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UK News Meet the key workers going above and beyond to make sure our country is safe

13:45  29 march  2020
13:45  29 march  2020 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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Many of the people at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak are the key workers.

These are the people whose jobs are considered vital amid this continued time of uncertainty.

As well as the brilliant NHS and private healthcare staff, who are doing a marvellous job at caring for our communities, there are many 'unsung heroes' doing their bit to make sure vulnerable people and essential services are being looked after.

These are just a few people who are doing a brilliant job at keeping our country going.

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Jill Bee, 62, works as part of the team at Cardiff Council ’s Telecare Service.

Jill, from Cardiff, has been a part of the team for around 15 years and is still travelling to work every day to make sure elderly people in need are attended to.

Telecare is a 24-hour service that provides a telephone link to the community alarm and response service.

It's continuing to provide its services as normal throughout the current situation with extra precautions in place to help protect staff and the public.

The council’s Meals on Wheels service is also continuing to deliver hot, nutritious meals to customers across the city.

If an elderly person falls or needs assistance they can press a buzzer to alert the team for help.

Jill says it’s become a particularly valuable lifeline for people who don’t have family nearby and for those with dementia or Alzheimer's.

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a person wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Jill Bee, who works for the Telecare service © Jill Bee Jill Bee, who works for the Telecare service

“At the moment we have a couple of operators who are in self isolation so our services are struggling a bit more now,” Jill said.

"People feel isolated and alone - they may not have carers.

"Sometimes people just phone - because they're on their own and need a voice to speak to.

"To talk to someone makes such a difference.

“Most of us have been here for years because we love the job and love the service, but sometimes we think maybe people don't know about us but this service is available.”

Jill’s role is to answer the calls as they come in, but she said she is unable to do her job from home so she is continuing to travel to work.

Despite the outbreak she says she is taking all the safety measures she can and continuing to do her job to make sure the vital service can continue to operate.

She said: "We are doing what all people would do.

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"We think the council does a good job - there are people like us looking out for the vulnerable and the elderly.

"People need help - operators have to take the calls.”

a close up of a woman: Mel Myer © Mel Myer Mel Myer

Mel Myer, 51, is also doing all she can to keep a vital service in Cardiff running.

She works for the National Autistic Society in Cardiff - a day service hub for adults who are on the autistic spectrum.

At the moment she is still attending work, ensuring the facilities are deep cleaned and visiting supermarkets early in the morning to ensure students are able to get the food they need.

Mel, from Heath, Cardiff, took on the role at the end of last year after giving up her job as a primary school teacher.

The service is still open for students, although those with additional health needs have stopped using the services as they are considered to be of a higher risk.

Mel said: “We have nine students at the moment.

“The government doesn't seem to be giving particular support for people with autism.

“They have to go out.

“Some of the students come from large families in small homes so they come here for our services.”

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Mel explained some of the students usually have planned activities like going swimming or to the library, but now they can’t do these things due to certain buildings being on lockdown.

She said it’s been upsetting for the young adults, who are used to their routines, to adapt to such change but she’s trying as hard as she can to keep the facility open to make sure they have a place to go.

“We will look to stay open for as long as we can,” said Mel.

“Eventually we will have to close.

“People don’t realise that these services are needed so much.

“It’s upsetting for them as things are changing now.

“To some of them we have had to say we are finishing.”

a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Mother, Sophie Jayne, is a nursery nurse © Sophie Jayne Smith Mother, Sophie Jayne, is a nursery nurse

For Sophie Jayne Smith, 24, from Blaina, the role has been both rewarding and challenging.

The nursery nurse, who works in Pontypool, is working to support other key workers by looking after their children but it’s proved difficult to balance this with her own schedule.

Sophie, who works for a private nursery, said: “At the moment we are open for children of key workers so we are just caring for them at the moment.”

When asked about the number of children still attending the nursery, she said: "We have had a few but it's gone down quite a bit now.

"To be honest, it's been quite hard.

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"Although we are classed as key workers I feel work is a lot harder.

"I have no childcare.

“My partner is not a key worker so all day I have been ringing to try and find care for my children for me to be able to work.”

Sophie has two children - a five-year-old and a 10-month-old baby - and due to the quickly changing guidance on social distancing she can no longer depend on grandparents for childcare.

Speaking on Tuesday, she said she should have been in work but had to call in and say she couldn’t go as she didn’t have childcare arrangements in place.

But Sophie is desperate to work to ensure she still has a wage coming in.

"I only work part-time and our hours have already been cut because there aren't enough kids,” she added.

“If we don't go we don't get paid.

"If I was working for the NHS or the police I would get a lot more appreciation than what I do.

"A lot of it is we are overlooked occasionally.

"I feel a lot more anxiety than my partner.”

Anita Summers smiling for the camera: Hannah Jones is a private tutor based in Swansea © Hannah Jones Hannah Jones is a private tutor based in Swansea

Private tutor, Hannah Jones, is continuing to ensure her students have the vital education they need even though she is at a higher risk than most if she contracts the virus.

Hannah, now 24, appeared on WalesOnline a few years ago when she spoke out about graduating from university even though she previously fought to win the right to die.

She was just 13 when, left drained by debilitating surgery to cure a fatal heart condition worsened by a lengthy cancer battle, she refused to have a transplant.

Her decision stunned the world when she calmly stated she would rather die than undergo more hospital trauma and simply wanted to live her last days in peace.

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She made history by fending off a legal bid by medics to force her to have treatment for heart failure.

But Hannah's condition deteriorated and aged 14, having changed her mind, she underwent a six-and-a-half-hour transplant operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Now Hannah lives in Swansea with her partner and works to tutor children.

She’s continuing to do so despite her medical history.

“I'm a private tutor - I can work from home," she said.

"I usually do more face-to-face teaching but I can't at the moment.

"I've been virtual teaching.

"I started teaching online around a year and a half ago so I'm used to it.”

Hannah said it’s important for her to continue teaching for as long as she can to ensure her students maintain routine.

She said it also helps avoid them from doing things like playing on the Playstation all day.

Even though she’s working from home she’s tutoring as many students as she can, and even though the number of her students has declined slightly she is still busy helping to teach children who need her help as and when required.

Speaking about her health, Hannah said: "I'm not fine.

"I actually spent last July in hospital.

"I had heart failure so my heart isn't what it used to be.

"I take about 20 tablets a day.

“I was in a coma.”

The young tutor was also diagnosed as being diabetic last year, which is something she also has to monitor.

For these reasons Hannah and her partner are both in isolation, but she's still trying to help as many young people learn as she can from the comfort of her home.

"We are sanitising everything,” Hannah added.

“We even wipe the door handles.

"It's silly but we have to do it.

"I was meant to go for a transplant check up this week but I said I can't go not to risk any problems.”

Discussing the importance of her role, she added: "I'm so very proud to be a key worker.

"I did go through teacher training but decided it wasn't for me, but parents are still coming to me to give their children education so this is very valuable.

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"Everyone is doing the best they can.

"Some people are still doing silly things - going out like it's a Bank Holiday - but a lot of people are doing what they should be doing.

"We just need to start to help everyone.

"Everyone needs to keep on doing what they're doing - we need to stay strong.

"When all this is over we can celebrate all the achievements we have made over this time."

a close up of a man: Pharmacist Simon Morgan © Simon Morgan Pharmacist Simon Morgan

While people like Hannah are making sure people can learn, others are ensuring we can access vital medication.

Simon Morgan, 40, is a Locum Pharmacist from Newport.

He's been in the profession for 17 years and said it's been the worst he has ever know it.

Talking about the current situation, he explained some pharmacies have installed barriers and allow one patient in at a time to prevent spread, while others allow around 20 people in at once.

Simon said: "There are patients over 70 still coming into the pharmacy and even those with high risk, such as COPD, putting themselves and their families, our staff and our families at great risk - especially those with high risk patients at home.

"I have personally seen violence and much abuse and swearing and shouting constantly throughout the day.

"It's soul destroying.

"Pharmacy has become incredibly busy in the last couple of years anyway, but I would say it's three times busier than Christmas.

"We are putting ourselves and families and friends at risk of illness and death, to deliver an NHS service, to ensure patients receive their prescriptions.

"Pharmacy staff would be completely within their rights to stay home, as the risk is incredibly high, but we continue to undertake a service which is heavily overloaded albeit while receiving constant abuse from the public."

Simon is a big advocate of recognition of the hard work that pharmacy staff do.

He thinks having the ability to have a voice is important to ensure patients gain an understanding as to what it's like for pharmacists at the moment.

Simon said: "We are NHS workers but we don't qualify for NHS discounts or the golden hour of shopping.

"Hopefully this will change.

"Pharmacies are not an extension of the NHS - they are the NHS.

"There is a great lack of understanding and compassion from the public.

"We just cannot dispense medicines if we do not have the prescription.

"There are members of the public who are too laid back with respect to the coronavirus - even as far as being complacent.

"As a health professional I am worried that patients are not worried.

"The challenge may be that people cannot hold or see the coronavirus as it is invisible.

"By the time people start to realise it may be too late as the virus rapidly spreads."

When asked about what advice he would give to patients at this time, he said he would advise them to call the pharmacy rather than coming in.

He explained phone numbers can be found at the bottom of each dispensing label stuck to each medicine they dispense.

Of course he also advised people wash their hands as much as possible and promoted disinfecting phones.

More than anything he suggested that people should simply stay at home - especially those over 70 or in the high risk category.

He is now using his Facebook page - #becooltopharmacystaff to promote these messages.

Talking about the page, Simon added: "It promotes pharmacy staff in the NHS to achieve more recognition.

"We are very often forgotten in NHS awareness posters and politicians speeches."

a woman smiling for the camera: Deborah Rogers, who works for the Crown Prosecution Service © Crown Prosecution Service/Deborah Rogers Deborah Rogers, who works for the Crown Prosecution Service

Others are enabling us to stay safe in other ways.

Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for Wales, Deborah Rogers, is one of them.

The 58-year-old is working behind the scenes to ensure criminal cases are still being looked at and adhered to.

Deborah explained the Crime Prosecution Service has to ensure it can give legal advice, work with the police on important cases and also ensure cases can be put through the courts.

"When the government made the announcement about social distancing we had to keep our staff safe as well," she explained.

"We have had to work with the court service and the police to keep people safe but keep the business going.

"We still have people in the Magistrates' court, but the number of courts are reduced.

"I think it's really important as justice is an important part of our society.

"We need to ensure that witnesses are looked after and cases are being looked after - and the complainants and defendants."

Deborah explained a lot of staff are working from home - she said they are in a lucky position as they operate as what she described as a "very digital service".

She said: "I have prosecutors and administrative staff working across Wales keeping business going as best we can.

"I think the prosecution service is really important so I'm glad we are seen as key workers.

"We're clearly not on the front line like doctors and nurses and other people that care for us but we still need everything in the background to be kept going.

"We have to make the sure we are doing work in the background because at some point this will be over and we need to build things up."

a man standing in front of a window posing for the camera: Neil Davies, of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service © South Wales Fire and Rescue Service Neil Davies, of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service

Neil Davies, 46, from Maesteg, is also doing his bit to keep the country safe - but in a very different way.

Neil is the Head of Home Safety and the Fire Crime Unit in the Community Safety and Partnerships Department at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service based at headquarters.

As a Tactical Officer he responds to a range of incidents, but during the Covid-19 pandemic, he has been attending the Command Room to assist with ensuring front line crews have sufficient resources to undertake their role safely.

Neil said: "It’s very important that we are able to still provide a version of our risk reduction activities for the very most vulnerable members of our community, because during the current climate, we will still attend emergencies such as property fires and road traffic collisions where people’s lives will be at risk.

"We must continue to deliver these activities to raise awareness and reduce risk across South Wales.

"These are very worrying times for the world in general.

"On a personal note I have a number of family members who are considered to be in the at risk category so I have to be responsible and socially distance myself from them for the foreseeable future, which is going to be difficult as I will miss them.

"I am however keeping in touch by video and telephone calling like many other families."

When asked about what main advice he would give people, Neil said it would be to

stay home and follow Government guidance to the best of your ability and to stay safe.

He added: "In these challenging times whether you are home working, self-isolating or social distancing, we know you’ll probably be spending more time at home over the next few weeks.

"This could increase the chances of you having a fire in your home.

"We would encourage members of the public to ensure theirs and our continued safety.

"I'd also like to add, deliberate fires put our firefighters lives in danger, pose risk to the community and can cause significant damage to property and the environment.

"False alarms and deliberate Fires are a considerable draw on our resources under normal circumstances so as you can imagine attending these unnecessary calls are even more challenging during these times."

a man holding a sign posing for the camera: Gareth Robert Hutt, manager of the Bunch of Grapes in Pontypridd © Bunch of Grapes Gareth Robert Hutt, manager of the Bunch of Grapes in Pontypridd

Fulfilling a slightly different role are the people who are ensuring we can be fed.

One of the people helping us gain access to essential groceries is Gareth Robert Hutt, 32, who is the manager at Pontypridd 's Bunch of Grapes.

Although he doesn't like to think of himself as a key worker, Gareth has been ensuring people in the community have access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

After the pub was forced to close due to the outbreak, the team started working with their supplier to enable fruit and vegetable boxes to be made available for customers .

Staff attend the building during the day to ensure people can pick them up from the premises.

Gareth said: "The idea came about out of circumstance and necessity I guess.

"Mattfresh is our supplier of fruit and vegetables - one of our most steadfast suppliers for many years.

"Naturally, he began to lose trade recently – up to 90% before pubs and restaurants were shut.

"Mattfresh then decided to start offering vegetable boxes for home delivery but as they only have a small number of vans, it seemed there was no way this would provide much of an income to help anything.

"The owner of The Bunch, Nick Otley, had the idea that we could offer The Bunch of Grapes as a collection point for customers, so that he could supply more people, with only one drop-off for himself.

"Once the pubs were shut, it seemed even more important then that we were still able to offer this service where people could collect a big box of fresh fruit and vegetables, without having to come in to contact with anybody."

When customer’s collect the food there is a barrier between staff and people collecting to ensure a 2m gap is kept.

All of the boxes are paid for by card, before arrival, and staff arrange collection times to ensure only one customer arrives at once.

Gareth said: "As a small independent business who are responsible to a fair amount of staff, we are navigating a very fluid situation.

"Although the government’s initial treatment of the hospitality industry in this was confused to begin with, the chancellor’s financial announcements will be of great help."

Speaking about the thought of being considered a key worker, he added: "It’s a strange title because our usual business is one of leisure - it certainly isn’t right now.

"We wouldn’t use that term for ourselves but we’re happy that with circumstances as they currently stand, we’ve got a set up that can help people and let them avoid a crowd.

"I’d certainly call anybody in the food supply chain a key worker, whether warehouse, retail, delivery or farmer.

"Pubs and restaurants across the country have moved with incredible speed to adapt their skills and supply chains so that they can offer help to their communities.

"I’d very much say ours seems to be one story in a collective effort across the country."

a man standing in front of a car: Transport for Wales train conductor Chris Edwards who sings his train announcements at different stops © Richard Swingler Transport for Wales train conductor Chris Edwards who sings his train announcements at different stops

Last, but not least, are the people working to ensure all the other key workers can actually get to work.

Chris Edwards, who is more commonly known as the "singing conductor" on the Transport for Wales lines, is one of these people.

Even though social distancing measures have been put in place on the trains, the 57-year-old, from Newport, is still doing his job to the best of his ability.

"The key workers need to go to work," he explained.

"We are in the job to get them where they need to be.

"There are a lot more British Transport Police assisting to stop people travelling because of the pictures of people going to the beach and so on.

"This has helped people be at the right place at the right time."

Chris said he has to maintain a good balance when working - not getting too close to passengers but also making sure they receive all the information they need to know where to go if they need help.

He said we are currently in "unusual" times, but he's putting all the effort in to make sure he's fulfilling his role in the best way he can.

Chris said: "It's not without risks.

"These are not things we would see usually to be honest so I'm just happy to help."

And, in case you started to worry about it, you'll be glad to know Chris is still singing during his journeys.

He said it's important he conveys serious information properly, but there's a method of doing it in a light-hearted way.

Chris added: "I haven't stopped singing.

"I have a coronavirus song - I sing it to the tune of Feed the World.

"It's important people can ask for help - it's about getting the balance right.

"We are going to carry on working with the government and British Transport Police and work as closely as possible.

"This is about a team effort.

"Everyone has to work together - together we'll make this work."

New website helps key workers find local car services .
The KeyworkerGarages website is designed to ensure the nation's frontline key workers keep moving during the coronavirus crisis.Upon entering the website, you enter your postcode to find a list of services that are open for business. These organisations have confirmed they are supporting key workers during the crisis, but you’re advised to call before making a journey. Full contact details are provided on the website.

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