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Sunday, Jan 24, 2021

The unseen key workers keeping things going

While much of the nation stays at home during lockdown, armies of people are working so that our toilets still flush and our lights switch on. Meet just a few of the unseen heroes we have to thank for the essential services many of us take for granted.

Charlotte Cottam finds and fixes breakdowns in the sewage system to keep our toilets working.

"My job is very important as I maintain wastewater pumping," said the electrical network asset engineer for United Utilities.

"I think people forget that water and wastewater isn't provided and taken away without key workers.

The 26-year-old from Wirral in Merseyside often works on electrical equipment in boxes at the side of the road. With so many more people working from home residential areas can be much busier, she said.

"Pumping stations are also taking more business during the day due to people flushing the toilet more in their homes," she said.

"There are thousands of pumps which keep the waste water moving around the system. If the waste water stops flowing, it can back-up in the pipes and overflow, and no-one wants that.

"The drier weather has helped us though, reducing breakdowns that sometimes occur during heavy rain when sewer flows are high."

Khalil Aden Abdi is the chairman of Bristol Horn Youth Concern which helps disadvantaged young people and their families.

"We are working with the Black South West Network and Muslim4Bristol group to deliver food parcels," he said.

"We are also distributing coronavirus information leaflets in multiple languages to make sure everyone understands how to stay safe.

"One local charity has supplied iPads for free to families through us. The gift has been a lifeline for them."

Before lockdown BHYC ran football and basketball classes to keep young people active.

"Now we are running mentoring services, a WhatsApp group and one-to-one phone support to make sure the young people we work with maintain their health and wellbeing and stick to the government guidelines.

"We are reducing the frequency and size of young people in crowds on the streets by giving practical advice on structuring the day.

"We are also raising awareness of Covid-19 and its implications within the BAME communities in Bristol."

Daisy Fellowes helps 18 to 35-year-olds living in supported accommodation to cope during lockdown.

"I work with people who need help with things like managing their tenancy, budgeting and benefits," said the senior project worker at YMCA DownsLink.

"They may have come out of care, or be recovering from addiction or have found themselves homeless after a family or relationship breakdown.

"The main struggle we've had during lockdown is not being able to visit our guys as much as we would like."

Daisy and colleague Hayley Rootes are regularly phoning every one of their 77 residents in Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea.

"It's very difficult for people's mental health and wellbeing when you don't live with your family and friends," said the 28-year-old.

The pair have made trips to food banks and delivered hampers of cleaning products and essentials.

"My brother Ryan has moved in with me to protect our grandparents who he was living with," said Ms Fellowes.

"He is an electrical engineer so he supports the production department which make gas analytical equipment to go into respirators and other medical equipment."

Betsalel Meisner is the owner of New York Laundrette in Salford which has remained open throughout lockdown.

"Our trade has changed overnight," said the father of three, who collects washing from people who are self-isolating.

"We used to have plenty of students and tourists using our self-service. Now it is mostly locals and especially NHS workers.

"People have been very grateful that we stayed open," he said. "Not everyone has a washing machine and people seemed very happy we were here for them."

Inside the laundrette, Mr Meisner has removed chairs, regularly cleans all surfaces and only allows two people in at a time.

"The only time we closed was Passover, and it is important to be together as a Jewish family even though we haven't been able to go to the synagogue," he said.

"I could have shut down and furloughed my two staff but I know they would prefer to be working and I prefer to be working."

Dan Falvey looks after the equipment needed to keep power going to our homes.

The senior store keeper for Western Power Distribution said engineers had been responding to power cuts and carrying out essential work during lockdown.

He oversees a team of 18 at one of the company's central hubs, distributing the 3,500 different items needed to mend power cuts and maintain power supplies.

"Our area stretches from Retford and Stoke, down to Milton Keynes, across to Banbury and Gloucester, and Skegness on the east coast.

"In addition to the normal stock lines that are still coming in and going out, we have also had to source additional protective measures such as gloves, overshoes, coveralls and soap.

"When you take into account sizing, there are almost 100 new [items] that we are distributing every day to ensure customers and frontline staff stay safe."


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