Key workers have kept our communities running and safe during the coronavirus lockdown. UNISON Cymru Wales caught up with Rhiannon Cummings, a police and community support officer (PCSO) for South Wales Police to find out how she has been working.
Tell us about your job during the pandemic
It’s a strange time at the moment and our core business has changed quite a lot. The main part of our role involves engaging with the community so normally we go along to local events, visit community groups and organisations, educational facilities and get involved with projects ongoing in the area; however places are either closed or not functioning at the moment.
It’s frustrating but we are trying to be as visible as possible and we’ve increased patrols as a result.
We link in a great deal with schools; working in partnership to set up projects such as Junior PCSOs, Mini Policing, etc. One of the more recent projects we are involved in is on hold because of the lockdown; an inter-generational community garden initiative where we bring school children together with sheltered housing residents to grow vegetables and flowers on that premises. The children also help the residents with maintaining the garden and that of the bungalows attached to the housing scheme, in a bid to stop rogue traders from targeting vulnerable persons.
We are doing what we can to retain our connection with our community despite the circumstances. We have had requests to visit local children on their birthdays’, so we have attended outside addresses with our police vehicles, made birthday banners and sang Happy Birthday to the children. One of our visits involved calling at an address of a 14 year old boy who has autism and his dream job would be to join the police, we made him very happy that day.
We are keeping in touch with vulnerable members of our community, making sure that they are safe and feel that they can contact us with any concerns. I’ve even picked up a prescription for a resident self isolating to help out.
What’s your view of how public service workers have responded to the crisis?
They have responded brilliantly. They’ve come together to continue serving their community.
As a police force we are putting ourselves out there, dealing with things as they arise and are visible.
Concerns about Covid-19 breaches are the majority of our response calls but we are also dealing with scam calls and rogue traders targeting vulnerable members of the community.
What’s your message to the government?
Personally, I would have liked to have seen the Government impose harsher penalties for persistent or blatant Covid-19 breaches. We’ve found that the vast majority of the public are following the rules, but for the minority who aren’t I think increased fines may have acted as more of a deterrent. We have found that we are calling to the same places, or dealing with the same individuals, and primarily we want to educate these people and work with them to comply. But some simply don’t think the rules apply to them and it can be frustrating.
I also think some of the government messaging could have been clearer. While the key message to stay home and save lives is perfectly reasonable, there are some grey areas in the guidelines, i.e. around travel and reasonable excuses, which people have sought clarity over. As the ones often delivering that message face-to-face it can be difficult, especially when we do not have the answers or also find the guidance confusing.
Personal protective equipment was also a concern, particularly at the beginning of the outbreak, and the government shouldn’t underestimate how significantly it can improve front-line workers’ confidence and well-being when they know they have sufficient and appropriate supplies to carry out their roles safely.
How are you going to celebrate the end of the lockdown?
That depends on what the end of the lockdown looks like! I can’t wait to see my family and my friends to give them a hug and see how they are.
It’s about doing the lovely things like going for a meal and enjoying yourself or going for a coffee. I want to get out and about. The lockdown has made me appreciate what I took for granted.