Home » We may be in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.
This is a guest blog from Jade Watson, Social Worker for the Adults Social Care North East team at Shropshire Council.
Lockdown, for me, felt like a sudden shock, as though I was swimming amongst the waves representing the general conflicts both in social work and outside of social work, and then a tsunami hit me.
I had not recognised how much being in the office and talking to my colleagues meant to me; I joined the team in October 2019, and I have learnt that I am closer to my colleagues than I thought.
In the Adults Social Care North East team, we have a buddy system, where we have been allocated one person to make an effort to contact during the working week. This has helped as, although people may be in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. Each person has different circumstances and it is therefore helpful to talk about both work and social well-being with a colleague who is in the same line of work. We have also been having check-in meetings for council updates and to talk about team morale and adaptation.
Ensuring that we only went on essential house visits created an extra challenge. I was living on my own, so I isolated myself with my family and have been completing remote phone call assessments since lockdown. It seems so different having service users on my caseload who I have spoken to, but I have not seen in person.
I can recall going on a walk, as part of my daily exercise, around the start of lockdown, and coming across one of my encouraging primary school teachers. I explained my role and how I found it hard to not be seeing service users regularly. However, he thought that it was great that as a team we have been RAG rating (red, amber, green rating) people as part of a critical list and phoning them; adults who have been living alone have especially been appreciating this. I found this encouraging and it made me recognise that it is important to get up and think that, although working from home constantly is challenging, our work can mean a lot to those we phone, especially if they are feeling isolated.
Completing phone call assessments has also allowed us as a team to reflect upon how we may be able to complete some re-assessments by phone call after lockdown if there has not been a lot of change and this can cut out commuting time.
When on duty I have also learnt that if someone requires an urgent Care Act assessment for them to have care in place immediately, a phone call assessment with the family and relevant professionals or carer can be more efficient.
For example, I experienced a service user who had no formal care in place but was being cared for by his daughter who needed to go to work. By liaising with the daughter and completing a remote mental capacity assessment, I was able to assess the service user’s care and support needs and ensure that he had a care agency supporting him as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, the service user ended up going into palliative care and dying, but the efficient response from the referral ensured that he was cared for and safe during the last few days of his life.
Remotely, I have adapted to providing well-written and robust risk assessments for when a service user’s placement was at risk due to a capital reduction in finances. I carefully listened to both her daughter’s account and the experiences of the carers within the service user’s care home, and how they had adapted to the service user’s challenging behaviours.
Well known around the care home for her assertive and feisty demeanour, the staff felt that it would be detrimental to place the service user in a different care home. Due to her dementia and her confrontational behaviours, it was observed that both her well-being and the well-being of staff and service users in a different care home would be compromised if she were to move.
Her daughter talked about how she had been previously been in a different placement but was asked to leave. However, in her current placement, her mother feels like she is at home.
Carers at the current placement ensure that they have one-to-one time with the service user to support her to feel calm and valued.
Originally, the care home was asking for £926 per week, but the manager said that she felt that she could not move anywhere else and the costs were brought down to £700 per week.
Overall, I feel that lockdown has been a catalyst for re-assessing priorities and ways of working effectively while best practice for those that we support are maintained, and for building upon and strengthening the resilience of the North East Adults Social Care team and Shropshire Council as a whole.
I have appreciated how colleagues, care agencies, and day services have thought creatively of how to offer extra support to those in need. For example, one of my service users has been provided with an activity box from a day service that he would not usually attend, who I liaised with.
It is positive to hear about day services reaching out of families and service users. I feel that after lockdown we will be grateful for the effectiveness of joint working throughout the local authority and that this collaborative work will continue.
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