As MD of O’Donovan Waste Disposal, Jacqueline O’Donovan is one of the waste, construction and demolition sectors’ most passionate pioneers of employee training, industry best practice and health, wellbeing and safety.
Her award-winning family-run business is one of the leading independent waste management companies in London with 185 employees and a turnover of £21 million. Jacqueline is recognised as an innovator and a prominent force in the industry and is a keen advocate of sustainable operations as well as encouraging diversity and inclusion in the sector. She has received numerous accolades for her work and holds a number of respected fellowships and affiliations with professional organisations and bodies in the sector. She is the recipient of the Growing Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, the PwC Private Businesswoman of the Year, as well as the Women’s Economic Forum naming her as their Woman of the Decade in Enterprise and Leadership.
Here she shares her perspective on the pandemic and what it means for businesses like hers.
“We are going into month nine of the Coronavirus pandemic and if anything, we are in a state of chaos. We are no closer to nearing an end and we certainly do not have a plan or an idea of what the next three or six months will bring. I can sympathise with the Government and the huge challenges they are facing in trying to make decisions in these unprecedented times. The last time there was something similar was the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 where almost quarter of a million people lost their lives in the UK. But those were very different times and people did not travel or meet as much as they do today.”
“Medical science is working hard on developing and testing a vaccine and there is hope that one will be found by early 2021. However, the roll-out of any new vaccine is still a long way off and will only be available to the general public once the frontline workers, doctors and nurses etc have their vaccinations first. This will be followed by the vulnerable or those with underlying health conditions. This will be the case on a global level so we need to be prepared and understand that vaccination is a very long way off. Indeed, we are currently experiencing a huge delay in getting the flu vaccine and that has been around for years!”
“There is another huge crisis imminent and that is the threat posed to people’s mental health. This pandemic is having a devastating effect on those with existing mental health issues. A recent survey from the charity Mind found that 65% of adult participants with a pre-existing mental health problem said it had become worse during lockdown, with this figure jumping to 75% among those aged 13-24.”
“These figures are not even taking into account those who did not have pre-existing problems and are suffering from challenges brought about by the lockdowns and restrictions that everyone is having to endure. More than one in five (22%) adults who had no previous experience of problems prior to the pandemic now said that their mental health is poor or very poor. Those who were furloughed, changed jobs or lost their job due to coronavirus saw their mental health and wellbeing decline with three quarters (73%) reporting lower than average wellbeing. There have also been reports of no access to support from NHS mental health services, with a quarter of those trying to access support unable to get help.”
“The total NHS budget in England for 2018/19 was approximately £129 billion with around 10% allocated to Mental Health Services. The NHS was already under extreme pressure prior to the pandemic so the urgent need to prepare for the huge surge of mental health requirements is becoming more and more apparent.”
“We desperately need a joined up approach with significant investment specifically in Mental Health Services in order to deal with the catastrophe that is coming further down the line. Now is the time for action – for the government to intervene and invest rather than wait for the worst to happen. Planning and organisation is key to mitigate the cost and management of what will clearly be the next pandemic.”
“People are feeling very anxious again as the news reports continue to hammer home all the negative aspects of the Coronavirus statistics as well reporting all the daily arguments and bickering in Parliament. Decisive and clear action needs to be taken and communicated urgently in order to steer this country and its looming healthcare crisis through the uncharted waters we find ourselves in.”