Our unsung key workers


By Patricia Gibson, MP for Ayrshire and Arran

The coronavirus outbreak has caused a sudden and drastic change to all our lives, throwing sharply into focus the critical importance of our public services, as well as the fragility of our economy and importance of the many occupations we rely on to keep society’s wheels turning.

Healthy people in secure employment may have avoided the impact of ten years of austerity on social security, which has caused severe hardship for many of our poorest and most vulnerable. However, many people who never previously had to rely on it now face that bleak prospect.

I have been inundated with enquiries from constituents, many of whom face losing their businesses their livelihoods because of the coronavirus and who might now struggle to make ends meet.

While both the UK and Scottish governments have introduced important new measures to help at this time of national emergency, this situation demonstrates just how important a strong and comprehensive system of support is, to ensure that adequate help is available for people in times of crisis; one that can fall at any time, on anyone.

I hope this crisis will ultimately bring some positive changes, not just in the support available, but also in the way that the people who need it are viewed.

The pandemic reminds us just how much we rely on our emergency services; from the police officers and firefighters who keep us safe, to those on the front line in hospitals, risking their own health to keep others alive. It is right that we celebrate these frontline workers and recognise their dedication and resolve that is vital in beating this disease. Already, sadly, some have already paid the ultimate price and my thoughts are with their families and friends at this difficult time.

Whilst emergency services deservedly receive praise for their efforts to tackle this crisis, we consider the importance of many other unsung key workers who keep the country going through this difficult period. It is the actions of millions of individuals who are keeping our shelves stocked and our basic services running, making deliveries and looking after our elderly and most vulnerable.

Jobs such as refuse collectors, checkout operators, postal workers, cleaners and carers have in the past been considered low-skilled, reflecting how poorly they are paid for their vital work. Despite this, they are now appreciated as the key workers they are, who are not only keeping our communities going during this pandemic but do so every day with little or no recognition. They go out to work every day to provide essential services.

As we deal with the changes to our lifestyles and daily routines and each day brings more dispiriting news, it is also important to remember the incredible community spirit we have, with volunteers stepping forward in their thousands to deliver essential items to complete strangers, befriend the lonely and help our NHS. It is in this spirit that we must find the strength and resolve to defeat this terrible virus, as we surely will.