Hello PPMA friends

In the wake of this dreadful situation, Karen Grave writes to remind us all of the responsibilities that we all have to undertake.

“I’m scared too but I REFUSE to give in to fear and panic.

I have a responsibility not to. Like every single one of us – even though it feels that not everyone has got that message yet. I want to indulge in the deep sadness I have for what is to come. But I have a responsibility to stay strong for my mother who is 83 and had COPD and is currently 3 hours away from me at home. I have a responsibility to the rest of my family, my friends, my colleagues, my neighbours and everyone else in my network as well.

I have a responsibility to support colleagues in Local Government, Central Government, Public Health, NHS, Blue Light and every single part of our public service network who are contributing to our national response to Co-vid 19. Some of us won’t be directly involved in that, but we are directly involved in ensuring that society continues. And that is more important than perhaps we yet know.

I have a responsibility to manage my opinions (usually strong but I try my best to ensure are informed) in the light of national guidance. I have a responsibility not to indulge in reckless headlines that want to see every change in policy as a weakness or evidence of a strategy that was feckless and risky to start with. (I’ve done all of this in the past by the way but there is a time and a place).

I have a responsibility to challenge the rubbish and downright lies and hysteria. It takes time that by the way – I spent a good part of Wednesday afternoon blocking twitter users who had lost their minds and their mouths.

I have a responsibility to those I don’t know. And maybe this is the most important responsibility I have. 

Fear is contagious. Scientific evidence has shown that.

So, I have a responsibility not to give in to that. I have to make sure that I don’t panic buy, that I don’t buy too much toilet roll, pasta, beans and hand sanitisers. If our next national crisis is an outbreak of the galloping trots (diarrhoea) then we’ll be totally screwed. And that doesn’t bear thinking about.

The elderly, the vulnerable, the children who only eat when they are at school, the homeless, need us. All of us to find a way to help each other.

Yes, I worry that Boris and team are taking a risk. BUT I absolutely understand that I am not in the room making decisions, I don’t have years and years of medical training or experience. I don’t have years of emergency planning experience either. But in spite of the many challenges public services have I KNOW that there are people who do.

I also know that there are very rarely EASY answers. I have some knowledge of behavioural science and I am profoundly excited that this is in the decision-making mix. I’ve read the opinions that the government wants us to be sick so they can kill us off. I’ve read that this is all a Tory plot to cover up the impact of their policies and so on and so on. It sickens and disgusts me more than you can imagine.

Maybe I will be proved wrong and if I am I will be the first to hold my hands up. BUT it is way too early for that. Imagine the terror of a man and the people around him who have to make every decision knowing that their every consideration is going to be questioned to death. And death is the key isn’t it?

Imagine having to make decisions that you know are going to result in the deaths of citizens. Imagine being in the shoes of public servants, particularly public health and healthcare professionals who will have to choose who lives and who dies if we allow fear to take a grip and force a run on already over stretched public services. Imagine knowing that you have to take decisions based on the information you have now knowing that there will be other information in the system that might help but you are not yet aware of.

Imagine knowing that every little more that we learn about Co-vid 19 will change the decisions we make. Not doing that really would be irresponsible. Our only certainty now is that things are going to change every hour. And over time it will be every day, every week and God willing every month.

This is not a plea for us to stop challenging, to stop thinking, to stop laughing, working, crying. We live in a lively, messy, noisy democracy. And that has to be protected, but not at all costs.

We are living in unprecedented times. The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse aren’t here yet (although I honestly have wondered some days).

These last few days I have shared my fears with friends. What if Mum catches Co-vid 19, what if your Mum, Dad, Grandma, Son, Daughter, Sister, Aunt etc does. What if my friends die? What if work dries up?

As I write this on Saturday morning the sun is out, although the clouds are on their way again. What a metaphor for the world right now. But the birds are singing, the daffodils are out, the birds are making their nests, Ellie and Jenny are still hassling me for walks and treats. In fact just right now, Ellie is giving me the evil eye to go for a walk.

I have a lot really. More than a lot of other people can ever dream of having. I am enormously blessed – I don’t have to worry about not feeling safe from knife crime or other forms of violence, I don’t have to worry about whether I will have to sleep on the streets. I don’t have the sickening feeling at the pit of my stomach about whether I can feed my kids.

But there are people that do. Even though I don’t know them. And I need to contribute to ensuring that the people who are helping the most vulnerable aren’t put under even more pressure.

So, I am going to do what I can to help – and it will only be a small contribution compared to others. I’m fine with that. I’m going to buy extra food to give to foodbanks, I’m going to still shop and support local businesses, I’m going to volunteer where I can. And I’m going to be as kind on twitter as I can.

Please do the same.

Just as fear is contagious, so too is compassion, courage, hope and love. Let’s spread much more of that than fear.”

With love,