Each week, we receive dozens of stories from care workers and managers across the country as they battle to provide the best care and support possible amid this crisis. These stories are remarkable – like the people behind them. Many of them are uplifting. Here are just a few of our colleagues’ heroic, kind and increasingly widely-appreciated efforts.
Will coronavirus bring care workers the recognition they deserve?
“Recognition has been a long time coming. There is not enough of it, and it’s not consistent. But if one good thing is going to come out of this crisis, it will be that care workers get the recognition that they deserve.”
Those are the words of Lynne Hewitt, regional manager, Scotland. She is far from alone in hoping that this pandemic will leave behind some positive changes in how society views and values the work that care workers do. It has taken a once-in-a-generation pandemic of unprecedented scale for citizens to look up and appreciate care workers’ work – and that is a sad reflection of where priorities lay.
But many, many more citizens are now aware of, and showing their gratitude for, the work that happens across our communities – day in, day out, year in, year out, pandemic or no pandemic.
You have all read about – and perhaps experienced – instances of spontaneous (or indeed coordinated) applause for care workers and health workers. Many of you have talked about how you or colleagues have been ushered to the front of supermarket queues, offered lifts, gifts, and food for yourselves and your clients. Joanne Robinson, branch manager in North Ormesby, sent this picture of care worker Debbie Dabb receiving a basket of goodies from Pound Stretcher. The gift was for the care staff (it included two little boxes of gloves!) But – care workers being the people they are – the team divided it up into ten mini-hampers that were distributed to customers in Pennyman House. “We drew flat numbers and delivered them this afternoon,” said Jo.
Many care workers say they feel more appreciated by their customers, too, during this difficult time. “We are getting a lot of ‘thank yous’”, reports Hannah Marsh, regional manager, Midlands. “People are being more understanding – for instance, when a care worker is late – and more grateful,” she says. Grumpy customers have become less so, as the full burden on care workers becomes clearer to everyone. “Care workers have always been seen as a low-rank in society. Now they’re being seen for what they are – so important,” says Hannah.
In Wales, an 102-year old customer in Ebbw Vale went outside in her wheelchair, alongside her daughters, ringing a bell and proclaiming “clap for our care workers!” during the planned 8pm applause on 26 March, recalls branch manager Samantha Price.
Will this show of support for front-line care workers, nurses and others continue, post-COVID-19, when non-key workers are allowed back to their desks?
It’s easy to believe it won’t. It’s easy to believe that care workers will again be forgotten, once the public’s attention has shifted back to their own jobs, commutes and concerns, and news bulletins move off coronavirus.
Yet the scale and nature of this pandemic might just enable more lasting change. There may not be as much clapping in the street, but this virus could trigger a re-think among many people – including youngsters – seeking impactful employment. Scott Higgins-Wright, regional manager in Cannock, hopes that one silver lining in this cloud is “that social care is seen as a career, and that it meets an important societal need.”
Some managers are reporting spikes in recruitment as people line up to help. “It’s hard to keep on top of the candidate screening,” says Kim Nicholson in Biggleswade. Recruitment is “through the roof. That has never happened in our industry,” she says. DBS checks are coming back next-day – also unheard of. “They know we need them fast,” says Kim.
Sarah Thomas, regional director, South, interviewed one candidate whose planned university research project had been postponed, and who wanted to “give something back” during the current pandemic. Another young woman planning to study human rights law at Cardiff University was likewise passionate about doing something hands-on.
It’s not the same picture across the board; other branches report cancellations and no-shows – including as potential new hires get scared.
But the fact that young people like those Sarah has recruited are rolling up their sleeves is a huge positive. They may not be intending to spend the entire career as care workers. But their experiences will shape their own, and their friends’, awareness of the care worker role and its crucial importance in society.
Care workers themselves also have a role in ensuring they earn the respect they deserve. They must be even prouder of what they do. They must take confidence from their role in this outbreak, and shout louder. There are far too many care workers who say “I’m just a care worker”, recounts Hannah. Just a care worker?
If you have a story please let us know: Covid19response@candchealthcare.co.uk