Coronavirus has impacted businesses in social care like nothing else. But it’s impacting the sector’s staff too.
As we enter into the summer months, the requirement of the social care workforce to support the most vulnerable within our communities continues.
Our already stretched sector, as highlighted by the King’s Fund’s Social Care 360 review, is under intense pressure. As the virus began to spread across the globe, the care sector was taking note, and as early as February CPA surveys revealed where support was needed the most:
- Maintaining the care workforce.
- Access to, and the supply of, the correct PPE to keep people safe.
- Finding novel strategies to care for people in the absence of appropriate protection.
- Understanding new hospital discharge rules, driving providers to adapt existing policies quickly to support people returning into care settings.
- Cash flow– Increased payroll costs and escalating costs for PPE caused significant numbers of providers to report concerns.
The CPA has worked extensively to influence Government action and resolve key issues, and whilst progress has been slow, there have been some successes. Despite this, the pressures on registered managers are huge, and it’s bound to impact their mental health.
In the face of challenge, care workers have gone above and beyond in their resolve to care for the most vulnerable in our society. It’s with a heavy heart that we hear of the tragic loss of care workers to the virus. This has had an impact on the wellbeing of our care workforce beyond anything we have experienced in the past.
Skills for Care estimates there are around 22,000 registered managers in social care, and the additional pressures relating to the massively expanded responsibilities of their role potentially pose a significant risk of overloading to managerial mental wellbeing. Furthermore, confusing and sometimes conflicting official guidance has managers questioning whether they are doing the right thing to keep both staff and the people they support safe.
As well as being energy draining, it’s physically time-consuming to read through endless new protocols, source PPE, communicate to staff the latest guidelines and, at the same time, reassure everyone they are doing OK.
Then there are the stresses unique to each service; Nick Kelly, Chief Executive at Axela Healthcare, points out the COVID-19 pandemic has led to his management resources being diverted towards multiple scenario contingency planning. For example, drawing up transport provisions for care workers when the Government was considering shutting Transport for London services.
Sharing, caring and supporting
Social care managers we know have an enviable resilience, and together with the right team and resources behind them, they continue to not only deliver quality care services in these challenging times, but also support their exhausted teams.
Harnessing technology, the sector is witnessing countless online meetings, creating Facebook and WhatsApp groups where knowledge is shared; there’s reassurance from the top, and there is mutual support across services like never before.
Axela has given all its staff mental health first aid training and, like many organisations, has ensured all staff have access to resources to help manage and address any mental health issues they are experiencing. These support tools go beyond stresses at work, to giving guidance to manage stress and anxiety in personal lives too, such as with finances or relationships.
Making Space manager, Judith Oaks points out it’s a team effort in keeping the physical working environment upbeat and humorous. She highlights the importance of having open and honest conversations with staff when there’s conflicting and confusing guidance. ‘It’s also about acknowledging it’s OK to get annoyed and to have times where you vent to trusted individuals,’ she says.
To help with the practical side of things, we are collating and signposting to the latest guidance and advice from reliable sources on the coronavirus workstream on our website, but there’s also a wealth of mental health and wellbeing resources available to the sector.
We have partnered with Big Health to give care workers the tools to manage their sleep and anxiety at no cost for all staff through to December.
Sleepio is a highly personalised, digital sleep improvement programme based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), that gets to the root of poor sleep. There are also tools to help manage any worries and thoughts that make it difficult to sleep and ways to improve your environment and habits for better sleep. Sleepio is backed by clinical evidence, including 12 published randomised control trials and 37 published papers. Key workers can access Sleepio from a computer or laptop at www.sleepio.com/care-access.
Daylight is an app that teaches ways to manage worry and anxiety in life. The programme gives a range of techniques and guides the user through daily practice sessions. Key workers can access Daylight at www.trydaylight.com/care-access.
In addition, our ten members all have resources and guidance on their websites, specific and relevant to their members.
Additional support for business continuity
Knowing where to look for guidance and help in these unprecedented times can also help take some of the stress away from managing a service.
The King’s Fund has a dedicated section on its website aimed at providing support to health and care leaders, working in the NHS, social care, public health or the voluntary and independent sector.
As well as local networks and guidance webinars, Skills for Care has also set up a new advice telephone line and email inbox to provide managers with support and answers to questions.
Furthermore, the Government has recently launched the Care Workforce app , a single digital hub for social care workers to access relevant updates, guidance, support and discounts from their phone. It has also published tips and guidance for managing any concerns and worries that social care managers might have as a result of COVID-19 on its website.
While there is good support available to managers now, let us not forget months down the track, when times are less challenging, the support for care managers, and indeed the workforce as a whole, must carry on to ensure continuity of the sector.
How are you ensuring your registered managers’ mental health is maintained, despite the current challenges? Share your tips and ideas in the comments section below.