With so many people’s lives changed almost beyond recognition by the coronavirus crisis, the MPs we elected have had to make significant adjustments too.
Like other MPs across Nottinghamshire, Ruth Edwards has been dealing with a huge influx of casework from residents and businesses.
“The first job of an MP in a situation like this is to try and reassure residents and help them with the issues that have arisen from the huge changes we’ve all needed to make to our lives.” Said Ruth. “In the last few weeks, we’ve helped people with a wide range of issues; including helping constituents stuck abroad to get home and businesses who are having problems accessing the Government’s support packages.
“I’m really lucky that I have a fantastic team backing me up and I certainly couldn’t do it without them.”
Technology has also helped Ruth continue with her Parliamentary duties.
“We’ve been holding online sessions of the Home Affairs Select Committee. Although our first private meeting sounded a bit like a convention of the Daleks, House of Commons staff have got us sorted and the work of the committee is continuing.” So far the Committee has taken evidence on the police response to coronavirus and on the impact of the lockdown on domestic violence.
“Locally, I’ve written to every business, school and doctor’s surgery to offer my support and I’m regularly in touch with healthcare managers for the county.
“This week, every house in Rushcliffe will also be getting an information leaflet from me and I’ll be calling all the parish councils to see if they need any support.”
“Last week I had the opportunity to go on patrol with Nottinghamshire Police to gain an understanding of how they are enforcing the lockdown and what difficulties they and the public are experiencing from it. Later this week I will be helping Sewa Day with their food deliveries and I have signed up as an NHS volunteer.”
“What has really stood out for me is the fantastic response across our community, with so many businesses and individuals offering help. I’m so proud of everyone.”
When not dealing with casework, the roles played by Notts MPs has varied greatly.
Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome has returned part-time to the career she held before she was elected in December.
She now divides her time between day-to-day MP work and being a social carer.
Meanwhile, Newark MP Robert Jenrick has been leading his department – the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
With local councils among the organisations on the front line of the coronavirus effort, this has involved Mr Jenrick hosting some of the daily coronavirus press conferences.
During the crisis, Nottingham North MP Alex Norris became a junior shadow minister in Keir Starmer’s new front bench.
Speaking about how the last few months had been, he said: “We’ve gone from having thousands of emails from constituents on thousands of issues, to having thousands of emails on a thousand different aspects of just one issue.
“It’s businesses wanting business support, it’s people who are isolating or beginning to shield but need support for themselves, people who are working who want to know if their work practices are right, and it’s also people who are working directly on the front line who want to make sure they are getting the right protection in the right ways.
“Those are the main categories of enquiry we’re getting.”
Mr Norris said many of his residents were having ‘very significant impacts’.
“We’ve been saying it for many years, but there’s now an understanding that £94 a week sick pay isn’t sufficient to live on.
“So people who are having to live on that sick pay, or people who already were on employment support, or those receiving the personal independence payment (PIP) those who were already struggling are struggling even more now, and that’s what we’re trying to alleviate.
“The good side has been the community response, which has been brilliant, people looking out for their neighbours, people helping, volunteering, delivering meals, organisations coming together saying we don’t want anyone to go hungry in our community, and there’s been so much of that over the last few weeks.”
Tom Randall, who replaced Vernon Coaker as the MP for Gedling in December, moved into a new flat in Arnold last month.
In the four months since he became an MP, a third of the casework has come in the last two weeks.
He says he still puts on a tie every morning, in part so that when he takes it off in the evening it can symbolise the end of a working day.
He said: “In an odd way a lot of the work has carried on as usual, apart from the volume, because so much of what we do is by email and phone anyway.
“But it’s getting through the volume of casework that’s been the big challenge.
“I have still done surgeries, we’ve had surgeries over the phone, which are not great because you’re not in front of somebody and I like the personal contact of actually being able to meet someone face to face, but I’ve still held surgeries and they’ve gone quite well.
”We’ve had some good feedback which is nice, I mean obviously everyone is frustrated with what’s going on, but a lot of people have been saying ‘thanks for your help’.”
As well as being the MP for Newark, Robert Jenrick has been involved in taking decisions at the Cabinet such as whether to extend the lockdown.
He’s also the minister for housing and local councils, two key areas during the crisis, as renters struggle to pay on time and councils see a huge uplift in demand.
He said the security of a home has never been more important, and that he would be doing everything possible to help people.
In a letter to his constituents, he said: “As Housing Secretary, I know that renters and landlords will have been particularly worried about paying their rent and mortgages.
“As a result, I have moved swiftly to ensure that nobody needs to worry about losing their home at this difficult time when the security of a home has never been more important.
“I have taken decisive action and will bring forward emergency legislation to ensure that no renter will be forced out of their home through this period and that landlords will be protected too.
“For renters in both the private and social sector, there will be a moratorium on all new evictions and clear guidance has been issued stating that existing eviction processes should be dealt with appropriately, prioritising the safety and health of citizens across the country.
“Let there be no doubt: renters do not need to be worried about the threat of eviction.”
Shortly after the lockdown began, newly-elected Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome chose to return to social care, with all wages being donated to local coronavirus relief organisations.
Speaking to constituents, she said: “This is an unprecedented time for our city, country, and world.
“As the MP for Nottingham East, I want to reassure you that I am doing all that I can to work in our best interests during this worrying time.
“You may have seen that I have decided to return part-time to my previous job as a care worker, in order to support our care system that is already in crisis.
“I am maintaining my duties as a local MP; my office and I can be reached as usual and we will continue to work from home to deal with casework and enquires.”