Valuing the protectors

How do we, the general public, show our appreciation for those who work in the public sector?

One way, of course, is to personally thank them when the opportunity arises.

I recently had to visit the minor injuries unit at the Hallamshire Hospital over a weekend. I met people who could not have been kinder or more concerned with my (very small) complaint. It was good to be able to say ‘thank you’.

I thought as well how noticeable it was in the days after the Grenfell Tower fire in London just how many people sought out those from the emergency services, especially Fire Officers, to thank them and in some cases give them a hug.

Recently when armed officers were deployed across South Yorkshire following the terrorist incidents in Manchester and London, I was particularly struck by the way so many went up to the officers to thank them for keeping us safe. In Barkers Pool young people wanted photographs of themselves with the police and Police Community Support Officers.

Similarly, when I visited mosques and small businesses in the Spital Hill area of Sheffield, shopkeepers and passers-by were coming over to shake hands with the inspector who was walking with me just to say thank you. (It’s worth noting that this is not something that would have happened even a few years ago.)

There seems to be a growing feeling that we have undervalued or not appreciated public servants in the way we once did or the way we should.

Perhaps we have had enough of the denigration of the public sector and the attempt to say that it is ‘unproductive’ and therefore worth less. Perhaps there is a new realisation of the real value to our collective life of public services and those who work in them.

We are understanding again what a difference it makes to have services run by those who work out of a spirit of public service, and who often go above and beyond what they are strictly required to do for the sake of our collective well-being.

Yes, we should say thank you whenever we can. But most of us don’t meet fire officers or nurses or teachers or police officers or many others most of the time.

There is one way we can show our gratitude and appreciation, however. We can ask that they are not made to pay the price of austerity. The 1% pay cap needs lifting.