As part of its mission to ensure the interests of its members and the industry are represented, the Textile Services Association (TSA) has built relationships with MPs across all major parties. They are helping to raise the profile of the industry at governmental level. This would not have been possible without the work of TSA’s newly formed Industry Lobbying Steering Group and, in turn, the connections members have made with their local MPs.
“We have to raise awareness about the importance of the commercial laundry industry to a number of key sectors including, healthcare, hospitality, pharmaceutical and food,” says Emma Andersson, director of the TSA. Recently the association organised a cross party meeting at Westminster which was attended by six MPs, see photograph. Among other things, they discussed the difficulties many laundries faced during lockdown due to the lack of government support. This had been an important catalyst behind the TSA’s renewed lobbying efforts to ensure that the government has the information it needs to include the laundry industry in its thinking.
In particular, with the latest Covid booster programme, frontline health and social care workers are eligible for the vaccine in order to protect themselves and the health of patients. As commercial laundries process over 90% of the NHS’s textiles and need to meet strict standards of hygiene, the TSA contacted MPs to ask if the Government was planning on making this booster available to commercial laundry employees. The TSA pointed out that, without the services provided by commercial laundries, 90% of hospitals would be forced to close after just one day.
Following on from this, Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth Ruth Carbury submitted a written question to the Department of Health and Social Care on 15 September, asking whether the Government would make the booster shot available to laundry workers. While the Government responded that it was limiting this round of vaccines to workers at high levels of risk of exposure to vulnerable individuals in care, it demonstrates the progress that has been made in raising awareness of the importance of the laundry industry to the UK economy as a whole. It is also proof that the industry now has commercial laundry advocates within government who are willing to raise these questions on their behalf.
A similar question was asked by Liz Saville Roberts, who represents Dwyfor Meirionnydd for Plaid Cymru, which was answered on 16 October. She also asked her colleague, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS, to submit a similar question to the Welsh Government.
The TSA has also received responses from Wendy Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrat MP for North East Fife.
Further key questions relating to the laundry industry were raised by Derek Thomas, MP for St Ives. He asked whether the Department for Health and Social Care had made an assessment of the potential merits of directing the Care Quality Commission to assess the adequacy of care home laundry hygiene standards. A second question directed at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero asked if it was taking steps to help support commercial laundries to reduce their energy usage. Going forward, further questions will be raised to highlight the key issues the TSA would like the Government to be aware of, and also look into.
The next stage in this process of raising the awareness for MPs and lawmakers about the laundry industry will be taking representatives of the Treasury and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to visit a commercial laundry. There they will gain a real insight into the work the laundry industry has done already in reducing energy consumption and how government support could help the sector to continue improving in this area. This is a win-win, as in turn it will help the Government reach its own 2023 targets, siad the TSA.
“It is very encouraging to see the TSA’s lobbying messages are finally being heard,” said the TSA’s Andersson. “We have also been contacted by DEFRA, which is asking us to help with its consultation regarding waste prevention programmes for England. The fact that we have been approached to provide our expertise for this shows that we are on the right track to ensuring the laundry industry is factored into the Government’s future actions.”