The British Cleaning Council and members write monthly columns for both Cleaning and Maintenance and Tomorrow’s Cleaning magazines. You can read the latest columns below.
To read the columns as they originally appeared, please visit https://cleaningmag.com/issues and https://www.tomorrowscleaning.com/back-issues-2020
The importance of the cleaning industry engaging with politicians
By Chairman of the BCC, Paul Thrupp
(This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in December)
As you are probably aware, the British Cleaning Council (BCC) has been campaigning and lobbying for many years for recognition of the cleaning industry and for the people who work within it. As an Industry we contribute over £50 billion to the UK economy and employ around 1.6 million people in various capacities within the many areas of the industry that we cover.
For so long the cleaning industry and its people have gone unnoticed and many of our frontline cleaning staff have been known as ‘the invisible workforce’. The invisible workforce who had little or no interaction with the staff and, as such, were not recognised for the great job they do.
However, the pandemic has bought along a fresh approach to cleaning and hygiene and improved regard and recognition for our cleaning people. Now everyone recognises the great job they do and how essential they are for the UK recovery and for maintaining a clean and hygienic environment for the future.
The work of cleaning staff can be overlooked. The early days of lockdown saw us all in the industry fight for the recognition our cleaning staff and the industry in general quite rightly deserved. None of us could believe that our valuable cleaning operatives were not being recognised as ‘key’ or ‘essential workers’ and we spent many long hours lobbying Government to recognise the importance of cleaning and hygiene in controlling the spread of this awful virus.
Many hours, days and weeks of lobbying took place, with many live media broadcasts and interviews to highlight the importance of the industry, which finally came to fruition in May this year when the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader both praised the ‘unsung heroes’ of the public sector who ‘keep us safe’ during the outbreak. They paid tribute to the cleaning operatives who were ‘doing their best to keep our places hygienic and safe’ and doing ‘an extraordinary job’.
To support our fight for recognition and to assist us in the many challenges we face at the BCC, we are sponsoring the formation of an APPG – an All-Party Parliamentary Group for the UK cleaning industry. This will give our industry a voice in Parliament where we can influence discussions, debate, and pose questions. We are currently looking to attract prominent MPs to our APPG, particularly those who represent areas where our UK businesses operate.
We are working alongside Stephen Kerr, the former Member of Parliament for Stirling. Stephen is well respected within the political world and knows the cleaning industry well from his days at Kimberly-Clark Professional
Stephen will guide us through the intricacies of forming the group and with his support, I am sure we soon see the formation of a highly-respected and active APPG.
Stephen Kerr commented: “Never underestimate the appetite of your MP to engage with you as a local business. I can assure you; MPs genuinely want to hear from you. They want to know about the issues you are dealing with as a business. You shouldn’t expect them to anticipate those issues. You shouldn’t assume they will know about something if you haven’t made them aware of it.
“The APPG is about MPs working together with the BCC to get the UK cleaning industry a fair hearing in Parliament and with Ministers. And if there’s one clear lesson from the events of the last few years, especially for all of us in the world of business, it is that political engagement is no longer a nice-to-have option, it is a necessity.”
There can’t be an MP out there who doesn’t know someone close who works in our fabulous industry so our APPG cannot fail. If you would like to support and/or get involved in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the UK cleaning industry, then please contact the BCC via firstname.lastname@example.org or myself directly.
Health sector cleaning operatives on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19
By Delia Cannings, a Director of the British Cleaning Council and the National Lead for Education and Training at the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals (ahcp)
(This article was first published in Cleaning and Maintenance in December)
Just as a little positivity was sneaking back into lives and we were adjusting to the new normal following the decline in Covid-19 cases after the first spike, the second wave hit us in autumn.
Members of the ahcp have been on the frontline in the fight against the virus since March 2020.
My colleagues are directly involved in managing and delivering cleaning and hygiene services in most NHS and independent hospitals.
Members also hold key roles in many primary care and GP clinics and surgeries, nursing and care home and other residential care settings provided by the public, charitable and private sectors.
As in other sectors of the cleaning and hygiene industry, ahcp cleaning operatives across the country have stayed steadfast in their attempts to contain the virus throughout. Members never relented in dedication and commitment.
Many have gone above and beyond, working longer hours, taking on extra responsibilities and adopting new standards and practices to prevent Covid-19 contamination.
Colleagues also played a vital role setting up and staffing Nightingale Hospitals and are operating them again, receiving Covid-19 patients when beds in other facilities run out.
The camaraderie observed as teams across occupational areas work together has been phenomenal, they have been supporting each other, holding each up and, sadly, falling in a pile together when the exhaustion kicked in.
But, like the rest of the health service, we are now very stretched and in some parts of the country, this has been the case for weeks.
Pure fatigue has taken its toll and many colleagues are also self-isolating. The combined impact is concerning.
To cover these shortfalls, agency staff have been engaged. In one establishment, 108 staff places needed to be filled.
The stark reality is that full, comprehensive training in Covid-19 secure procedures and processes for replacement people cannot be guaranteed where a rapid response is required. Therein lies a further risk factor.
To add to the problem, some people’s behaviours changed while they were furloughed or self-isolating. We have noticed an increase in drinking, smoking and substance abuse among patients, visitors and colleagues.
Increased mental health issues, anxiety and depression, self-harm and suicide rates add to the issues already caused by Covid-19, making a difficult situation even more complex.
We have also seen an increase in vermin problems facing ahcp cleaning operatives, as during lockdown periods waste and rubbish is not readily available, so starving rats and mice have left their natural habitats to venture boldly into new areas to seek food and shelter, leaving their trails of carnage behind them.
In some cases, in the absence of humans in the street, vermin seem to think they are running things now!
All these challenges are impacting on the dilemmas our cleaning teams face and must all be managed.
A number of strategies and initiatives have been introduced to assist and support colleagues in dealing with these challenges and help them continue to provide a first-class cleaning and hygiene service.
- Covid-19 testing kits being delivered to the homes of staff and collected
- health and well-being sessions
- online support, counselling and discussion groups
- confidential help lines
- workshops for sharing best practice
- an increase in breaktimes to enable sufficient rest and rehydration
- and ongoing Covid 19 secure training for staff.
But, in the long-term, only a vaccine can provide a solution to the virus and prevent further spikes.
It would be remiss not to mention the devastating impact the Government announcement earlier in the year about its future immigration policy had on ahcp members and the cleaning and hygiene sector as a whole.
For workers in our industry to be categorised as unskilled was an insult and a serious kick in the teeth.
I challenge the decision-makers in Government to spend 24 hours working alongside healthcare cleaning professionals in these pandemic times and beyond before writing us off as SKILL-LESS!