Our priceless social fabric is crucial to countering coronavirus – Dan Jarvis

LAST week, we convened a taskforce of the Sheffield City Region’s local authorities and chambers of commerce to ensure we can respond quickly to support our economy, ​in particular our small businesses, through this challenging time.

Social care has never been more important, says Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis.
Social care has never been more important, says Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis.

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The Chancellor took welcome steps in his Budget to support people and businesses financially, but I want to address something that we cannot put a price tag on and which matters just as much as the measures being put in place to deal with this emergency.

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Last week, we were promised millions [of pounds] for trains, roads and potholes, our transport infrastructure, yet in the face of a pandemic we are quickly realising we rely on something far more important: our social infrastructure.

Dan Jarvis is the Sheffield City Region mayor and Labour MP for Barnsley Central.

Our key workers and our carers on the frontline fighting the virus are the fabric that knit our social infrastructure, our society, together, helping to keep us safe and healthy.

Underpaid, overworked and often little-thanked, they are helping our most vulnerable through this most challenging of times.

They are the social fabric that makes Britain strong.

They are the reason I am confident that we will pull together and get through this emergency.

The NHS is facing an unprecedented strain because of coronavirus.

Our nurses and doctors have endured relentless workloads year after year.

Now, they are on the frontline again, putting their lives in danger in our time of need.

We rely on them more than ever before.

In these uncertain times, in addition to the demands that the Government spend where it is needed, I want us all to offer something which is free, which unites us all, and, critically, will support medical experts and frontline workers who are battling day and night to stem the flow of the virus.

It is our national civic duty to keep our social infrastructure strong.

That means looking out for each other.

I urge everyone to look out for, and closely follow, the expert advice.

I commend the chief medical officer (Chris Whitty), the chief scientific officer (Sir Patrick Vallance), public health directors and local resilience forums that have provided calm and clear guidance.

We must look out for each other and show a common decency in all we do, checking on our neighbours, the elderly and the vulnerable who may not have family and friends to rely on.

I saw this first hand in South Yorkshire during the flooding in November, when the worst weather brought out the best in people.

Their selfless acts of generosity and kindness helped families to get back on their feet. We will need a similar effort this time around to keep us all safe.

We must also look after our doctors, nurses and carers by taking responsibility.

Panic buying and stockpiling is not who we are as a country. It is not necessary.

It makes it harder to protect the most vulnerable and, in turn, puts our people at greater risk of becoming ill. It adds unnecessary strain to our NHS and its wonderful staff.

It may feel like Britain has been fraying at the edges over the past few days. Images of empty shelves have not helped matters. People are understandably tense and worried.

As a country, we have been divided for too long, but through this crisis I am confident that we will rediscover our common decency and kindness.

Now is the time for leadership and expertise.

Now is the time to look out for each other.

Now is the time to pull together.

I believe we are ready to do just that and to keep our social fabric stronger than ever.

Coronavirus will be a tough challenge, but by following our British values of common decency, respect and kindness, we have the best remedy to keep our families and our country healthy and out of harm’s way.

Dan Jarvis is the Sheffield City Region mayor and Labour MP for Barnsley Central. He spoke in a Commons debate on the Budget – this is an edited version.