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‘We’re desperate’: Firm producing masks for key workers begs for support

PUBLISHED: 15:12 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:43 06 April 2020

Making face visors at Panel Graphic, which is working with the LEP. Picture:  Panel Graphic

Making face visors at Panel Graphic, which is working with the LEP. Picture: Panel Graphic

Panel Graphic

A family-run Norfolk business producing visors for key workers is “desperate” for support having been overrun with requests – putting the future of their business on the line.

Panel Graphic need more support to keep making protective visors. Picture: Panel GraphicPanel Graphic need more support to keep making protective visors. Picture: Panel Graphic

Panel Graphic began producing see-through face visors just two days ago, and has sold 100,000 of the units within 48 hours to local ambulance trusts, hospitals, and the Norfolk County Council.

But director Steve Earl said his business is now in jeopardy, having sunk £100,000 into purchasing more supplies without any backing from government.

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Mr Earl said: “I’m selling these visors with no profit margin - we just want to get these masks to the people who need them. But I’m investing cashflow into getting more materials with no confidence that I’m doing the right thing, and that I won’t be left with loads of materials I can’t use in a few weeks time.”

The team has already sold 100,000 visors. Picture:  Panel GraphicThe team has already sold 100,000 visors. Picture: Panel Graphic

Mr Earl has brought all staff previously furloughed back on, and will be producing the masks 24-hours a day from 6am on Monday.

However, because the 40 employees are now working again, Mr Earl cannot ease the pressure on his bank account by receiving PAYE grants from central government.

“I’ve gone to my local MP to ask for some direction,” Mr Earl said. “We’ve pivoted our entire business from building parts for Porsche to doing this, with no reassurance that we’ll be supported.”

Mr Earl said his staff in the office are also suffering abuse from people wanting to purchase the masks for resale.

“We’ve had people wanting to sell them on for a profit, which is why we’re going straight to front-line services,” he said. “We’re also getting calls from staff on the front-line in tears, begging for supplies to help keep people safe.”

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Mr Earl has made a purchase of more materials due to arrive in mid-April.

“What I really want to be able to do is have the cashflow to be able to buy enough material to make 300,000 masks or more,” Mr Earl said. “We have the capacity, along with other businesses in our network, to make 10,000 masks a day – but we need some support.”

A supporter of the Loddon-based business has set up a crowdfunding page for Panel Graphic.

To pledge your support, visit: Protecting People and the ENHS (PPE)


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