"That's Just Half Of It"
Updated: Jun 23
In this article one of our Directors gives his insights into the current situation with COVID-19 and Health & Social Care. It is a great read so please share with others you know!!
I have always had an affinity towards care; my first experience of caring was close to home with a family member who has severe learning difficulties and complex needs. I have worked in the Health & Social Care industry for nearly 20 years. Never has light been shined on Social Care quite as it has in the last few months. Our nation has been given a true understanding of exactly how important the work is that we do in Social Care and the risks and responsibilities that we take. But that's just half of it.
Social Care is often categorised with other types of work which are notoriously paid at a low rate. During these unprecedented times, many of these low paid individuals have now been recognised as our key workers; keeping shops open, delivering our mail, collecting the rubbish, etc. I applaud all the key workers who are currently doing so at risk to their own well-being. Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both locally and nationally, has been humbling. The focus on key workers at this time has given Social Care the opportunity to show everyone exactly how important our work is and how undervalued it has been for so long.
Those who work both within and alongside the Social Care sector, are fully aware that the responsibilities placed on our frontline staff are critical to ensure our service users’ health and well-being. These responsibilities are varied and often highly skilled. Our staff at 3 Trees Community Support undertake many training courses before they can commence frontline support. They learn how to give individuals their medication which can be lifesaving; for example, several service users require a rescue medication to deal with prolonged epileptic seizures that could potentially be fatal. Many staff face situations where someone’s life is literally in their hands and the protocols that they follow saves lives. The skills our staff are taught to manage behaviours that challenge are equally intensive. Staff positively support those they work for to manage their acute anxiety which can present risks to not only their staff, but also themselves, and members of the public. They use their skills to provide a service that will have the least restrictions and enable service users to safely access their local communities successfully. Staff facilitate individuals to achieve not just ‘outcomes’ but realise some of their dreams. It is a privilege to witness staff working alongside service users to successfully achieve tasks that most of us take for granted; they can be momentous achievements for our service users. 3 Trees work with individuals who have, for example, been previously detained under the Mental Health Act; these complex service users need trained and highly skilled support to enable a quality of life that ensures positive outcomes are met. This can be difficult to achieve given the lack of resources available to our sector (in comparison to the NHS).
- Meet our staff -
Within a few short weeks, our staff were embracing a different way of working to ensure that they were adhering to all government guidance and applying good practice to ensure everybody’s safety, including their own. Those in Social Care have true compassion for those that they support and, as always, they have risen to the challenge with professional fervour.
The question I continue to ask myself is: do we, as a country, feel that our staff are recompensed fairly for their work? Is the minimum wage appropriate for those who have so much responsibility, comparable to those who work in the NHS? It doesn’t seem right that when you take tasks outside of a hospital environment, the work is downgraded and it feels like it is then seen as a more menial job, essentially being undervalued.
That is the story so far. The industry braces itself for the future plan of Health & Social Care. The picture is yet to be painted and the brush is very much in the hands of the voter. We would urge the central government to seriously consider that underfunding the Health & Social Care sector will have a negative impact and cost more if services, for example, hit crisis and are admitted to a secure unit. This not only negatively impacts on the service user but also costs more in care in the long term. This is not what we want for the services that we work with who deserve a decent quality of life; this can be achieved with the right investment and the correct level of quality support and care. As a nation, why should we care about this? Anyone of us could be in a position where we are relying on a Health & Social Care worker to support us to thrive in our local communities. The question we have to ask ourselves is how would we want ourselves and/or our loved ones to be supported? Health & Social Care needs a platform with which to promote public awareness to ensure a better understanding and gain the respect that it deserves.
As I observe our staff at 3 Trees Community Support, I consistently see a driven group of people who have an ever-burning desire to do the best for the people they support. No matter what Health & Social Care has faced, including the many billions were cut following the financial crisis 2008/2009, that passion has never disappeared.
Over recent years, there has been increasing pressure to deliver and evidence ever higher standards of care and staff have readily embraced doing more with less. Indeed, they have continued to raise the bar in these difficult times. We are one of the lucky providers who have survived this tumultuous time; it is unfortunate that some of the smaller providers who equally offered valued support have not been able to ride the storm.
However, enough of my negative rhetoric. Like most who work within the sector, I am an optimist; I genuinely believe that the hearts of the British people do care about some of the most vulnerable in our society and this is what makes our nation great! Thankfully, the majority of people want to wrap their arms around their society and protect their communities. I guess we have to ask ourselves what is more important, money or quality of lives? As our nation moves forward and comes out of the pandemic, Health & Social Care must be at the forefront, sitting alongside the NHS, for future planning and budgeting.
3 Trees Community Support