It is hard to summarise the last two weeks. The Country is largely shut and our way of life is largely limited to home. Following the initial flurry of guidance and speculation about when Lockdown would arrive it seems we have reached a new (bizarre) normal.
As a Director in Social Services I feel a huge sense of duty and responsibility to the Community; especially now. I know the decisions that my team take over the coming days and months will alter lives and potentially risk them as we increasingly have to prioritise on the basis of urgency. I feel the same responsibility to staff in the NHS who in our Borough have become the focal point for Covid ’19. The first death was in the local hospital and others have followed. Our teams there work around the clock to stop the further transmission of the virus and seek appropriate care. They are all doing amazing work in a surreal context.
Many of our Care Providers are looking after people in the high risk category. Many families are supporting loved ones with complex needs- for whom the change of route is bewildering and distressing. Many businesses are worried about paying bills and staff and whether the show can carry on.
I have received messages around the clock seeking assurance, seeking protective equipment, asking what if questions. I answer as many as I can, many simply can’t be answered – I don’t know, the Government doesn’t know.
The team have been amazing. We’ve had to re-design all of social care inside five days. Plan for 25/50/80 % fewer staff. Move buildings. Sort technology. Train people and above all provide as much clarity and assurance as we can to a worried and yet committed workforce.
Attitudes to social care are slowly changing too. The long forgotten second consideration to the NHS and bane of successive governments; last night some of the public clapped us too. Many of our teams have had go in to provide essential care without the equipment necessary – placing themselves and their families at risk. Our workforce has been flexible and set up dedicated phone-lines to support food and medication supplies in partnership with the voluntary sector. Staff have phoned people just to have a chat and provide reassurance- we are here for you.
We are also stretched (like many others) very thinly. Every day is an emotional rollercoaster as leaders we have to provide co-ordination, communication and simplicity but we feel it too. I sat and felt white hot fury last night as the Minister for Health and Adult Social Care publicly acknowledged the vast contribution of the NHS (rightly) whilst failing to say a single word in support of social care and other key workers. If I feel the weight of responsibility why doesn’t he? I’m emotionally intelligent enough to know that a focal point for all the stress, worry and anger is inevitable – that said sort it out Matt Hancock 1.6m of us are grafting relentlessly – thank-you wouldn’t hurt!
Given the very serious tone of this post I thought I’d finish with levity. Here are five things that have raised a smile in the past five days
- Playing Bobby Mc Ferrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” as the exit music to team phone-conferences
- The excellent Brum based comms encouraging folk to stay at home
- My sons encouraging me and then adding great levity at the door step clap by pointing out it was a) cold and b) bedtime.4. James Blunt refusing to make a home based social media sing along. 5. One of our Elected Members deciding a clap wasn’t enough last night so she bashed saucepans together instead.
I hope you and your families stay safe. If you rely on social care in Dudley I promise you we will do everything possible to help you. To my colleagues- you’re doing just great. Keep going everyone #FightCovid’19
You’ll find me on Twitter @mattbowsher1