Honours list celebrates frontline workers helping UK through Covid pandemic

Honours list celebrates frontline workers helping UK through Covid pandemic
Hundreds of people have been recognised in the New Year Honours list for their efforts in helping vulnerable communities and saving lives during the Covid pandemic.

Hundreds of people have been recognised in the New Year Honours list for their efforts in helping vulnerable communities and saving lives during the Covid pandemic.

Among them are NHS volunteers, tech entrepreneurs and charity workers across a wide array of fields including education and the arts.

This year the honours system is being used to say a particular thank you to those on the frontline – from community volunteers to school and hospital staff – who are supporting the country through the pandemic.

One of those, Bristol-based Kim Wide, 45, who is CEO of Take A Part – a charity working in some of the most deprived areas of Plymouth – was recognised for her services to social engagement in the arts.

Under Ms Wide’s leadership, Take A Part went above and beyond during the pandemic, organising a carnival celebrating their part of the city, launching a magazine employing local designers and providing primary schools with art packs as well as encouraging Covid-safe measures such as socially distanced walks both for pupils and the wider community.

She said she accepted the honour to “amplify socially engaged art. To evidence that it is valuable and something to invest in. Worthwhile and celebrated. To do more and go further”.

“There is no way that any of this could have happened without the amazing communities, artists, partners, funders and very crucially our solid and fantastic team and board at Take A Part,” she said.

“I love absolutely everything about community building and creative engagement. About making art with people that is for people and by people. To say I am passionate about socially engaged practice and community building would be an understatement. I see it as my own activism. It means everything to me.”

There has been considerable reform in the honours system in recent years to ensure the system is inclusive and transparent.

A key aim is for the awards to be representative of all parts of the country and of people from different backgrounds, although the government has said it recognises there is more to be done.

Dr Nisreen Alwan, an associate professor of public health at the University of Southampton, helped develop a pioneering pilot strategy for regular coronavirus testing, which by May 2020 was being used as the blueprint for regional and national schemes. She was honoured for her services to medicine and public health during the pandemic.

Dr Nisreen Alwan, an associate professor of public health at the University of Southampton, helped develop a pioneering pilot strategy for regular coronavirus testing

The 46-year-old, from Hampshire, said: “With Covid, I think it’s about being kind and thinking about other people. The nightmare is the amount of misinformation in the pandemic; I think it’s important for every one of us to think about the information we receive, and to be thoughtful about whether we’re sure of its veracity and want to convey it to other people. It’s about taking care of yourself and your family – and looking out for each other.”

In total, 231 recipients received the award for their service relating to coronavirus – 18.6 per cent of the entire list.

Dr Tamas Szakmany, 44, from Newport in South Wales, who received an honour for services to the NHS, was among them.

The critical care consultant at Royal Gwent Hospital led the response of the Welsh Critical Care Network during the pandemic, rapidly disseminating information on the lessons learnt and raising awareness about the severity of the illness.

He and his medical colleagues also filmed a deeply personal account of their experiences dealing with the virus which was shown on the BBC.

Dr Tamas Szakmany, 44, from Newport in South Wales, received an honour for services to the NHS

He said: “The MBE is recognition for the enormous effort everyone has made to get us through the first wave and I hope we have similar success again.

“From March to May last year is a blur of stress and sadly it is emerging again. We will get through it together. I ask the public to stay at home. If you do go out, wear a mask and keep your distance. When it is offered, have the vaccine.”

Jacquie Winning, 55, is a manager of the Forth Valley Sensory Centre in Falkirk, Scotland. She was awarded an MBE for services to people with sensory loss during the Covid response.

She went out of her way to provide Braille copies of essential Covid information, a telephone, text and email befriending service to support those who were isolated as a result of lockdown and podcasts with up to date information on the pandemic for people with sight loss.

Jacquie Winning provided Braille copies of essential Covid information to people with sight loss

She said: “Together we have been able to continue to provide essential services for our vision and hearing impaired centre users, who continue to be some of the most vulnerable and hardest hit by the pandemic.”

Michael Briggs was honoured for services to the voluntary sector and community.

The 57-year-old executive director of East Belfast Community Development Agency delivered food and small packages to people who were vulnerable, shielding or in financial need in the community, as well as providing practical help in the form of a helpline for people who have were furloughed or suddenly unemployed.

“There are so many stories from older people who say: ‘It’s just good to know people are thinking about us.’ A food delivery back in April was just dropping it off, but by the time September came those deliveries were taking 20 minutes because people wanted to talk to somebody,” he said.

Michael Briggs was honoured for services to the voluntary sector and community

The honours system can be used by anyone to nominate someone who has made an exceptional contribution to UK society.

That can include those involved in long-term voluntary service, those deemed to be improving life for people less able to help themselves and someone said to have made a difference to their community or field of work.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister, said: “In a year when so many have made sacrifices to protect our NHS and save people’s lives, the outstanding efforts of those receiving honours today are a welcome reminder of the strength of human spirit, and of what can be achieved through courage and compassion.

“The 2021 New Year Honours offer us an opportunity to salute their dedication and recognise many who have gone above and beyond in their contribution to our country.

“As we begin a new year and continue to come together to fight this virus, may their service and stories be an inspiration to us all.” 

The full honours list can be found here.

For more information on Honours recipients, go to www.gov.uk/honours 

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