Something that has been said often over the last 16 months or so, but which certainly bears repeating, is how proud we can all be of the way local communities have rallied round during the Covid-19 crisis.
The backbone of the resilience support given to those in need during the pandemic came from existing organisations, aided by East Lothian Council. East Lothian Foodbank, which I visited earlier in the summer to thank staff and volunteers, responded to a steep rise in demand for food parcels with its usual care and professionalism under difficult circumstances.
The Pennypit Trust, Volunteer Centre East Lothian, Our Community Kitchen, local day centres and many other groups were also at the forefront of supporting those facing hardship or isolation during lockdown. The PSG and Fa’side Lunch Clubs have also helped to provide healthy food and a range of sports and other activities for local children, including during the summer holidays.
The commitment of groups and individuals, including hundreds of dedicated volunteers who have supported these and many other projects during the pandemic, says a great deal about the care and compassion shown by so many across East Lothian. I want to express my gratitude once again to everyone who has been involved in this huge collective effort.
However, while the community response to Covid was vital, national support has also been important, including the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit made at the start of the pandemic. With ongoing uncertainty about the economy and jobs, now is not the time for the Tory UK Government to cut the uplift.
For many, that additional payment has become an essential part of their household income. Slashing it now will plunge more people into poverty and undermine any claim of a just recovery from the pandemic. If the Tories’ so-called ‘levelling up’ agenda has any meaning at all they should now make the uplift permanent.