Our care staff’s resilience is ‘humbling’

Viv Dickenson, smiling

“I won’t sit here and pretend that it’s been anything but challenging.

“It has been a massively difficult and testing time for everyone trying to run social care services. However, at CrossReach we have got fantastic staff and fantastic supporters and we certainly remain standing for the time being.

“Our primary focus has been keeping the staff and the people we support protected, connected and really well cared for. Lots of effort has gone into securing PPE, making sure that our technology could cope with increased demand from both staff and those who use the services.

“Given we have such a diversity of provision we have put a lot of effort into staying up-to-date with all of the relevant guidance coming out and ensuring that the staff on the ground have everything they needed to allow us to continue to care as best as we could.

“It has been particularly tough in the care homes. We have been locked down for visitors since early March. So, working with residents’ families to reassure them that their loved one is being well looked after has been hugely important.

“But it’s not just the care homes where we have been experiencing disruption. The supported living services have also risen to the challenge. All of these services – for those with disabilities, in recovery from addiction, with mental health support needs or at risk of homelessness – have continued caring throughout and the staff and service users have done some very inventive things together so that everybody could continue to live as full a life as possible despite the constraints.

“In November 2018 we opened our new school, the Erskine waterfront campus, as we moved away from residential schools for children. Now the children live in a house, go to the school and then go home again, which is a much more normal experience for them.

“We also take day pupils who are unable to attend mainstream school. Over this time the school, like most schools, has become a virtual learning environment as well as a food distribution centre, which was set up to support families who were struggling to cope financially.

“We’ve also seen a lot of innovation in our day centres and community support services where we’ve been trying to keep in touch with people in different ways and make sure that they didn’t become isolated or ill over this time.

“The counselling services – both generic and specialist counselling for those struggling with their mental health in pregnancy and after the birth of the child, or working through an addiction – have moved their services online.

“Likewise, the ‘Heart for Art’ dementia support service has been ensuring that people can be as connected and creative as possible by offering online art and chat sessions.

“CrossReach is part of the Church of Scotland and, while we provide services to people of all faiths and none, we do require a proportion of staff to have a Christian faith and others to be in sympathy. And I think that has helped us to be resilient and also helped us in our goal of making this big organisation feel a bit like a big family.

“I think the faith element helps us to all pull in the same direction even when tensions are running high and, I have to say, some days here, there have been some very high tensions as you can imagine.

“It has been a huge comfort to the staff to have people out there really meaning it when they say they will pray for you. It makes a real difference.

“I know that on the very darkest of days, and there have been some dark ones – we have lost people to this disease – the ability to hold onto hope even when people might be working under extreme pressure and sadness, trying to do the best they can, has been remarkable. I am amazed and humbled at just how resilient the staff team have been.

‘’It’s now time to look to that future and really ask ourselves what have we learned about social care at this time and what needs to be different so that things can be better for those accessing services and the people supporting them.”

Extract from interview by John Macgill first published by healthandcare.scot on 4th August 2020.
Full interview and article

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