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Professional responders

Action to COVID-19. A report by Delia Cannings

How important is it to have a workforce that has skills, knowledge, competence and is challenged and inspired daily to deliver excellence?

Never more important than now!!!

The pandemic has reemphasised what we have known for a long time, that training and education is vital for our front-line responders. Currently cleaning teams globally are ‘charged with’ the ultimate responsibility for containing the problem and preventing the spread through effective cleaning and disinfection of the environment.

The skill base required to achieve safe environments through effective cleaning and disinfection is more complex than acknowledged.

The British government has always been reluctant to invest in the cleaning sector and recently announced the withdrawal of funding to support vocational qualifications. How then do we respond to what has now significantly placed our cleaning teams at the forefront of saving the country?

Cleaning teams work hand in hand with other front-line services such as the NHS and never has it been more apparent how crucial the cleaning role is in support of recovery.

The invisible workforce, with the correct skill set will be instrumental in assisting the country, and in fact the world, in reducing risk, containing spread and ultimately working towards the recovery process.

What a superb accolade for our 1.63 million cleaning operatives in the UK, five per cent of the UK workforce.

Could it be that we will see cleaning teams on the next role of honours?

Environmental Excellence Training & Education believes that all cleaning operatives should have access to learning and development opportunities, supported through government funding. The government levy scheme which is limited does not provide sufficient access to suitable training required for cleaning in diverse environments. The only exception is the recently approved Cleaning in Healthcare Environments Apprenticeship, this alone will not be sufficient to upskill 1.63 million working in the cleaning industry. It is time as an industry and in reflection of the current pandemic to lobby the government to recognise the vital contribution that our cleaning workforces are making now and their continued impact on the future health and wealth of the United Kingdom.

A personal message from Delia Cannings

I am still in Glasgow and will be for some time yet. I am leading on the cleaning training for the 1,000-bed Nightingale Field Hospital.

I have taught and been taught. I have laughed and cried, pushed and pulled, developed new skills, new friends and observed really scared novice volunteers step up and say, ‘let’s do this’! Furloughed industry colleagues embedding hearts and souls into the battle, long days and longer nights. A team spirit that is overwhelming.

Despite the difficulties, uncertainties and emotional situations we are encountering, I must say this has been the most rewarding time ever in my career. To see such magnificent widespread and genuine recognition of the cleaning armies, as they march in force with their battle equipment in readiness to annihilate the enemy, simply fills my heart with pride!

Long may our cleaning workforce across the land be recognised for the true ambassadors of health and wellbeing that they are. Please take care of yourselves and see you on the other side of COVID-19. Together we can do this! Best wishes, Delia

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