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Getting care workers through COVID-19

With care workers needing support at the best of times, we know some are struggling. Here, Karolina Gerlich, Chief Executive of the Care Workers’ Charity, sets out how you can support your frontline staff.

The current coronavirus pandemic has made things even harder than usual for many.

At this time more than ever, it’s vital that we support our social care workers. They are amongst the lowest-paid people in our community and are – no matter what some might say – carrying out highly skilled work.

Many of the people they support couldn’t get through without them and we must show that we care about them and want to help them through this current crisis.

Financial support for care workers

One way of doing this is to offer financial support. Whilst those running services might not be able to spare any money to pay their staff more, especially given the testing times ahead, there is no reason not to signpost care workers to outside aid.

The Care Workers’ Charity has set up an emergency crisis fund to offer frontline care staff assistance in the form of grants. Any care worker who has been affected by coronavirus can apply for a grant to help them through this distressing time.

The charity has been inundated with requests since the launch of this fund and is doing its best to support everyone, but donations are essential to keep this going. Anyone in a position to do so can make a donation on the Care Workers’ Charity Just Giving page, and the money all goes directly to care workers.

There are other options out there for support too, and the best thing you can do might be making sure staff are aware of the support that’s available. Money is a difficult topic and staff might not be keen to share with you that they are struggling. But remaining open and approachable, and perhaps even broaching the subject with all of your staff at once with an invitation to speak to you separately if they are facing issues, can help to encourage anyone who does need help to come forward.

One thing you will want to make staff aware of is that Government has made Statutory Sick Pay accessible to anyone who is self-isolating due to having coronavirus symptoms. This includes people who are isolating because someone in their household has symptoms. Whilst it isn’t ideal for providers to lose staff to sickness at this time, for some employees, knowing that they will still have an income might encourage them to stay at home in line with Government guidance, as opposed to continuing to attend work with symptoms because they are worried about not getting paid.

For those who are having difficulties with childcare, social care staff are key workers and therefore should be able to keep children in school. If your staff are having problems with this, for example if they are being turned away or told they aren’t eligible, they can contact the local authority who should be able to help them with securing a place at school for their child.

Housing payments

Ensure that employees who might have a mortgage are aware that they can take a ‘mortgage holiday’, meaning they don’t need to make payments for up to three months. Decisions are made by mortgage lenders on a case by case basis, and this option will need some consideration, but is potentially available if staff are struggling to make ends meet.
For those who are renting, Government has put a stop to new evictions, meaning that tenants can’t be evicted until they have missed three months of rent payments. Even then, landlords are expected to do what they can to ensure people can stay in their homes, potentially including working out a reasonable payment scheme that allows people to pay what they can.

Keeping up with bills

Regarding other bills and expenses, it could be worth suggesting that people speak to their utilities providers if they think they might not be able to pay. One of the best places to get information on what help is available is the Money Saving Expert website. There are details there about which organisations are offering support to customers and what that support looks like.

Offering a helping hand

Other ways of supporting your staff include thinking about what small pieces of help you could offer them. For example, is there food in your care home’s kitchen that might go to waste? Can you offer staff a voucher to put towards their food shopping?

In care homes, if you know that someone’s commute has been affected by coronavirus, is there something you can do to help them with getting to and from work? Could a car share scheme be temporarily put in place, or is it possible to set up somewhere for staff to stay if they aren’t able to get home?

Both homecare providers and care homes could consider reaching out to local businesses to see if there’s anything they can offer. Some restaurants are offering deliveries to care services free of charge, and some local shops might be able to put together food or toiletries parcels to give out to staff. This is also a great opportunity to set up lasting relationships with your local community that can endure long after we’ve seen the end of coronavirus.

This is a difficult time, but if businesses pull together and we make sure we share information and resources, and do what we can to support each other, we will come through it stronger.

Karolina Gerlich is Chief Executive of Care Workers’ Charity. Email: Twitter: @KGerlich777

Share the things you’ve been doing to support staff in your service and help others with ideas by leaving a comment below.

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