Back to normal is not good enough

As more Covid restrictions ease, Kayleigh O’Neill argues that we can’t simply ‘get back to normal’ because for many, normal was not good enough.

As a disabled person, my experience of the pandemic has certainly been challenging but I’ve been far from alone.

A lot of us struggled to cope with the worry of getting sick or losing access to things we need. Many still live with these fears today.

Over two thirds of the people who have died with Covid-19 have had a known, underlying condition. The statistics appear every day, but many feel forgotten about or ignored as society seems to be focusing on “getting back to normal”.

Coming out of or away from this pandemic, we need to reflect on our experiences and the world around us. Those most affected by issues of health, housing, and social care, for example, should be in the room where decisions are made going forward.

As a caseworker for Lorna Slater MSP, I talk to local residents every day about the issues that are most important to them. Some of the most complicated and urgent casework we get relates to health and social care. Through this work, and from personal experience, I know just how stretched our services are.

I hear from people who are not receiving the care they need which has a detrimental effect on their physical and mental health. I have spoken to staff who are overworked and under-appreciated. They’ve told me that waiting lists are piling high across the city as more and more people require support.

I want to thank every council worker and member of health and social care staff who has worked tirelessly and carefully these past two years. Focusing on community is essential if we want to see Edinburgh becoming a safer, healthier, and greener city. Massive change is needed, and equality, care and well-being should be at the heart of our recovery.

Getting out and about can be immensely important for our well-being. To cope with isolation and boredom, I’d often stroll around Forthquarter Park in Granton. To get to the park I’d cross Waterfront Park Road which is just behind Edinburgh College’s Granton campus and every time I would cross with my heart in my mouth.
Anyone with children or low mobility is at risk when there are no safe crossings nearby. It is also hard to ignore the noise and air pollution that invades Granton’s green spaces.

Everyone should have access to outdoor spaces, where they can walk, wheel and cycle freely. Getting to and from them should be easy too.

I hope that with better transport solutions and community action, the city opens up to active travel for everyone.

The Edinburgh I want to build is one that has better access to health and social care services and to amenities and activities that improve every person’s well-being.

By putting the needs of those whose voices, views and experiences too often went unheard before the pandemic at the heart of the city’s plans for recovery, we can build an Edinburgh that works for us all.

Kayleigh O’Neill is Green candidate for Forth in the upcoming Council Elections