AS part of my work keeping constituents updated on the Covid-19 crisis, I host a daily 9pm live Q&A session on Facebook. You can also watch all these back afterwards (and don’t need to have a Facebook account to do so) – just go to my page

I’ve also recorded online conversations with council leaders and police, and these are available to view on my page at any time. With lockdown and social distancing, it’s crucial that we keep residents informed, and modern technology allows us to do that.

One of those conversations was with Cllr Lis Burnett, Deputy Leader of the Vale Council. I raised some of the most common questions that I’m receiving from constituents, to find out how the authority is supporting residents, including:

School provision: The Vale is using a hub system, with 14 schools providing services 7am-to-7pm, seven days a week, for children of key workers and vulnerable children. Vouchers for free school meals are being issued to all who qualify every two weeks.

Older/shielding residents: For those without support from family and friends, the council has set up a Crisis Support Team to help with access to shopping, medication, and urgent temporary assistance. See the ‘Protecting Vulnerable People’ section of the dedicated coronavirus page on the website

Businesses: There is a regularly-updated Business section on the council’s coronavirus page, which should be the first point of call for all local businesses looking for assistance. Over £15 million has already been distributed, and you’re encouraged to apply for support as soon as possible.

Council staff: Staff are helping however they can; some from non-essential services are doing waste collections, others are providing care. It’s making a huge difference, and a recruitment drive for temporary care staff has also been a success.

Volunteering: Local people are stepping up, and the Vale is supporting them via its Vale Heroes page on the website.

Council tax bills: If you are worried about paying your council tax, get in touch with the department. They will look at every case individually.

Finally, in other news, I’m delighted to be taking on the role of joint Shadow Foreign and Commonwealth Office and International Development Minister covering Africa, in the new Shadow frontbench team announced by UK Labour Leader Keir Starmer. I’ve done a lot of work in this area both during and before my time as an MP, and I’m looking forward to the role immensely.