Our copse for key workers is great - but what they really need is more pay

The motion to declare a climate emergency was tabled by Dereham town councillor Amy-Jane Brooks. Pic

Independent Dereham town councillor AMY-JANE BROOKS has plans for a garden to honour key workers - but says those workers deserve better pay and conditions. - Credit: Archant

Independent Dereham town councillor AMY-JANE BROOKS has plans for a garden to honour key workers - but says those workers deserve better pay and conditions.

Having seen the extraordinary lengths key workers and volunteers have gone to during the past 17 months, I wanted to commemorate the amazing work they have all done.

Aerial view of land at Old Becclesgate

An aerial view of the green space at Old Becclesgate, which could, before long, become the site of a copse of trees memorialising the sacrifices made by key workers in Dereham. - Credit: Google

And in June, the town council decided that a small copse of trees and a bench, with a plaque explaining what it commemorates, would do just that.

I want the copse to be a place for the people of Dereham to sit and admire wildlife and to hopefully think of the sacrifices many in our community have made.

Streetview image of the green space at Old Becclesgate

The green space at Old Becclesgate which could soon become the site of a garden memorialising the efforts of key workers in Dereham during the pandemic. - Credit: Google

There has been discussion among councillors as to whether a play area would be appropriate. I would say a small area for children would be in keeping with the idea.

Unfortunately, there are many families who are not fortunate enough to have a garden, so any extra areas where children can play can only be a benefit in my eyes!

Both of my parents worked in the NHS, so I have seen first-hand how hard frontline staff work, but the past year has been immense, with key workers being put at an increased risk.

I am also a teacher, so have seen first-hand how hard education staff have worked to ensure children received an education, while having the fear and worry of catching Covid and bringing it home to our own families.

I feel key workers have been let down by government and employers.

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We’ve seen the politicians having their photo opportunities clapping on their doorstep every Thursday evening during the first lockdown, yet many have done their utmost to prevent key workers being given a well-deserved pay rise.

Some need reminding that claps do not correlate to money.

A 3% pay rise is not sufficient.

It’s also worth highlighting that GPs and junior doctors are excluded from this pay increase - yet another example of the government trying to create unnecessary divisions within organisations and communities.

I support NHS staff calling for industrial action and asking for 15%.

Dereham Hospital. Photo: Donna-Louise Bishop

Dereham Hospital. Photo: Donna-Louise Bishop - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

To learn that the police and teachers are also facing a price freeze is yet another slap in the face to professions who always go above and beyond - even more so in the pandemic. Many have risked their lives and have not been given adequate protection.

It’s farcical and the government should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

This also opens up the argument for a proper living wage by increasing the minimum wage. 

It’s 2021, we should not have anyone relying on foodbanks, let alone people in work.

We need to stop employers exploiting their employees.

Many key workers are employed by private companies, such as supermarkets. Many of these workers have limited rights in terms of adequate sick pay, not to mention the swathes of working people who have to rely on foodbanks.

This isn’t right.

We need to open the discussion of ensuring companies have a proper sick pay procedure: the irony is that workers have caught Covid from their workplace during lockdown, yet are out of pocket for taking a sick day.

I am so proud of Dereham’s key workers - it has shone the spotlight on our wonderful community.

While not everyone will agree the same, we help each other out. We also saw this last year when businesses came together to ensure children were fed over the holidays.

Whilst we cannot always rely on politicians, we can always rely on the generosity of the people of Dereham.