Here's our latest in our new series of MP's columns. This week's comes from Bradford West MP Naz Shah

THERE’s no denying the last four months have been a difficult time. 

Lockdown has forced everyone indoors, halting social events and limiting opportunities for the community to unite and help each other out in traditional ways. 

Everyone within our community has been affected by Covid-19 and some have had to endure great suffering. 

But despite the hardships, these four months have also shone a light on our community’s ability to innovate and come together in times of need. 

Healthcare funding wasn’t exactly in a great place prior to Covid-19: 32,000 overnight hospital beds have been cut in England since 2008-9, leaving fewer beds available for Covid-19 patients; £850m has been cut from government public health grants to local authorities since 2015; there has been a 40 per cent cut to Public Health England’s operational budget in real terms since 2013; all topped off with the abolition of the nursing bursary from 2017.

Nonetheless, both locally and nationally our NHS staff, staff across statutory services, as well as other key workers, stepped up to the plate, showing stalwartness and leadership in their response to the crisis. 

We have seen retired doctors and nurses, as well as final-year students and student nurses joining the ‘NHS Army’, despite being threatened with the removal of their free parking at work.

Some staff even spent prolonged periods away from their own families to limit widespread exposure to the disease, including many care workers who will have witnessed its devastating effects first hand. 

Much like those who work in healthcare, schools and other education providers have also worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure key workers were able to attend work. 

They made sure that vulnerable children and young people continued to receive the care and attention they need throughout the school day. 

Schools have also been at the forefront of arranging meal vouchers for children who usually receive school meals- no mean feat considering the difficulties and delays with the government’s meal voucher system from the outset.

I recall one such headteacher in Bradford getting in touch with me to lobby government as he was extremely worried that children at his school may not receive food vouchers on time, which they desperately rely on. 

The flexibility and resilience that schools and teachers have shown in the face of highly confusing government directions on the reopening of schools has been equally as impressive. 

In the midst of all of this, Bradford-based teachers formed the Bradford Impact Group (BIG). The group is not only a support network for the local teaching community, providing professional and social support, but has the fundamental aim of ending educational inequality.

I was lucky enough to attend an online event as a panel member hosted by BIG, where I learnt about their drive to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of Bradford’s children on their return to school. 

I have no doubt that their work will be invaluable for supporting children as they return to normality in the wake of the pandemic. 

Faith centres were amongst the first in Bradford to step up and play their part. Many decided to close their doors a week before the government announced the lockdown, putting the health and safety of congregants and Bradford residents first. It was our nation’s time of need and faith become an integral part of responding and supporting local communities.

So many mosques, churches, synagogues and other faith centres responded by delivering food, medical prescriptions and doing everything they could to play their role. 

The third sector, local businesses and organisations transformed their day to day activities to assist in this process of giving.

I witnessed first hand the efforts of local businesses, whether it was those within the consortia that teamed up with the Bradford Foundation Trust and My Foster Family to support asylum seekers and refugees or those such as My Lahore, Regal and others that joined the EnKhanz Covid-19 Response Unit to deliver Eid and Ramadhan gift packs to the local community; or those councillors and ordinary residents I joined at Clayton Village Hall, at Lower Grange Community Centre that set up a food bank to support the most in need. 

People of faith and no faith, from differing political affiliations and beliefs, came together as one community. Heroes came from all across Bradford and showed the true spirit of this city. 

When this city needed its very best, the very best showed up, and in my first column, I would like to thank them all for the service they provided for our city. 

We have seen how great our city can be; we must not let this slip but continue with this spirit of giving, community and harmony to transcend into a brighter and more prosperous future for our city, where no one is left behind in times of need.