Newsletter: April 2020

Dear Member,

We are incredibly proud of how our key workers, our local community and our Councillors have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, and decided to share a newsletter with you all to recognise their contributions. The newsletter looks at:

• an interview with a local care worker,

• the local Mutual Aid networks,

• the risks to our key workers,

• the need for testing,

• the importance of green open spaces, and

• what this all means for the NHS.

There is a clear message coming out of these articles: “The Labour Party is in a unique position to call out the government on its appalling management of this crisis, to force the Tories to change tack.  This is not an argument that can wait for the future: people are dying now.”

Our Branch Chair, Shuo Zhang, has also compiled a comprehensive list of helpful resources for anyone needing support during the current crisis. Click on this link to have a look.

Yours in solidarity,

Gary Ostrolenk

Branch Secretary

One Of Our Local Heroes

Interview by Melissa Biro, Branch Women’s Officer

We are hearing a lot – though perhaps not nearly enough – about social care workers at the moment.   But how much do most of us really know about them?    We rely on them to look after the people we can’t and, most of the time, give them little thought. They are not normally considered newsworthy. We don’t hear stories of heroic care workers saving the lives of celebrities or politicians – largely because by the time they are being cared for, the celebrities are no longer famous, the politicians long out of office. Our society has little respect for the old, the infirm, the ‘has-been’.

Gloria is a lovely neighbour of mine. She works as a community care worker in a local extra care facility and she’s feeling upset.

Melissa: Tell me about the facility.

Gloria: It’s a brilliant place. There are around 35 residents in 30 flats.  There’s a beautiful garden and a communal area where people can meet up with each other and where we have events. Of course, the communal areas are all closed now, so the residents are feeling increasingly isolated.

Melissa: Tell me about the residents.

Gloria: They are all vulnerable adults. The youngest is around 55.  Some have physical disabilities; some have mental health issues. There are only a few with dementia.

Melissa: So the care workers must be even more important to them than usual. Tell me about your role.

Gloria: Our job is to assist them to live as independently as possible.  I have just two hours a day to spend with my clients. That may be four visits of half an hour. I must see to their personal care, make sure they are getting three hot meals a day, administer their medication two, three or four times a day (diabetes is a common problem with our residents. Some have lost toes or even feet to the disease; some have lost their sight.)  I must assess their capacity constantly and report in writing on every visit.  It’s a huge responsibility, actually, and exhausting moving from person to person, safeguarding. avoiding cross-contamination. It’s always an issue but now …

Melissa: How has Covid-19 affected you?

Gloria: We haven’t had many cases, yet. We had one and two people were taken to hospital: they both died. It’s incredibly upsetting!

Melissa: Do you have adequate PPE?

Gloria: We have what the government says is adequate. We have masks and gloves. It’s adequate for normal times. But not for Covid.

Melissa: But you’ve already had cases and there will be more..

Gloria: As I say, the government thinks the protection is adequate.

Melissa: Are you unionised?

Gloria: In our facility I think everyone is in the Union. We know they’ve got our backs.

Melissa: What do you most want the government to do?

Gloria: We want to be tested: Testing is absolutely vital. And after that, to recognise the importance of care workers. To give us more respect and more money!

Melissa: How do you think the Opposition is doing?

Gloria: They seem to be getting their act together and valuing us. I want them to stand up for us strongly. For us and all the other key workers. Maybe people are finally finding out who is ‘key’ and who isn’t.  I really hope so.

If you would like an actual ‘Tories don’t care’ badge, one of our heroes has made some and all the profits go to her local hospital’s maternity and NICU wards. Click on this link to order one.

Mutual Aid in Goose Green

Alex Mees, a member of our Branch

Mutual Aid groups started to spring up across the country last month as the impending lockdown looked ever more likely. The aim of these groups was simple: to support the local community in order that vulnerable or lonely people would be able to get the help they needed in the coming weeks and months.

After a quite frankly overwhelming early response from local residents, Goose Green Mutual Aid is up and running and already doing some fantastic work in the community. We have over 250 members, a small team of dedicated Admins coordinating things behind the scenes, and, so far, more than 50 requests for assistance with shopping, collecting prescriptions and other errands have been met swiftly. We have also established a weekly newsletter that compiles local information that may be useful for residents, as well as up-to-date information on volunteering.

We have been working closely with the council – particular thanks go to our Councillors Victoria Olisa and James McAsh for their support – to make sure we are working within our safeguarding and data protection obligations and are able to make referrals to external organisations and professionals where necessary.

Goose Green Mutual Aid now has a useful one-stop website – – where Goose Green residents can request assistance; sign up to volunteer; find further information on COVID-19 from local, national and international organisations; sign up for our Mutual Aid newsletter; and check whether their street is within the Goose Green ward.

Last week, we had our first collection for Pecan, the Southwark foodbank, so that Goose Green residents would be able to donate without the need to make the journey to Peckham. It was hugely successful and we managed to donate 30 boxes of food and toiletries to Pecan. We will now be having weekly collections at Oru Space on Lordship Lane on Mondays. Further details can be found in our newsletter, which you should all of course sign up for if you’ve not already!

And, as of this week, we now have a Solidarity Fund, which was set up to “provide funds for people who are in need of them immediately, and offer so in solidarity”. Expenses can be approved for residents of Goose Green Ward who are experiencing financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19. Individuals can apply for funding to help with essentials such as grocery shopping, the payment of electricity, heating and internet bills, prescription costs. The Solidairty Fund is non-judgmental, and requests will be answered on the basis of first-come, first-served, except in exceptional circumstances. The website for both requesting financial support from or making donations to the solidarity fund is

Please go to if you would like to be invovled in some way. Thank you.

There is a similar mutual aid group for the Dulwich Hill ward. Here is a link to their WhatsApp group.

Stand Up For Our Key Workers!

Adam Vipond, Branch Fundraising & Events Officer

Overnight there has been an unprecedented change in the way we view work. Some industries are close to collapse, many have lost jobs, we’ve discovered a new word in ‘furlough’, and for many still working 9-5 it’s on a laptop on the kitchen table. While lockdown feels like a never-ending confinement, we worry that leaving the house for work would put our heath and that of our families at risk.

Our health workers on the frontline are nothing short of heroic as they work tirelessly without the treatment and equipment to care for patients and to protect themselves. Through small acts of solidarity, 5k runs and 8pm claps we express our deep gratitude to them, and to our other key workers: refuse workers, bus drivers, carers and supermarket workers to name a few. Key workers that were only a month ago classed as ‘low skilled’ by Priti Patel and the Conservative government, but have since worked tirelessly to keep our society running and our families alive.

Our government continues to ignore the value of these workers and drags its heels in offering any meaningful support:

• What help has been offered to the ‘low skilled’ bus drivers who fear going to work? No adequate PPE supplies and delayed decisions to stop direct passenger contact has resulted in the tragic deaths of over twenty drivers.

• Or what about the ‘low skilled’ supermarket workers who have had to take on extra shifts to help meet public demand? Long hours spent in direct contact with hundreds of shoppers, again, without adequate PPE.

Still, they go to work without any sustained support from the government and no improvement in pay or working conditions.

It shouldn’t take a crisis for our society to recognise the value of these workers. If the government continues to hold them in contempt then it is the responsibility of the Labour Party to stand in solidarity, and ensure that they receive the respect they deserve. Reclaiming the value of the worker in our society will lay the foundation for stronger unity in the workplace, realigning workers’ rights and putting power back into workers’ hands.

Testing, Testing, Testing …

Gary Ostrolenk, Branch Secretary

Testing is key to managing a pandemic, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) have stressed since January.  Without a vaccine, the only way to avoid hundreds of thousands of deaths is to conduct widespread testing across the community, trace all contacts of people testing positive, and isolate them.  There are two types of tests:

• ‘Test-trace-isolate’ requires testing of whether someone has the virus now.  It is a well-established and routine procedure.  We have plenty of laboratories able to conduct this test: all that was required was to procure enough swabs and chemicals.  The government had three months warning, yet we still don’t have a capacity even to test all health and care workers let alone the population at large.

• Instead, the government has talked a lot about “antibody” testing, to see if someone had the virus in the past.  This in theory would be cheaper, but it doesn’t yet exist!  It would not even enable ‘test-trace-isolate”, as it is only conclusive 28 days after infection.  It will not enable us to come out of lock-down en masse, and that is why there is now talk of some kind of isolation continuing until a vaccine is available.

Other countries scaled-up their testing capability early, and managed the pandemic with far fewer deaths. South Korea all but eliminated the virus through ‘test-trace-isolate’.  Germany quickly built up a high-volume testing capability that enabled them to minimise infections.  In the UK, infections shot up as the government delayed lock-down, hospitals became overloaded, and many doctors and nurses had to stop working without knowing whether they had the virus.  It looks like the UK will have the highest number of deaths in Europe, even exceeding Italy and Spain: this was not necessary.

The Labour Party is in a unique position to call out the government on its appalling management of this crisis, to force the Tories to change tack.  This is not an argument that can wait for the future: people are dying now.

Southwark Council Defends Access to Green Open Spaces

James McAsh, Councillor for Goose Green Ward

Many local authorities around the country have taken the decision to close their parks during this crisis. In Southwark, we have not taken this approach. It is vital that we all observe the lockdown and stay at home, barring essential trips outside. But for many, a short trip outside is essential for their physical and mental well-being. For those in overcrowded housing, or with no outdoor space of their own, this is doubly so.

By keeping parks open, Southwark Council is making it easier for our residents to exercise whilst maintaining social distancing. After all, it is easier to stay two metres away from everyone else in a wide-open space than it is on a crowded street. But the council’s parks alone are not enough: as more people need to use these spaces, crowding becomes a greater problem. And closing off the spaces only makes the problem worse. Instead, we need to find ways to open new spaces.

Fortunately for us, we live in an area surrounded by wide open spaces, owned by local institutions. Following a call from the council, Dulwich College and Alleyn’s have both opened playing fields to the public. We are in conversations with Dulwich Golf Club about doing the same.

COVID-19 does not discriminate: it can attack any one of us. But the crisis that it has created does not affect us all equally. It has emphasised and exacerbated existing inequalities. We in the Labour Party need to call for resources to be used where they are needed most – during this crisis and beyond.

Clap For The NHS Workers, & Fight For Our NHS!

Anita Patel, Branch BAME Officer

We clap with all our hearts for the NHS workers.  In the Labour Party we have always known the value of the NHS and the contribution of its workers, many of whom have come from around the world to serve here, be they doctors, nurses, porters or cleaners.  We are in awe of the volunteers who have selflessly stepped forward to help, from pensioners to medical students.  Our own Councillor Maggie Browning’s parents have come out of retirement to work round the clock to help alongside Maggie’s brother.

A public national service is the only effective way to take care of everyone’s health.  For the Labour Party, the NHS embodies our vision of society, and now more than ever it is clear that our vision of society can be realised.  In the coming months and years, we must fight for:

• an end to all privatisation in the NHS,

• launch of a National Care Service,

• cancellation of NHS debts (including PFI),

• adequate public funding to meet our health needs,

• pay rises for all low-paid NHS and care workers, and

• a welcome environment for immigrant NHS and care workers.

Print this poster, and put it up in your window!

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