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Call for evidence

Home Office preparedness for Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

Background

The management of Covid-19 poses a challenge for all parts of Government. On 3 March, the UK Government, together with devolved administrations, published the Coronavirus action plan. It comprised four phases:

  • Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible
  • Delay: slow the spread in the UK, and if it does take hold, lower the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season
  • Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect on the UK population; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care
  • Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for people ill in the community to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy.

Covid-19 has already affected the work of the Home Office and its associated bodies. As part of the ‘contain’ phase of the plan, Border Force has assisted in the repatriation of British nationals and their dependents from affected areas overseas, while the Home Office has provided support to foreign nationals in the UK who were unable to return home (Action plan para 4.7)

Impacts during the ‘mitigate’ phase will be more significant. For example, the Government expects that police and fire and rescue services will enact business continuity plans. This would require the police to concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order (Action plan 4.48). Privately-run Home Office functions will also require business continuity plans to be in place to safeguard vulnerable people.

Terms of Reference for written evidence submissions

The Home Affairs Committee invites written evidence on the issues set out below. Please note that submissions do not need to address all these issues.

  • How police and fire and rescue service business continuity plans are being designed to best safeguard the public and emergency service workers;
  • What trade-offs will have to be made by police if a significant number of officers are unable to work at any given time, and the potential impact of those decisions;
  • How the Home Office and its major contractors are working together to ensure the safe and effective operation of contracted services is maintained, particularly where these services affect vulnerable people;
  • Whether Border Force is sufficiently equipped to deliver any additional functions required of it during a period of heightened vigilance, and with reduced staffing;
  • How Police forces will support each other if mobilisation tactics, or other forms of mutual support, are compromised by the imperative to limit the possible spread of the virus;
  • The preparedness of forces to support Local Resilience Forums during a possible civil contingencies emergency;
  • The effectiveness of Home Office communications to its partners, responders and the wider public about its preparations.

The Home Affairs Committee has issued a further call for evidence on 6 April to inform their inquiry into Home Office preparedness for Covid-19 (Coronavirus). The Committee is inviting submissions on domestic abuse and risks of harm within the home during the crisis and particularly on any measures needed to reduce harm and support victims during the crisis.

The Committee invites evidence on the following issues:

  • The prevalence of these issues since the Government issued ‘stay at home’ guidance on 23 March;
  • Measures or proposals to help support victims of domestic abuse and child abuse at this time;
  • Measures or proposals to reduce or avert domestic abuse and child abuse at this time;
  • Preparedness of responders and service providers to address the needs of victims during the pandemic; and
  • The effectiveness of Government advice, co-ordination and support for responders and service providers.

We understand that the issues raised in this inquiry may be potentially distressing or sensitive.

In line with the general practice of select committees, the Home Affairs Committee is not able to take up individual cases. If you have immediate safeguarding concerns about yourself or someone else, you should contact the Police on 999 or (if you are concerned about a child) the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.

If you are in danger and unable to talk on the phone, call 999 and then press 55. This will transfer your call to the relevant police force who will assist you without you having to speak. 

If you would like support or advice the Government has published information about helplines and websites that may be able to help: 

National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247

Men's Advice line 0808 801 0327

Citizens Advice 03444 111 444

Samaritans 116 123

Childline 0800 1111

If you would like political support or advice you may wish to contact your local Member of Parliament. 

If you would like your submission (or part of it) to be kept confidential and not published, please make this clear. We may anonymise or redact some of your submission if it is published.

Online Harms

Recent weeks have given rise to a number of concerns related to or arising from the coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdown period. These have included the risk of increased child abuse and exploitation, reports of online fraud and scams related to Covid-19, fake news and disinformation about the virus, and increases in revenge pornography. 

The Government published its Online Harms White Paper in April 2019, which outlined plans for the establishment of a new statutory duty of care on online companies overseen and enforced by an independent regulator. The Government consulted on its Online Harms proposals between April and July 2019 and published an initial response to its consultation in February 2020. 

The Committee seeks evidence on: 

  • The nature, prevalence and scale of online harms during the Covid-19 period; 
  • Steps that could be taken to mitigate these concerns; 
  • The adequacy of the Government’s Online Harms proposals to address issues arising from the pandemic, as well as issues previously identified. 

Please submit your evidence by clicking on the Start button below.

If you have any problems, please email homeaffcom@parliament.uk

The deadline is 12 noon on Thursday 21 May.

 

 

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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