2020 – what a year so far!
Back in January, M&D Care were awarded as ‘Overall Winner’ in the West Wales Business Awards, as well as receiving the award for Learning and Development.
Colleagues attended the black tie event at the Stradey Park Hotel and Spa to accept the awards on behalf of the organisation. Little did they know that in a matter of weeks the idea of dressing up for a prestigious dinner and ceremony would seem a thing of the past and our priorities would be ensuring the people we support and our staff were supported and as safe as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This morning, the directors office is a hub of activity with Michelle Martin, our clinical director busy filling up bottles with hand sanitiser so that all our domiciliary care staff out supporting people in their homes in the community can ensure they have sanitised their hands after following the correct hand washing procedure. And Michael Bevan, the Responsible Individual for the organisation has been working closely this morning with the Heads of Service, our PBS team and Managers to ensure that the distress and disruption to routine affecting everyone in our services is managed as effectively and compassionately as possible. Other directors and members of our team based at the office hub in Llangennech are working at home and we are all busy learning how to communicate effectively using Skype and telephone calls rather than our usual popping in to each others office to bounce ideas off each other, plan and problem solve.
M&D Care have been paying close attention to the news ever since the Covid-19 pandemic first hit the headlines. Like everyone else in the country, we were anxious about whether it would reach the UK and Wales, and then when it would hit us. Social care providers are experienced in managing risks related to pandemic flu and our policies and procedures on infection control and business contingency are reviewed in readiness for the regular winter demands of flu. Of course, coronavirus is not the same as seasonal flu and we had to learn very quickly about what additional measures would be needed to support people and minimise risks.
When we first received guidance from the UK and Welsh governments about our responsibilities and duties, we met as a senior team to ensure we had as much information as possible to guide our decision making. CIW and Public Health Wales websites and circulars were studied and we set to work formulating an action plan – which changes day to day as the pandemic progresses. Risk assessments were undertaken to identify worse case scenarios so that we could plan ahead – just in case. Staffing skills and numbers were analysed; Care Teams, Commissioners and Families were contacted to update them on what we were doing and we wrote to every person using our services so that they could be reassured that we would continue to provide support, and how this may look a bit different but we’d still be there for them.
Our staff have been amazing. Some staff are vulnerable due to pre-existing health conditions; others have had symptoms like a cough or raised temperature so have needed to self-isolate. Many staff have children who will need to be at home whilst the schools are closed. Every staff member has received a gift card as a ‘Thank You’ from M&D Care. Whilst M&D Care are able to reassure staff that jobs are as safe as possible, flexible working is available to all parents and options other than SSP are available for time off due to Covid-19, many individuals and families will still be facing financial difficulties. This is why we gave every staff member a £40 shopping voucher to use as they wish. We have been humbled by the commitment of our staff and appreciate their loyalty to the people we support. Social Care workers are frequently undervalued by society and this pandemic is proving just how wrong that attitude is. We always knew this and hopefully more people will recognise the valuable role social care workers play. Well done and thank you to all of you!
Although many things have changed, we’ve ensured that lots of things have stayed the same. The fantastic weather was a bonus last weekend and many of our services held Easter events and celebrations in their homes and gardens. Everyone at The Elms received an Easter egg and enjoyed games in the garden followed by a lovely lunch, whilst at Croft House they held an Easter bonnet parade and decorated the windows with artwork.
We are proud of the encouragement our staff are receiving from the people we support. Reminders about hand washing, respecting social distancing and joining in with the weekly clapping for NHS and care workers every Thursday evening. There is a genuine sense of us all being in this together and the wonderful people we support are making our jobs so much easier by their understanding attitudes and acceptance of how we need to work differently.
Of course, change can be very distressing too. Many people rely on structure and routine to get through the day and make sense of the world. Suddenly finding that you cannot go to familiar places or have a walk whenever you want to de-stress and get exercise is difficult for anyone to cope with. If you have a mental illness, brain injury, learning disability or autism then it can be even harder. M&D Care has a team of PBS practitioners that have been supporting managers and staff teams to find innovative ways of creating new routines or adapting existing routines to be home based. We have seen a pop-up barbers shop in one residential service where one of the people we support got to have their regular hair cut, with all the trimmings – pardon the pun!!!
Ynystawe Lodge opened earlier this year. It is a service that has been designed to provide fully customisable accommodation that meets the sensory needs of people who have autism and other complex needs, and can cope with the rigours of distressed and challenging behaviour. The people that we support there are some of the most vulnerable members of our society who frequently experience difficulties with communication and understanding. Max Cusack, one of our PBS practitioners described this morning how one of the people being supported in Ynystawe Lodge finds hand washing difficult because of their sensory processing needs. The staff team have found ways of incorporating water play into this person’s day so that they can frequently wash their hands without feeling distressed by it.
Not being able to get out and about hasn’t stopped our activities. If anything, it has given us the opportunity to look at how we can make every day more meaningful for people using M&D Care’s services. One gentleman we support needs to visit the shops every day – whilst this activity may seem like a chore or run of the mill to many of us, to him it is essential for his wellbeing. We have created a shop within the residential service so that he can still have the experience of visiting a shop, paying for goods and enjoying the social interaction with the shopkeeper. In fact, this shop has enabled him to develop his money handling skills in an environment that is safer than a shop and doesn’t have impatient customers behind him in the queue!
It’s not just the staff and people we support that are in it together. We have felt a real sense of community spirit with our neighbours and local businesses too.
Castell Howells have ensured we have everything we need to feed the people in our residential services and they offer a delivery service to people in the community too so that they don’t need to visit shops. We cannot thank them enough for this. The news is full of stories of shortages of PPE and this is a very real worry for our staff, the people we are supporting and their families. We have adequate supplies at the moment and in fact we have been able to donate some PPE to other care providers and the local NHS district nurses. It’s essential that we all work together and help each other out where we can.
M&D Care has several residential and supported living services and a team of domiciliary care staff. We have managed our rotas so that staff are working across as few services as possible to minimise the risk of unknowingly spreading infection. We have been able to offer help to other providers and the local authorities and health boards in South West Wales – at the moment our staff numbers are manageable. This is partly through some people we support being able to self-isolate with families or reduce face to face visits temporarily. We are continuing to recruit new team members and last week we held inductions for new starters – including our newest team members who had sadly been made redundant from a local employer, Debenhams.
We have many staff who did not join us from a care background. Initially they were concerned that care may not be the job for them, but some of our most successful employees have worked in a diverse range of industries including the armed forces, hairdressing, retail and hospitality trades. All of these jobs involve the type of skills good care workers have: negotiating, being friendly, problem solving, and staying calm in busy environments. If you are interested in joining us, please take a look at our recruitment pages on our website and Facebook.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our first blog post and hearing about what we’ve been up to. M&D Care welcomes feedback and invites you to check us out on Facebook or online – give us a “like” if you wish.
We’ll continue working together as staff; with the people we support and their families and care teams; and with our local communities to get through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thank you to all our supporters and we wish you well.