Straight Talk

Karolina Gerlich, CEO of The Care Workers’ Charity, reflects on how the care workforce continued to support people and explains the importance of an open dialogue to strengthen support networks.

The past 18 months have been the most challenging in the sector’s history. Despite the substantial pressures of the pandemic, the social care workforce continued to demonstrate their incredible dedication, skill and tenacity in supporting those who draw on social care services across the sector. Taking on additional responsibilities, whilst facing unprecedented stress and trauma, they continued to deliver outstanding care – putting their lives on hold and at risk. Many moved into care homes and the homes of the people they supported – not seeing their loved ones for weeks on end to prevent the pandemic’s spread. This sacrifice to adapt to a ‘new normal’ cannot be understated – the courage of the sector’s workforce meant that vital care and support could be provided to people at their most vulnerable.

Providers, too, rose to the occasion. Despite being under incredible pressure, a recent RSA report found that social care workers felt they were well supported in their roles. The social care sector came together in the crisis, with people connecting to share experiences and advice, gain support and offer a shoulder for others to lean on.

Throughout, providers, managers and care workers did their utmost to keep each other, and those drawing on care, safe. This open dialogue has built enduring networks of support that continue to ensure the sector and its brilliant workforce grow together.

Social care is a vocation centred around relationships. Those in the sector can speak to the fact that the provision of care gives the care worker a unique and comprehensive insight into the personal histories, anxieties, preferences and belief systems of those they support. Outside the sector, though, the difference that social care workers make to the lives of people who draw on social care is not widely recognised. This is why The Care Workers’ Charity Team, alongside millions of others, tuned in to Channel 4’s social care drama Help (starring Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham) earlier this year. We were proud to see social care workers represented in this moving and powerful film, through which the strength of relationships on which the sector is built was powerfully, and beautifully, portrayed and the dedication of the workforce was recognised.

There are also a number of sector-wide efforts to recognise the workforce and to pay tribute to those we have lost, including planning for the Social Care Day of Remembrance and Reflection due to take place in 2022. We would encourage all providers to take the time to add to the online thanking and tribute pages and to engage with the event’s organisation. We hope these actions will help the sector to begin to come to terms with the trauma that has been experienced, as well as helping to raise the profile of social care and all those who work within it to the wider public.

Care workers give so much and yet sometimes it’s the care workers themselves who need assistance. This is where The Care Workers’ Charity steps in. For over a decade, we have supported thousands of individuals working in social care with hardship grants to help them cope with emergencies such as loss of income, illness, homelessness and bereavement. In 2020, we paid out over £2.2 million in Crisis and COVID-19 Emergency Grants to over 3,000 care workers. We have now expanded our support to protect both the financial and emotional wellbeing of those employed in social care, providing access to free counselling through our partners at Red Umbrella. We urge you to continue to signpost your employees, colleagues and friends to us should they ever need us.

We strive to support as many social care workers as possible and to raise the profile of social care professionals to ensure they are properly valued and recognised – advocating for proper social care reform that will benefit the sector – to include pay and training that reflects the skill and value of social care professionals. Such change is vital to recognise the incredible work done by the sector.

We can only do this in collaboration with the brilliant sector we support. If you are a care provider, supplier, business, employer or otherwise and we are not already working with you, please get in touch today! The best possible way you can support the social care workforce is to ensure we can be here for them if and when they need us.

As 2021 draws to a close, we want to say a huge thank you to everyone who works in social care and gives their all to positively shape people’s lives. Though this hard work and skill too often goes unnoticed, The Care Workers’ Charity Team will continue to support you to ensure you can thrive in the role you love.

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

About Karolina Gerlich

Karolina Gerlich is the Executive Director of The Care Workers’ Charity and has been a care worker for over twelve years. Leading the CWC since March 2020, Karolina has already had a huge impact, increasing the CWC’s efficiency, platform and support giving capacity. She is proud to represent the social care workforce and embodies the mission that no care worker should face hardship alone.

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