The Guardian view on key workers: applause is not enough

Cleaners, refuse collectors and food industry workers are playing a vital role in this crisis. They deserve better pay and status

When the new chancellor gave his first budget earlier this month, he provided a snapshot of the government’s economic priorities after its resounding victory in December’s general election. Rishi Sunak announced that there would be a doubling of investment in research and development, new grants for business innovation, and new money for life sciences research. This was a vision of startup Britain: outside the EU, the nation’s wellbeing would be secured through a new focus on the knowledge economy and advanced hi-tech manufacturing.

Only three weeks have passed since the chancellor’s debut budget, delivered before packed benches in the House of Commons. But it already seems to belong to another era. Mr Sunak’s ambition when it came to areas such as innovation and R&D was welcome. But viewed from the grim standpoint of the present, what most stands out is not what Mr Sunak said, but what he didn’t say. On the ongoing social care crisis, the subject of a pre-election pledge by the prime minister, he was entirely silent.

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