Our #HereForDerby campaign celebrates colleagues who are helping to keep our essential services going for the city, as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week we spoke to Melanie Pratt, Catering and Contracts Manager, about how her work has changed during the pandemic – juggling two roles and jumping into action to support the crucial task of providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to key workers.

Melanie Pratt, Catering and Contracts Manager, sits within the Facilities Management team, and usually spends her time managing catering contracts for city schools, as well as in-house janitorial and security contracts at the Council House, and our other sites across the city.

Mel is now working from home and her day-to-day work has changed due to COVID-19.

“I have two roles in one, it gives me the ability to do a bit of everything. The catering side of my role is around auditing the food safety system in children’s homes and residential homes, as well as supporting the teams at those sites if they’ve got any food safety questions,” said Mel.

“I also look after the group school meals contract – that is 17 schools in the city. I also look after security at the Council House, the window cleaning and our janitorial services contracts.”

With schools being closed and contracts being on hold, although some of Mel’s usual work must still be done, she has also stepped up to support the city’s drive to source PPE – helping keep our key workers and carers safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

A cross-team working group was quickly set up to understand PPE need, carry out risk assessments and training, and to buy direct PPE equipment alongside that secured from Government. To get the equipment to where it needed to be, a centralised PPE hub was set up to serve the needs of the Council and providers across the city.

Mel is now an integral part of this planning group and manages all orders of PPE used by DCC, either through procurement or donations from kind volunteers across the city.

“It’s been enjoyable actually, and nice working with the PPE Planning team,” said Mel. There’s no hierarchy, everyone just gets on with it for a common goal, as a team, to get equipment out to all those frontline workers.”

The guidance has been changing frequently over the last few months, as the Government gains further understanding of how coronavirus spreads. Part of Mel’s new role has been to make sure that PPE that is being distributed is good enough and meets health and safety standards.

“It’s so important that we’re getting the right types of equipment,” she said. “I know a bit about it from previously working in a kitchen and now I’ve learned a lot, quickly. A few months ago I had no idea what the difference between IIR masks and FFP2s was – and now dreaming about IIR masks!”

Mel said that with the huge national and global demand for PPE, like for all local authorities, getting the right quality supplies in the amounts needed was a challenge – but everyone pulled together and innovated to tackle the crucial job in hand.

She said: “It was a challenge, and what’s needed alters all the time because of changes to legislation. I think at one point the guidance changed twice in a week. You put your pen down on a Friday and it would have changed again by Monday!”

One issue that Mel has had to battle is that of counterfeit goods being sold as safety equipment – something which organisations across the country have had to overcome.

“We work closely with Trading Standards colleagues who give us the green light on our purchases and to make sure we have the best quality PPE,” said Mel. “It’s awful that people have jumped on the bandwagon and are selling equipment that isn’t legit, especially as we’re dealing with people’s lives.”

Away from work, Mel has been using lockdown to spend time in her garden and is missing getting away in her camper van.

She wanted to share these words with the people of Derby: “We will come out of this, it might take a bit of time but we might come out of it better than when we first went in. I think people are a bit more neighbourly and take life at more of a slower pace than we ordinarily would. Keep safe and hopefully it won’t be long until we can be out and about again.”