Social care has been in the headlines for weeks, as the coronavirus pandemic swept the UK. Care services and staff – including Livability’s – have been tested and stretched like never before. While it has been ‘business as usual’, our ways of working have been challenged with care staff needing to quickly adapt and adopt new ways of working and being exposed to unprecedented risks.
What is it really like working for Livability in one of our services, during the COVID-19 health crisis? We asked for feedback from those in the frontline – our staff team.
With over 1,000 disabled and vulnerable people in their care and over 1,700 staff – with over 1,000 in frontline operation roles – Livability has done its utmost to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of everyone in ‘Team Livability’. A ‘COVID-19 Lead’ was appointed to lead the charity’s centralised response and to act as the coordinated point of contact, liaising with all teams, to get the right information and resources, on time, to Livability’s services. In addition, Livability put in place wellbeing resources, a redeployment/return to work team, and streamlined centralised processes for recruiting, inducting and training staff.
Managers like Tracy say that this coordinated approach gives her confidence, which enables her to care for her team: ‘The wellbeing of staff is fundamental to achieving a high standard of care for the people we are employed to support. Ensuring that the staff that I oversee are content, happy and safe within their working life is integral to ensuring that they work to Livability’s high standards.’
Like many other managers, Tracy, who joined the organisation as a support worker over ten years ago, goes on to praise the dedication of the people she works with: ‘The COVID-19 situation has affected each and every one of us, but none more so than the staff who work day after day to ensure that the individuals in our care maintain as much of a ‘normal’ way of life as possible. All staff in Livability achieve this on a daily basis, without even realising that they have done such an incredible job and without batting an eyelid. Alongside their commitment, I feel that when you prioritise the wellbeing of your staff, they feel valued enough to put their own concerns and fears aside to continue with their role.’
For some staff, adapting to the new pandemic landscape has opened up opportunities to develop their skills. Grace, who joined the organisation last autumn as an administrator at residential care home Livability Dolphin Court, was approached to step up to a PPE lead role. PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) arrives in bulk – including 12,000 facemasks – at Dolphin Court in Essex, which is then packed by a staff team and sent on to 12 other Livability services. This has made for an efficient, safe and cost-effective PPE supply across the charity’s services.
Grace has relished opportunities like this, from her regional manager Ivan, to broaden her experience. ‘I’ve created PPE stock spreadsheets with Dolphin’s stock separate from other stock going out. We’ve got one room entirely filled with PPE and everything is counted and accounted for. I work closely with the Quality Team at National Office.’
Grace says she has felt well supported: ‘I feel I’m informed and get all the training I need.’ Manager Ivan praises Grace and other staff working on this task: ‘They got the first tranche of 8,000 masks packed and sent out within 24 hours! There’s a sense of collaboration and a really strong morale.’
Vicki is another employee whose ability has been nurtured in the ten years she has worked with Livability. Vicki, who now manages the charity’s services in the North East, supporting 40-plus disabled people with a team of nearly 80 staff, started off as a support worker in her early twenties. ‘I think that Livability recognises that everyone has something to bring,’ says Vicki. ‘Everyone is seen as a leader in the role that they do, and that’s reflected in the rate of pay and the value put on the wellbeing of support workers. In my role, I get a lot of support from colleagues and across the organisation, especially during this pandemic!’
Like Tracy, Vicki sees supporting her staff team as essential if they and the disabled people they work with are going to live life well through the pandemic and beyond. ‘We have a daily catch-up with our management team, so we know how staff are coping, if we need to adjust things to allow for the way staff can travel to work safely etc. Our support workers get regular email updates and they can have daily contact with a line manager who is always on call, if they have questions about any work situation.’
A little further south, in West Yorkshire, manager Helen ensures staff feel strong and safe so they can best care for their service users. Says Helen: ‘I have been able to give clear instructions – although ever-changing in this world pandemic – to staff members so that they feel safe in the work environment and in turn make those we support feel safe, and therefore their families. This has been possible because we have felt really well supported [by the National Office team], almost like Livability is a step in front with information and advice. It’s a ripple effect whereby the people we support trust us implicitly to protect them – and we are trying with all our might to do this!’
Last word goes to support worker Matthew, who recently rejoined Livability’s supported living service in Eastbourne: ‘I tried a new career but found it did not give the same job satisfaction that working as a support worker gave. Since coming back, I have been impressed with the handling of COVID-19-19 in keeping the staff and tenants safe, through policies, procedures and adequate PPE. The management always project a positive attitude, which is then felt through the staff team and people we support. I believe that Martello Road, where I work, is an excellent example of supported living, and feel proud to be a part of it.’
The people we support and those that support them are at the heart of the work we do. If you have, a #hearttocare consider working with us and being part of a supportive community that works to make life livable for disabled people. Click here to view our current vacancies.