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The Last Word - January 2021

21 January 2021

To say that 2020 was an unpredictable year is something of an understatement, with many industries – the professional security sector among them – remaining severely affected as we move into 2021. Mike Reddington reflects on the success of the BSIA’s campaigning work across the last 12 months and ahead to likely developments framing the New Year

The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) determinedly confronted the myriad challenges of 2020. During the year, we ran two major campaigns to support and assist the work of our members. They focused on key worker status recognition and raising awareness of – and perceptions about – ‘The Hidden Workforce’.

Last March, as news broke of the UK heading into full lockdown, the Government introduced movement restrictions and the first furlough scheme. We saw many of Britain’s working population either begin to work from home or simply remain at home with the support of Government grants.

As restrictions were introduced, those establishments remaining open required more trained security personnel. Office buildings stood empty, standard hospitals filled up and new field hospitals were built which, in turn, all needed additional security services (both electronic and physical in nature).

For those operating in the industry, it was obvious key worker status was needed for those employees on the front line. Together with leading industry partners, the BSIA lobbied Government to have these roles formally recognised. Confirmation of that recognition duly followed from the Home Office via the Security Industry Authority (SIA), while one of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speeches to the nation referenced security personnel.

The nation’s media has covered – and continues to cover – key worker activities, yet little has been mentioned about security officers in comparison to the other categories on the key worker list. Security isn’t necessarily in the public eye. Technically, we are indeed a ‘Hidden Workforce’ existing to support wider society and the public, the police, businesses, premises and property.

We believe it’s necessary to change and raise perceptions of the industry that serves to protect people and property. Some long-held misconceptions and stereotypes make it difficult to tackle such a big issue, but ‘The Hidden Workforce’ campaign is starting to address this matter and continues to gain traction. We’re thankful for the industry bodies coming together to collaborate and work on addressing the issues involved. The next steps on this journey in 2021 will hopefully realise some big milestones for the campaign.

COVID-19 vaccine

Fast forward to the last few months of 2020 and talk of the COVID-19 vaccine, its implementation and who’s first in line to receive it. It’s never easy to determine who should be first in the queue, particularly given the fact that a pandemic of this nature is new in modern history. Rightly so, those on the operational front line will be receiving the vaccine.

What about the second wave of the vaccine roll-out, though, and who should be a priority? At the beginning of December, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that key workers are to be prioritised in the second phase of the vaccine roll-out. Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI, stated that, once the over-50s have been immunised, the Government will then prioritise individuals based on their profession and their risk of exposure.

The key worker list includes first responders, the military, those involved in the justice system, teachers, transport workers and public servants essential to the pandemic response. However, at present there’s no mention of those operating in the private security sector.

For this reason, the BSIA is seeking clarification and confirmation that security officers and related security personnel are to be included in the second wave of the vaccine roll-out for key workers. During the first full lockdown, we worked extremely hard to gain formal key worker recognition status and, continuing with this bold and necessary approach, we’ve written to health minister Matt Hancock to obtain confirmation of what’s happening.

As is the case with any call for clarification, we value the support of those within the industry whether voiced publicly or in private. From our perspective, social media has been a valuable environment for us to share updates on our campaigns and request support.

The New Year

What will 2021 bring to us, those diligently providing security officer services and the industry at large? We believe there will be an ongoing need to adapt to the ‘new normal’ brought about by the pandemic. This will be in the form of how events are managed or offices, etc having to be COVID-19 secure, or even a hybrid mix of virtual and face-to-face meetings (the latter conducted with facemasks and the necessary social distancing measures in place).

This year, security service providers will see new SIA licensing arrangements being discussed, including the introduction of mandatory First Aid training for those holding SIA licence cards. Naturally, the industry and BSIA members will be discussing any issues which these changes may bring. Collaboration proved to be a powerful tool in 2020 energising demonstratable success.

The BSIA will continue its remit to represent its members as the recognised ‘voice of the professional security industry’ and we’ll carry on raising awareness of important and pressing industry issues across our three core pillars: security personnel, electronic security and physical security.

Mike Reddington is CEO of the British Security Industry Association (www.bsia.co.uk)