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Birmingham health chief in running for national award for city's Covid response work

Birmingham Mail logo Birmingham Mail 29/10/2021 Mark Cardwell

Birmingham’s health and social care chief has been nominated for a national award after helping to lead the city’s response to the pandemic.

Cllr Paulette Hamilton, cabinet member for health and social care, holds the portfolios for two areas drastically hit by Covid-19.

Now, she is in the running for the annual Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) awards, celebrating the work of councillors across England and Wales.

READ MORE: 'I see a roll call of death and inequality' - tears over impact of a year of coronavirus

She is nominated in the "resilience and recovery" category - a new theme introduced this year, the 12th year of awards.

She said: “I was so shocked. That’s the only word I can use.

"I did not even realise anyone had seen what I had been doing. I am truly humbled and truly blessed."

She does not know for sure what has led to her being shortlisted but said she has done a lot of work around Covid-19 and vaccine hesitancy including with the Local Government Association – a body representing councils nationally.

The council has held outreach events to encourage communities where vaccine uptake is low to have the jab – and Cllr Hamilton describes herself as leading from the front.

She returned to nursing during the pandemic to deliver jabs – and has recently received her flu jab as well as a Covid-19 booster.

She has worked on alleviating fears among communities around vaccines including through the Health and Wellbeing Board which she chairs.

Cllr Hamilton also helped lead a West Midlands Labour inquiry into Covid-19 deaths in Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities examining the institutional inequalities contributing to the disproportionate impact of the virus on these groups.

She was critical of the delay in publication of Public Health England’s examination of Covid-19 disparities which was thought by some to have been held back because of concerns about the global Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of last year.

She said: “I felt like I was one of the key people who went out there and said this was not good enough.”

Speaking about where things stand now in terms of recovery from Covid, she said: “Covid is rising – especially in schools. The fact the vaccine roll-out has been quite sporadic.

"They have told care workers if they don’t get vaccinated they will be out of jobs.

"We are headed for a tsunami.”

On top of Covid, the issue of food sustainability is a priority.

The council this year passed a motion to back the Right to Food campaign which seeks to address rising food bank use.

She said: “At the point the pandemic hit, people who were just about managing were going under.

“We need to make sure we have affordable food which is sustainable and of high quality.”

READ MORE: 'Only destined for making babies' - Teacher's cruel remark to black city health leader when nine

As part of Black History Month, Cllr Hamilton recently opened up about a cruel remark a teacher made to her at school.

When she was nine, a teacher told her “girls like me were destined only to have babies”.

She said: “I am a very private person. The reason I needed to share it is – I can say something to you and you can brush it off but tell it to your bother or sister and it can influence their life.”

Asked what her achievements and award short-listing would show people like that teacher, she said: “If that teacher is still alive, what I’m hoping it would teach them is - don’t put labels on anybody. We don’t know what God has got in store for them.”

Cllr Hamilton thanked her team at the council as well as council leader Cllr Ian Ward, deputy leader Cllr Brigid Jones and fellow cabinet members for their support.

The winners of the awards will be announced at a ceremony in London on December 1 and broadcast by the LGIU on YouTube.

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