It’s so important to take some time away from work and whatever your circumstances, I do hope that you have been able to get some proper downtime over the summer. So many of you, in front-line roles, in back-office roles and in management roles have put your own needs to one side during this extraordinary period of coronavirus and have dedicated yourselves to the people and communities of Derbyshire.
Now is the time to think of yourselves and those important to you and to take some time to restore and recharge your batteries. For some of you this will be a change of scene, for others a change in activity or just a change of thought – time for a good book, film or documentary to take yourself to a different place and a different perspective to refresh yourself and to reconnect to everything that is important to you.
In my time off, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on events over the summer and to connect the impact of covid with other national and international events.
There is clear evidence that both infection and death rates from covid-19 have been disproportionate for black and minority ethnic people. This finding coincided with the outrage arising from the killing of George Floyd and the #BlackLivesMatters campaign. This may engage or even enrage some of us, whilst others may consider that these issues are remote from our lives without any particular impact or meaning.
I’ve recently watched the Channel 4 programme The School That Tried to End Racism, originally aired earlier in the summer. An exploration, through the eyes of 11 and 12 year olds in a multi-racial school in south London, about how we are conditioned by society to hold unconscious stereotypes and biases which impact on our lives and the lives of others, in positive and negative ways, dependent on our racial background.
Uncomfortable viewing and uncomfortable to consider how we are all complicit in how this manifests in our society. I say this not to apportion blame but to provoke thought.
The question to ask ourselves when considering how to tackle racism is not simply what can we do but who can we be? We all work in public service, we all have the opportunity to create a positive influence in some small way. It is this I will be reflecting on over the coming days, weeks and months and I urge you to do the same, however difficult and uncomfortable it may feel.
One other issue that I wanted to mention is that some time ago we said that if you were working from home, this would continue until the end of September at the earliest. We are considering next steps at the moment, and will have an update for you all in September. The bank holiday weekend approaches. Whatever you are doing and come sun, wind or rain, may I wish you a well-deserved break.