As Coronavirus closes one door another door opens…from frontline to phoneline

Have you ever wondered what happens to the employees and the vulnerable people that look after when a service has to shut it doors due to the Coronavirus?

Here’s a heartwarming story of one long serving Worcestershire County Council senior support worker, Claire Bailey.  Following the closure of the Day Care Centre in Bromsgrove where she worked face to face with vulnerable people, this lead to Claire taking on a very different role for the Council.

Claire was more worried than many about the pandemic

Claire was more worried than many about the pandemic with some justification having an underlying health condition herself. Her dad died of winter flu when he was just 46, and her mum and step dad both caught the virus in Spain and had unknowingly passed it on to her step grandparents – both aged 91.  Despite getting a 3am call from the hospital to prepare for the worst for her step gran, both family members amazingly pulled through.

Despite this concern Claire was adamant she wanted to take on a new role helping vulnerable people even if this couldn’t be face to face at the Centre.

As Claire says, “My job is really rewarding supporting families at the Resource Centre in Bromsgrove. People come to us with very complex needs, including high medical needs like epilepsy and profound learning disabilities. I know the difference we make to their lives and we also give their carers and families at home a much needed break too.”

Shifting from face-to-face support to virtual support

Claire knew she couldn’t provide this face to face service during ‘lockdown’ so she leapt at the chance when the request went out for people to come forward for a different role in the pandemic.

Now Claire’s days are taken up with making phone calls to her “caseload” of 35 people, including some of the people who attended the Centre. These calls are ‘wellbeing checks’ to vulnerable people that the County Council’s Adult Social Care teams know need additional support, including people with mental health problems and learning disabilities.

Claire continues, “It’s a really difficult time for people, especially for people caring for others with complex needs. One of my recent calls was to a woman whose son has a learning disability. I know she struggles with her own mental health as she’s told me about watching clips on assisted suicide previously. It’s my job now to listen to how she is, offer advice and any extra support she might need, and arrange practical things like food parcels.”

The new role has helped build my confidence

After 18 years of working for Worcestershire County Council in face to face roles, Claire has surprised herself how well she’s adapted to her new role during the pandemic. Indeed her manager has personally thanked her for her commitment to the different role.

As Claire says, “I’ve had some lovely feedback already. This new role has actually built my confidence and made me appreciate my skills in listening and empathy. Sometimes people just want to talk and I’m all ears.”

One of her clients offered this feedback, “Claire has regularly contacted us to check on our wellbeing and has done a referral for us to obtain potential further support for our son who is struggling desperately to cope with any lack of routine.”

The pandemic has made me appreciate how precious life is

As for her own health and wellbeing, Claire has embarked on a 6 week “Transform your Body” course and is up at 6am before she starts work doing the online exercises.

As Claire sums up, “The pandemic has made me appreciate how precious life is and the importance of good health. My dad died just a year older than I am now. I can’t change having asthma but I can do something about the extra weight I’ve put on – being at home all day making calls means a lot of sitting down. This exercise programme is really helping with my own physical and mental health.”

Asked what Claire would like to do in the future, “I’ve surprised myself at how well I’ve adapted to the new role – it’s given me a new lease of life and confidence and I’ve really enjoyed supporting people over the phone. But nothing beats face to face. I’d really love to go and see the people I’m phoning, and meet the carers and families in their own homes.”

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