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COVID-19: ‘People are pulling together but the rise in need has been so rapid’

Social worker Jean Templeton on how her charity is responding to the pandemic

Social worker and Home from Hospital CEO Jean Templeton
Home from Hospital CEO Jean Templeton

Published by Professional Social Work Magazine - 17 April 2020. Share your COVID-19 experiences here.

I’m a registered social worker and run a voluntary organisation, Home from Hospital, that supports people who have been in hospital. We help with shopping, befriending, family work, reablement - lots of things.

A lot of people are being discharged from wards just now to try and free up more beds for coronavirus patients. It means our referrals are rising. The work never stops and there are lots of long days.

Food has become a massive part of our support for people during this crisis. We’re seeing 25-30 more daily requests for shopping on top of what we’d normally do. I’ve managed to get one of the big supermarkets to help by allowing our staff to pick food up from their warehouse.

We’re constantly trying to innovate in response to the situation but it’s hard because we’ve never seen anything like it. The increase in need has been so rapid and the referrals are coming from everywhere.

As a social worker, I’m used to the idea of being a change maker or a problem solver. Right now it feels like I’m problem solving in a day the amount I would normally do in a week.

As an employer I need to make sure I have enough staff and volunteers. I also need to make sure they are safe – that includes buying in PPE and changing how we work where we can.

We’re trying to support more people digitally or over the phone. We’ve seen a drop in face-to-face work but we’re still doing some. Everything is risk assessed. We’re gowned up and masked where it’s needed.

It’s an anxious time for everyone. It feels like we’re looking at a storm but we know the major part of it has still to come.

Social workers like to plan things. We have loads and loads of ways of managing risk and for the most part that works. But the situation we’re in just now is totally reactive and that’s uncomfortable. I’m not saying we won’t manage it – but it is uncomfortable.

As a charity, funding is always an issue too. The extra food we’re providing costs money. We had some funds saved for a rainy day that we're relying on. Thank goodness we had that because the rainy day is definitely here but going forward we'll need all the fundraising and donations we can get.

I have a brilliant team of staff and volunteers. Everyone is working under immense pressure, we’re just normal people doing our best. We’ve had people at the city healthcare partnership and other third sector organisations ringing up, checking in on us and offering to help where they can. That all makes a difference.

People are really pulling together and looking out for each other. This is such a hard time for so many families. But all of our skills are needed and are coming into their own.

For more on Jean's charity see www.hchfh.org.uk

Do you have experiences, thoughts or feelings of social work during the COVID-19 pandemic you would like to share with Professional Social Work magazine? Click here to find out how

This article is published by Professional Social work magazine which provides a platform for a range of perspectives across the social work sector. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the British Association of Social Workers.