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Government must do their job and protect our frontline workers

Melantha Chittenden
26th March 2020

The Government has called on sections of the UK workforce to continue to go out to work, to put themselves at risk to keep us safe, and to look after the vulnerable during this difficult time. This includes Community members such as prison officers who are putting themselves in harms way doing their job keeping the public safe, and social care workers who are looking after our elderly and vulnerable. Now it’s time for Government to step up and do its job to keep this vital workforce safe, as well as the thousands of other workers across sectors and in the NHS who are on the frontline.

Key frontline workers across the UK are coming into contact with coronavirus, and as it stands there are too many stories of them doing so without the necessary equipment. If you’re coming into contact with the virus the safest thing to do is to have minimum Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) i.e. a mask, hand sanitiser and gloves – yet many of our members are operating without these.

Employers across the UK are attempting to secure PPE to keep their workers safe, but supply is difficult under the increased demand. This has resulted in a situation where prison workers are turning up to work and being asked to do their jobs including; escorting prisoners, working in prisons and courts without any form of PPE. As a worker in the sector they should have access to enhanced PPE which includes a full body suit, goggles, gloves and mask, yet they are being asked to do their jobs in this current climate in just their traditional uniform. We have also seen a failure to ensure that escort vehicles, and court cells are regularly being deep cleaned as required.

Social care workers, who are undertaking skilled and important work to look after our loved ones, are amongst the poorest and lowest wage workers. Yet many of them are having to go out and purchase their own PPE to keep themselves safe, as well as their families when they return home from work. Working people should never, and particularly not during this crisis, find themselves out of pocket for staying safe at work.

With many employers willing and keen to provide the PPE for their workforces but unable to secure adequate supply, it now falls to Government to ensure priority supply for our frontline workers.

While these key workers turn up to work in the interests of the public, they should be as safe as possible, and ensuring they have the equipment they need should now be Government’s primary focus.

Community is calling on the government to protect our frontline workers so they can do their jobs keeping us all safe. You can sign our petition here.

Melantha Chittenden is Research and Policy Officer at Community.