Polls are suggesting that millions may already have fallen into rent arrears during this crisis. We need to be clear that renters can’t pay and we won’t pay.
An initial small victory was won for tenants when we saw the government say it would suspend all evictions for three months.
On closer inspection this is just an extension of one month from the previous two months of arrears before an eviction notice could be issued.
In Bristol we won’t be paying rent this month.
Many of us simply can’t afford it, others choose to stand in solidarity, and there is safety in numbers. It is crucial to strike. Through no fault of their own, many people will be behind with their rent and will face debt, eviction and legal action in the courts at the end of the pandemic.
We need to organise into coordinated localised groups, to ensure provisions are made for the worst off people in society when we emerge on the other side of this.
In Bristol we started a group of tenants, students and independent pub owners, with the aim to fight the rent injustice.
Within the first 24 hours we had 500 members for the Bristol group, and it has been growing steadily since.
We have successfully demanded that the University of Bristol refunds the final rent payment to students in halls.
We organised over 120 tenants to withhold their rent to a single housing provider. And we further galvanised the support of many more across the private sector who can’t pay rent this month.
Sadly, this pandemic won’t be gone by the end of the month and this is just the start of the struggle.
There is a growing appetite across the county for action over rental accommodation.
If any socialist is able to sow the seeds local to them, now is the time.
Councils must join aid efforts
In west London, people are taking the lead while our council is tail-ending the government over coronavirus.
We’re still trying to get Kensington and Chelsea council to step up and have a coordinated response.
We know we can’t wait because we know what the council is like from the aftermath of the Grenfell fire.
After Grenfell, support groups had sprung up quite naturally and mutual aid groups have drawn in more people with skills.
Community groups had food, and some of us tried to distribute it to homeless people in the borough.
And people are working with voluntary organisations such as the West Way Trust and Age UK.
Yes, we have people in mutual aid groups in the north and south of the borough who are quite well off.
But we need the council to be part of the response—and to back our efforts.
We don’t know where all the vulnerable people are, and by the time we get to them they could be dead.
People are asking the council for £100,000.
The idea is to secure two warehouses and for the big retail stores to commit to provide a certain amount of food.
The council is trying to stall and putting out all the usual bureaucratic stuff that we’re used to.
It’s pretty shambolic at the moment.
Universities failed students during crisis
The national Union of Students has called for all exams to be suspended.
I agree with this. But I feel that it’s assumed that students who don’t have physical, sit down exams won’t have it as bad as others.
Really my problem is with my university’s lack of effective response to the crisis.
When I had lectures online, one lecturer emailed me saying she was new to the system and didn’t know how a lot of it worked. Surely that is something the university should be training lecturers to do?
I had to move out of the halls of residence due to how quickly issues around coronavirus were progressing. I didn’t want to be stuck in London under lockdown.
It just feels like there’s no accountability or responsibility on the university’s part to help students.
Mental Health Act coverage clarification
Unfortunately there are some details wrong on the emergency changes to the Mental Health Act in an otherwise excellent article on the government’s new powers (Socialist Worker, 25 March).
It is not doctors who apply for the detention of patients but mostly specially trained social workers called Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs).
Applications are based on the recommendations of two doctors. The AMHP may then make an application if they believe treatment (or assessment) has to be provided in hospital.
There is already existing legislation that says an AMHP can use just one doctor’s recommendation if it is dangerous to wait for a second doctor. The emergency bill replaces this particular emergency power and allows applications to be based on one recommendation instead.
The argument is that, because of the virus, people who need immediate hospital admission may be left unsupported whilst waiting for a second doctor to arrive.
However the main issue is that when people do need an emergency admission there are often no beds.
Years of cuts to mental health services have assured this.
Johnson letter is a waste
The letter Boris Johnson has sent to all households across Britain about coronavirus is a complete waste of money that could be invested in the NHS.
So unnecessary, complete waste of paper, save paper, send emails.....oh wait....Boris Johnson knows they’d probably end up in the spam folder.
Celebs have reason to sing
I’m so sick of celebrities telling us to stay inside or even worse singing to us on social media. For them everything probably is fine.
The best way to be quarantined is in a multi-million pound mansion with someone to look after your children and cook for you.
Stop the NHS surcharge
I am a Commonwealth citizen from Nigeria and healthcare assistant.
But I have to pay for healthcare even though I work in the NHS.
If you want to come to Britain, you have to pay for your visa and a health surcharge on top.
People are going through a lot right now with coronavirus.
Working in the NHS is very, very tough at the moment.
The government needs to stop this surcharging immediately.
Those who keep the system going should not have to pay extra for it.
Britain is failing to test
In Australia there are mobile testing sites that are open to everyone. It just shows how healthcare could be in Britain.
It’s frustrating as someone who’s moved to Britain that, despite there being a health care service in this country that is much better than in Australia, people here still can’t get tested.