Below is the text of the speech made by Jane Stevenson, the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton North East, in the House of Commons on 11 May 2020.
Wolverhampton was one of the first places to feel the impact of covid-19, as New Cross Hospital in my constituency had to cope with many of the UK’s earliest cases. I commend the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and all the NHS staff in Wolverhampton who reacted and adapted so quickly and have given such outstanding care to patients from Wolverhampton and the wider region.
I also pay tribute to all those working in care homes and adult social care, who have worked to support our most vulnerable people. One of the cruellest effects of this virus is that residents of care homes and shielded people are kept apart from their families and loved ones. It is important that they know they are not forgotten. Every effort should be made to support the staff who are innovating and keeping them in touch with their families throughout this crisis.
Sadly, many families in Wolverhampton have lost someone they loved, and my sympathies go out to those who are currently struggling to grieve without the comfort of a traditional funeral service. Next year, I think we will see many memorial events in our city. The newly formed Wolverhampton Caribbean Community Memorial Trust is already planning a weekend event, and I am sure that a lot of other groups will follow its initiative. Coming together to mourn the loss of a loved one and celebrate their life is an important part of the grieving process. Many of my constituents would like a national event next year so that we can remember the victims of coronavirus, and I would support that request so that we can join together as a nation in an act of remembrance.
Amid such heartache, this crisis has brought out the best in so many people. I want to thank all the volunteers who have worked to help their neighbours throughout the crisis. Small food banks have sprung up at the Ashmore Inn pub and at the Women and Families Resource Centre in Park Village. There is also an amazing lady organising craft boxes for children who are having to stay at home, often with no outdoor space. Church groups, gurdwaras and mosques are all raising money and delivering practical help in the community. Their selflessness and kindness are incredible; they are the best of Wolverhampton.
As we take our first small steps out of lockdown, my thoughts turn to businesses and workers in my constituency. Unemployment was already high in Wolverhampton North East, and our local high streets were struggling. I know that the Government are still determined to level up across our country, and I hope that extra consideration and thought will be given to constituencies such as mine, where the economic effects of covid-19 will hit hard. I thank the Chancellor for the wide range of measures to support businesses and self-employed people at this time. I would like to join colleagues and our West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, in calling for flexibility to come off the furlough scheme and for ongoing support. Some sections will have to wait many months before their business returns to normal. I am grateful to our Mayor for his determination to fight for business in the Black Country and to help our economic recovery across the west midlands. I would also ask local people to get out and support our businesses as soon as they safely reopen. I have been immensely proud of the people of Wolverhampton over the past few weeks. We will get through this crisis because of their kindness, resilience and determination. This is a time not for politics but for pragmatism. To everyone who has come together to help our city: thank you.