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“Where was the support?”: Q and A with a social care manager about her experience of the pandemic

Clare in the PPE storeroom

BY: Ciaran Willis

CATEGORY: News

Clare Phillips has been an operations manager at LDN since 2009.

In April this year, she gave evidence to the People’s Covid Inquiry, an unofficial investigation into the coronavirus pandemic, which was organised by the campaign group Keep Our NHS Public. Read more about the inquiry here.

Clare told them about her experience of working in supported living.

We asked Clare why she decided to help the inquiry and what it was like working in social care during the pandemic.

Why did we need a People’s Covid Inquiry into the pandemic?

People might be aware that in the news various quarters have been calling for a covid inquiry, which the Government has said will happen at some point. It was felt that there was a more urgent need. There were a lot of questions that needed answering around how well it was dealt with.

Why did you decide to speak to the Inquiry?

Although there is a lot of talk about social care services, people tend to think about elderly people’s services. What was missing was the perspective of what we do. Supported living was kind of left out. What I tried to do was pull together the group experience, from our operations team and our services…to be a spokesperson for all of us. That was my motivation.

What’s been the biggest challenge during the pandemic?

A huge challenge was getting access to the PPE and all the guidance around PPE. That’s not how we normally work because we’re not a healthcare setting.

It’s quite difficult to think back now to the beginning because in all honesty it was a massive challenge on all fronts.

How did LDN cope during the pandemic?

On the positive side, we have managed to keep cases very low as an organisation. And the reason for that is because our teams in services have worked incredibly hard and showed real dedication in a nightmarish situation.

Because we don’t have great big care homes for people, it is a lot easier to deal with the infection control to keep people safe… You don’t have staff going around to 60 or 70 residents, because we’ve got small ordinary living services. I think that was a huge thing that can be learned from our model of support.

What did the Government response show?

There’s a definite lack of understanding about what we do. But more than that, it shows they are not thinking about people with learning disabilities. People with Down’s Syndrome are much more susceptible to covid and of dying from covid. Even when that information was out there, where was the support? We didn’t have it. It meant us and other providers who did similar things were fighting fires and doing it ourselves. We were forgotten about.

 What has been your experience of the pandemic?

Where we could we were working from home and all of us were doing that as a team. We were lucky enough to be able to do it. The downside of that is it felt quite isolating, not having the face to face (meetings). What operations managers do is visit services. We needed to limit that… That goes against all our instincts. Trying to manage virtually, making sure people were okay, was really difficult.

For me, and I know from colleagues, everyone in the organisation has been through trauma of one kind or another. We’ve not had to deal with this before and maybe the enormity of it is starting to sink in…I think we are all living with that underlying anxiety of ‘what next’? But trying to be positive and keep going.

How well did the team at LDN deal with the pandemic?

Fantastically well. It demonstrates the leadership from the top of the organisation and the dedication that runs throughout really from everyone, particularly people who are there day-in day-out providing the direct support. Everyone should be proud of what they’ve achieved.

All those people that were camped out in services to make sure people got their essential support, they’ve been amazing. You couldn’t wish for more dedicated staff over this period. You know, the compassion people have shown, it’s been quite amazing.

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