Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has spoken out in a parliamentary debate on “Long Covid”, led by fellow Liberal Democrat Layla Moran MP, about the need for more government understanding of its effects on people. Long Covid is still poorly understood, but many people have been found to suffer symptoms – particularly severe shortness of breath – for months after contracting the disease.
Mr Carmichael cited a constituent who had been affected by the disease and was struggling to get support, and noted the calls earlier in the pandemic by himself and the Liberal Democrats for a trial of the Universal Basic Income for Covid-19 to stop people falling through the cracks in support.
Speaking virtually in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“So little is yet known about Long Covid. Those in Government have to demonstrate a bit of humility, accepting that we do not yet know the full picture of how this will affect people. There must be more flexibility in how the system responds to people who are affected in this way.
I want to share one email I received from a constituent, which illustrates the way in which, unfortunately, people are so often left to fall between the gaps. This constituent had two part-time jobs. She wrote:
“Because of the 50-50 rule I wasn’t eligible for SEISS, so, when I was made redundant…at the end of my Furlough, I sent my P45 in hoping for Job Seekers Allowance. I have just had a phone call to say that I am ineligible for JSA as my Class 2 contributions as a self-employed person don’t count and I wasn’t making class 1 contributions for long enough… only the last 2 years count! I’m ineligible for UC due to my husband’s pensions. That means I will have to take out my minimal work pensions in order to survive until my State Pension kicks in in 13 months.”
“I am afraid that that shows the way in which too many people have been left behind and excluded from the provision that the Government have made. Things could have been so different if only the Government had been prepared to listen to those of us who said at the start that there was a role for a Universal Basic Income in meeting the challenge to our society.”