THIS week’s MP’s column comes from Judith Cummins, Labour MP for Bradford South
The start of 2021 brings with it two contrasting feelings. On the one hand, we are in yet another difficult national lockdown. 

I am acutely aware of the consequences this will have on Bradford businesses and local people, particularly our children. On the other hand, the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccines brings great hope and the possibility of a return to near-normality later this year. 

While we are in this period of lockdown, the Government must step up and support our communities. For local businesses and workers, the new lockdown comes after nine months of restrictions and reduced trading. This has caused a great deal hardship for many people. 

I have repeatedly called on the Government to do more to support people with the economic effects of the pandemic. 

Now more than ever, businesses in hospitality and other sectors need targeted support to survive the next few months, and people need support with mounting bills. 

Children and young people are also facing a very difficult situation during the lockdown. 

Too many young people do not have access to the technology and internet required to learn effectively at home. If this digital gap is not addressed, many children will lose out on yet more valuable months of learning. Their life-chances and opportunities in the future are likely to be curtailed. 

Labour has put forward a plan to ensure no child losses out like this. 

We have called for the Government to urgently provide devices to everyone who needs them, to work with the phone and internet companies to provide free internet for educational purposes, to provide more technical support for schools, and finally to guarantee that every pupil will receive time with a teacher virtually. I also believe the

Government must invest more in catch-up support for the disadvantaged children who have fallen the furthest behind. On a related note, last week I wrote to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to express my concern over the handling of BTEC exams which were due to take place in early January. 

Despite the decision to close schools and colleges to the majority of students, the Government did not issue any guidance on what should happen to BTEC exams. 

They eventually said that colleges should make their own decision about whether the exams should go ahead. This is simply not good enough. I have called on Gavin Williamson to make a national decision, cancel the exams, and come up with a safe and fair way to assess students. 

Once again it seems that the students undertaking vocational qualifications are an afterthought for the Government. They deserve better. 

Turning to the vaccine roll-out, it is good news that more and more people are now receiving their first dose of the Covid vaccine. 

Vaccinating as many people as possible, starting with the most vulnerable, is our way out of this nightmare. I know there has been some concern that some areas seem to be getting the vaccine faster than others. I have spoken to local NHS leaders to get their assurance that everybody who is eligible in Bradford will be offered the vaccine as soon as possible. 

It is right that the army is now being called in to assist with the logistics of the roll-out. I urge the Government to make use of the whole of the NHS, including more GP surgeries and community pharmacies, to get the vaccine out in every community as soon as possible. For the sake of all of us, failure from the Government is not an option. 

Finally, I know many of you will have seen the awful scenes in the USA last week. 
A violent mob storming Congress to prevent the conclusion of the electoral process is an affront to democracy.

The last few years have been difficult both in America and here at home – with political divisions and growing rancour. I hope this new year allows us all to start afresh and attempt to solve our political problems with a new sense of unity and compassion. 
After all, it is only by working together that we will be able to solve the great challenges we face.