I hope everyone is safe, well and coping through the Coronavirus pandemic. I know how worrying this is for everyone. Please, if you are struggling do contact me.

There are key issues that constituents have raised with me that I have acted upon. As you will have seen in the press, due to pressure from MPs, the Government has put measures in place regarding business support, cash injections for local authorities and increasing social distancing measures.

One of the key unresolved issues for many in South Shields is the lack of support for the self-employed, freelancers and those on zero-hours contracts. I hope that by the time this column goes to press that the Chancellor has rectified this and included them in the Jobs Retention Scheme and increased Statutory Sick Pay. The UK is woefully behind European counterparts at £188.50 a fortnight in SSP compared to £574.70 in Germany and £241.37 in Spain. Constituents have lost their jobs and incomes overnight, they have bills to pay, families to care for and are understandably anxious.

I have also been contacted by constituents whose employers are forcing them into work when they are not in essential roles. This needs to stop. It is endangering lives and MPs will expose and challenge this if you are one of these organisations or businesses.

There are a number of constituents abroad who I am trying to get home, because, despite being advised to come home by the Government, they and the Foreign Office have not managed to make it possible. Our country is filled with people who work hard day in and day out. Right now there are many doing that in the worst of circumstances, without the right protective equipment and they are frightened - yet they keep going for our protection and welfare. The heroes in our social care professions and the NHS need urgent action from the Government. They are not being provided with the right protective equipment, they are not, despite the World Health Organisation over a week ago advising the Government to “test, test, test”, being routinely tested. This inaction will cost lives.

Parliament officially closed yesterday but I am continuing to work with the Government, our local hospital, the Council, charities and foodbank providers to ensure you are safe and well cared for at this critical time. I would ask you to understand that I am often reliant on responses from these key agencies before I can fully reply to you. If you need my help, please do not contact me on social media as it’s not confidential and your message may be missed. Please email me at [email protected] or telephone 07933725099.

I often say how proud I am to represent such amazing people. In these difficult times, so many of you are demonstrating just how much our community cares for one another. I am humbled, in awe and I am here for you. Please everyone stay safe, be kind and keep being you - the very best of the North East.