’s introduction of Ms Franklin as Guildford’s parliamentary representative. I obviously must have missed this election. The last I knew Angela Richardson was MP for Guildford and therefore, surely, our parliamentary representative. It is not the first time the Dragon has introduced Ms Franklin this way in an article but I do hope it will be the last, as it is beginning to grate.

    Editor’s response: Ms Franklin was the Lib Dem candidate at the last election and remains the Guildford party’s spokesperson (her party’s description) on parliamentary matters.

    • Sara Tokunaga Reply

      April 22, 2020 at 7:33 pm

      Thank you, but still not quite right! Unfortunately, the statement under Ms. Franklin’s photo is still incorrect. So close and yet so far!

  2. Dave Middleton Reply

    April 23, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s amazing how quickly after the brief lull in proceedings following the start of this national emergency, the normal service of political posturing and back biting has resumed, with all the various parties that are not in government claiming that they could do better.

    Yes, the incumbent government has probably made mistakes, as indeed every government in history has, but it must be remembered that it’s always so much easier to criticise from the sidelines, than to actually do the job of government.

    Frankly, I’m sick to death of the lot of them and wish they’d belt up.

    • Stuart Barnes Reply

      April 23, 2020 at 9:59 pm

      Hear, hear. Please stop the whinging.

    • George Potter Reply

      April 24, 2020 at 3:54 pm

      I would have thought that suggestions such as a £29 per day bonus pay for frontline staff during the crisis would be very much the definition of constructive criticism.

      It is not saying “the government is rubbish, boo” but “here is a concrete suggestion for a way things could be done better”.

      If even constructive suggestions like this are considered to be political posturing and backbiting by Mr Middleton then I have to ask what kind of comments he would consider acceptable instead? Presumably, only unequivocal adulation is acceptable in his book?

      George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

      • Dave Middleton Reply

        April 25, 2020 at 12:20 pm

        Paying people more will not speed the end of this emergency. And just where is this bonus of around £600.00 per month for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of workers to come from? The public purse is not bottomless.

        The military deployment allowance cannot be compared. The Unpleasant Work Allowance and Operational Allowance paid to the armed forces represent the conditions servicemen have to operate in. Sleeping in ditches under a waterproof sheet, having to use a hole in the ground as a toilet, eating ration pack food, having to ration water, facing an often fanatical enemy who, if you’re lucky will shoot you dead, or if you are unlucky, will take you away, torture and behead you.

        Medals, cash bonuses and continual moaning about shortages of PPE are not constructive suggestions.

  3. David Wragg Reply

    April 24, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    Well, I agree with Sara. Our Parliamentary Representative is our elected Member of Parliament, not someone who failed to get enough votes.

    Editor’s response: The photo caption has now been changed. Ms Franklin is described as “parliamentary spokesperson” not “representative” in the Lib Dem press release on which this article is based.

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