LDN London has awarded medals to all members of staff who worked during the coronavirus pandemic.
The medals are dedicated to the ‘local covid heroes’ at the charity and celebrates the team’s outstanding contribution.
Mandy Crowford, assistant CEO at LDN London, said that the medals recognise the “significant sacrifices” that staff made during the pandemic.
The organisation wanted “to honour people’s dedication and give them a token of thanks that they can keep.”
She said: “When I look at the 21 words on the back of the medal, the ones that leap out at me are compassion, determination, sacrifice, and kindness. These words sum up what made our teams pull through and continue to improve the lives of people we support.”
The medals were awarded just before Skills for Care’s first Social Care Day of Remembrance and Reflection on 17 March, which was organised to thank the social care workforce for their role over the coronavirus pandemic.
The day was also held in tribute to the more than 922 people working in the sector who died between March 2020 and May 2021.
Bola Fashina, one of the team managers, hadn’t been expecting a parcel, so she sat down to open it with her husband. When she saw the medal, she says she “welled up with tears”.
She used that moment to thank her family for how much they supported her during that stressful time. Through the pandemic she had been working long days and often she could only see her young son and her husband through video calls.
Bola also wanted to thank the managers at LDN London, who reassured her and the rest of her team regularly, visiting them in person with personal protective equipment, and helping them through the changing advice and rules.
She said receiving the medal brought back a lot of memories of the anxiety of the pandemic, as well as of the commitment that her team showed to the people they support.
Even though health and social work is not generally appreciated, “during the pandemic it was recognised as a formidable sector in the economy, in the country,” Bola said.
At one point three people in her service had covid-19. “I’ll never forget those seven days, I felt like collapsing – the life of people depended on what I put in place. It was scary,” she said.
The medal means a lot to her, she says, and she gets a buzz every time she sees it. “That medal can never be swapped for money – it’s a remembrance of our commitment, of our passion for the job we do.”
Steven Luckie, team manager, says he was pleasantly surprised when he opened his medal.
It gave him a chance to reflect on how far the team had come. “It’s nice to stop and think – it was a difficult moment and you got through it. To be acknowledged and to get a thank you from your company, it couldn’t have got better. It was a wonderful gesture.”
He remembers how, early in the pandemic, most of his team were not able to come in to work. The team went from thirteen people to just four. He remembers being scared for his clients, and for himself.
When someone he supported got covid he decided to stay and help them. It felt like the walls were crumbling around him, he says. “I’ve got to stay… They’re like members of your family, you can’t leave them.”
Steven says his family were delighted with his medal. His sister reacted like he had been given an Oscar, he says. “She was so pleased because she knew what I’d gone through and what people in the sector have gone through.”
Josephine Petrie, now an assistant team manager, had only just started her job as a support worker when the pandemic struck.
She said that receiving the medal was “a lovely surprise”, and that everyone who worked during the pandemic was a hero and deserved to get one.
Her family and partner were proud when they saw it, Josephine says.
“We see the reward of the job every day on the faces of the services users, but my family just saw me working every day. They said they’re glad someone’s noticing how hard you’re working.”
Josephine remembers the atmosphere of anxiety during the pandemic. She says the feeling of responsibility of potentially having a life-or-death effect on services users was hard. “Everyone wondered if we would bring covid into the service.”
She said it’s amazing that people kept working and showed such commitment even though they might be putting their family and friends at risk.
“You shouldn’t be anxious to bring a virus to work… Everyone has gone above and beyond what a job description could be – it’s been a moral choice to come to work.”