A nation of shopkeepers: Key workers as our critical infrastructure


Doctors and nurses are seeing people get ill and die minute after minute and yet continue to come in to give other people hope as they come into the hospital. Supermarket workers, distribution drivers, social workers and waste collection staff are both at constant risk of getting the virus but also in constant contact with people who can’t get out as they’re too vulnerable. They’re also some of the most poorly paid professions and yet to continue to meet our basic needs, be it providing food, delivering goods, offering help and picking up our bins.

Everyone can see our key workers are the beating heart of our country’s critical infrastructure. Some key workers like doctors, nurses, police and other blue light services have always been recognised as such. Others who have only more recently been called key workers by the government, like supermarket staff, delivery drivers or waste collection people, are still underpaid and undervalued.

If our key workers get ill, which they do, we can not only reduce the chances of helping people in the hospital but also reduce the supply of food and medical supplies, decreasing people’s immune systems. What if we paid people for the value they bring to society? What if we made sure that they were professionalised and had guaranteed personal development & insurance in the same way staff in emergency services have.

How can we develop infrastructure to support businesses & charities to survive?

How can we connect local critical infrastructure — be it delivery, distribution, manufacturing, transport

How can we repurpose this to meet critical social needs, like to support people losing lives?



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Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese