In the ghost town that is ‘C19 UK’, the general public have started to reconsider the value of those who care for our society on a daily basis. Facing the pandemic without adequate protection has deepened our love affair with the NHS. But the role of others, such as those who collect our waste or those who look after our elderly, has also started at last to gain recognition from the mainstream media.
The local government response has been phenomenal. Despite having to reconfigure services to manage new and very real risks, day-to-day services have continued. But also, a range of new activities and responsibilities that emerged overnight are being delivered. Councils are leading the charge in identifying risk and supporting response in a way that shows our actions are fundamentally rooted in our passion for our places and communities.
The changes that the sector has undergone through austerity have shown how able we have become, with the adjustment to digital and remote working being just the basics. In Eastbourne, the leader had a meeting with 30 local businesses via video conference 24 hours after lockdown. In days we developed and shared new applications for many purposes; the sterling work of the likes of Adur and Worthing Councils stands out for me.
While we have become more digitally able, we have also demonstrated how we enable and support community capacity. The development into community-centred councils, exemplified by Barking and Dagenham LBC and East Ayrshire, has shown how enabled communities can mobilise. When South Staffordshire DC and Staffordshire CC began exploring how they would work together in a new and integrated way, recognising the role of community capacity was a factor from the start.
The business community has also responded from local independents grouping together to coordinate home delivery to businesses helping to manufacture vital equipment. With echoes of Dunkirk, Project Littleboat (www.project-little-boat.co.uk) is a group of individuals and small businesses coming together to mitigate the shortage of personal protective equipment and testing. A marketing materials company became a manufacturer of facemasks in one week and is now the largest national producer (www.medworx.co.uk) – if you are struggling get in touch.
Of course, the response by the sector has come at a price. Physically teams have been working horrendous hours and financially there has been a cost that has yet to be totalled. Let us hope that Government will respond to the sector as capably as the sector has responded to the pandemic.
For more information visit www.iese.org.uk
Dr Andrew Larner is chief executive of the Improvement and Efficiency Social Enterprise (iESE)