"We have adapted to support people in creative and innovative ways."
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit us just before 23rd March last year little did we know the impact it would have on us as a Housing Support Team. We were fortunate in that all staff had mobile phones and laptops so they quickly adapted by turning their kitchen table, spare room or small home spaces into their new office.
We wanted to get communication out to all our support clients to give them some useful links to services that were out there and to reassure them that as a support team we were still there for them. It was at that point that we discovered that some of the email addresses we had for clients were outdated, so in terms of a lesson learnt we now make sure at every point of contact that we have up to date details. This was something we had not had to rely on in the past due to always visiting in the home prior to COVID-19.
In preparation for the team’s ways of working changing, we had already spent some time working on setting up a group phone number where staff could log in and out of when on duty to be on hand for any enquires or calls for support. This ensured that nobody was left without being able to pick up the phone to someone and get an immediate response. This is ongoing and is something we will continue with going forward.
During the pandemic we had five new support workers join our team. As a team we have a very strong bond. We have virtual social isolation catch ups twice weekly and a WhatsApp group where we can communicate with each other. By having these catch ups staff have commented that they now find out more about their colleagues than they would have done previously as our support team was dispersed across Aberdeenshire. We get through our weeks by knowing we are all there to support each other.
We have adapted to support people in creative and innovative ways including where we need to support our clients virtually via technology. This has resulted in increased engagement from our clients. Sometimes they find it easier to participate in support through the telephone or text. We have also made good use of 3 way calls and have accompanied clients on phone appointments to DWP, GP practices and Citizens Advice among others.
During the pandemic we have seen many highs and lows in terms of what clients are enduring and at times have had to provide support in relation to things like mental health. One support worker had received a call from a client who was very close to taking their own life. The Support Worker used her skills to talk things through, get a friend along who could provide additional support and made sure the person was safe with adequate support to see them through until specialist mental health services could be put in place. This included going above and beyond with our worker making sure she kept in contact outwith her normal working hours to check her client was okay.
On the other side of things, we have assisted some clients in obtaining backdated benefits, at times running into four figure sums, which have made such a difference to their lives and allowed them to invest in their homes and alleviate all worries they had around not having enough money to put gas on their meter or feed themselves.
As a team our commitment is still very strong to ensure that those who are at risk and still require an element of support are supported. We continue to work in partnership with Salvation Army, Aberdeen Foyer, Turning Point Scotland and Grampian Women’s Aid to name but a few.
As we reflect on how we worked throughout lockdowns and continue to adapt and learn as we go forward, we acknowledge the commitment across our team. The team has shown huge levels of dedication to providing support to the people who access our services during the pandemic and have gone above and beyond in their roles.