The Lib Dems Merseyside Spokesperson on Policing Cllr Kris Brown has written to the Police Commissioner and Chief Constable for Merseyside to suggest that former Police Officers, emergency contact centre staff and Special Constables who may be furloughed from the full time jobs might be just the right people to help the Government’s contact tracing scheme.
Cllr Brown said, “Last Thursday the Government announced two schemes to bring in the contact tracing without which it will be impossible to end the lock down any time soon. As usual the announcement was bold but the details not yet thought through. They want to recruit people with public health experience but locally and nationally Public Health Directors are saying that are no spare public health people as they have already been brought back in to service. They intend to employ 18,000 people in call centres and physically, to trace contacts of people with the Coronavirus. It occurred to me that there are already a group of people who know how to trace people and hold difficult phone conversations and those are former police officers or former emergency call centre workers who already know how to do it.
In addition there may well be furloughed Special Constables who would find that being associated with a programme like this good for their Police skills training. Further, there are thousands of people who have signed up to be NHS volunteers and who have not been used who may also have the relevant skills.”
We need to get cracking with this to get our communities and our economies safely working again. The best way to do this is by using people with proven experience.
I hope that the Police Commissioner and Chief Constable for Merseyside feel also that this is a useful idea and can help with the process here”.
Cllr Brown’s full letter to Rt. Hon. Jane Kennedy and Chief Constable Andy Cooke is reproduced here:
To: Jane Kennedy, Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner
Andy Cooke, Chief Constable, Merseyside Police
Dear Jane and Andy,
Re: Contact Tracing for Covid-19
I am sure that you are aware that last week the government announced that they would be employing 18,000 people to engage in contact tracing to help reduce contacts between infectious people and those who have not yet had the infection. Some of these will work from a phone bank and some will be active in the community. This will also involve the development of an app which will let people know if they are near someone who is infected.
As with many policy announcements there appears to be a lot of big talk but not a lot of detail. I have spoken to political and public health colleagues who are concerned that unless managed properly, this project will fall apart very quickly.
One of the assumptions is that people with public health experience could be employed in either, or both, of the contacting roles. The obvious drawback to this is that over the past five years the ranks of public health staff have been seriously cut back. We have no spare capacity and could not move people from their current roles where they are already greatly overburdened.
It did occur to me, however, that there could be three groups of people, though not exclusively, connected with the Police who might already have these skills and who could be employed in these tasks:
• Retired police officers.
• Retired emergency call centre staff.
• Special constables who might be furloughed from their full-time jobs who could use this to advance their skills.
There is also a fourth element in that there are hundreds of thousands of NHS responder volunteers who have signed up to help in their local communities but have yet to receive work, despite being on duty for hundreds of hours. Some of these people could be called upon and may bring with them specialist expertise.
I appreciate these volunteers would not be in your remit, but with training from experienced former emergency call centre staff, for example, could be a valuable resource.
I am wondering two things:
1. Do you think that this is a good idea in principle; and
2. Are there ways in which the police could reach out to these categories to try and enlist them in the launch and running of the scheme on Merseyside?
I believe that these categories of people have the skills and that you may be the best way to recruit them. I look forward to hearing from you and talking with you about this.
Cllr Kris Brown
Liberal Democrat Candidate for Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner