Care homes and community workers are pulling together during the pandemic to support the people they work with.

Across North Yorkshire, key workers are putting in long hours every day on vital jobs to keep those around them safe and well.

More than 17,000 people work in the care sector in North Yorkshire. In addition, many family carers are providing additional support to loved ones.

We employ more than 1,800 frontline care staff and today we are highlighting the valuable work they do every day.

Jemma Askew is the Registered Manager of 5 Whitby Road elderly persons’ home, Pickering, and is working round the clock with her staff to keep residents safe, happy and Covid-free.

For Jemma and her staff, the happiness of the 36 residents come first, which is why they’ve extended their vigilance measures right into their own personal lives to ensure the whole home doesn’t have to go into lockdown.

Jemma said: “We’ve taken it incredibly seriously from day one.

“The staff on shift in the home always remain vigilant with each other and pull each other up if someone is about to get too close. The only other way to do it is to put the residents on complete lockdown, which we know we couldn’t do.

Jemma Askew

“Residents need to sit and talk to each other, look at pictures, share stories – to take that away from them at this time of life, you can’t take that away from them.

“We are like one big family, that’s how we see it. For our residents, we want to keep it business as usual as far as they are concerned.

“Families still come and visit – it’s just through the window instead of coming inside. It’s important to keep that contact going. Mr and Mrs Roughley, a husband and wife, had a visit through the window.”

Jemma added there are some care situations where social distancing can’t be implemented – for example, if a resident needs lifting or moving – but their efforts in other areas have kept them safe and coronavirus-free so far.

“We’ve had an excellent relief team and we are doing okay with staffing levels. I’ve got my uniform back on and gone out on the floor.”

Although the job is difficult at times, Jemma added the community spirit and appreciation the public have shown has lifted them up.

She said: “Our hands were so dry because we have to wash them all the time, so someone gave us some mini hand creams to help.

“We had a card from a family of a lady who was here and died about a year ago, just saying they were thinking of us and what we were going through. We’ve had flowers and fruit baskets delivered.

“The community spirit has been great – it’s lifted us up.”

Samantha Spencer is working round-the-clock shifts in the York Hospital discharge command centre, helping to co-ordinate getting people out of hospital.

Before she went to work in the command centre pre-pandemic, Samantha worked as a social care assessor in the planned care team and has been a qualified social worker for the past three years.

Samantha is still in touch with her usual team and sometimes helps to support them along with working in the discharge command centre. Team work and making sure you have the support around you is crucial at this difficult time.

She said: “The discharge command centre is about joint working with the NHS to get people out of hospital.

Samantha Spencer

“I work with health colleagues really closely. It’s a case of working together, getting it done and keeping people safe. As well as ensuring they get the help and support they need to leave hospital.

“Although there have been bumps in the road it is definitely working well and is helping people getting out of hospital as quickly and as safely as possible.

“At the moment as well I’m finding it hard to be stuck working from home. I miss having colleagues, conversation and instant support.

“However, working in the hospital and more closely with our health colleagues and other local authorities than previously is a new dynamic and has been a good experience. It has been an interesting experience and a learning curve, too.

“My role is making sure no-one falls through the gaps.

“We look at people in hospital, see whether they are good to be discharged or almost ready, we check the Covid-19 status and how we can support the person. We make sure we know what these people need and ensure that they get it, whether it’s a package of care, further inpatient care or rehab or a 24-hour care setting.”

Despite the pressure front line workers are under, Samantha loves her job.

She said: “I love my job, I really do, even in these hard times. I love the idea of supporting the person to be as independent as possible again and to ensure their care and support needs are properly met. And that they are happy. That’s something that is important.

“It has also been good to enhance my existing knowledge and skills and the York command centre team are a great bunch of people to work with and they are a great time.”

Charlotte Finch is a social worker in Craven.

She works as part of the recovery team, which means when someone is discharged from hospital back home, or into a care home, Charlotte helps to manage their care and ensure they are happy.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, the team would visit face-to-face – something they can’t do now.

Charlotte said: “That’s strange in itself – before, we took face-to-face conversations for granted.

“But you get so much from speaking to people and their body language – I really miss doing that.

“I’ve been doing reviews over the phone, you have to take a lot of information on face value, so we’ve been finding it hard.”

Charlotte was originally part of the planned care team and she still has clients she sees.

Care homes

One of these clients is Esta Watson, who is deaf and has autism.

Charlotte knew Esta would require regular contact throughout lockdown, so video calls her every Friday.

Charlotte said: “I knew we’d need some contact, so we tried the video call and it works. Now every Friday I call her. It’s about reassuring her she’s doing the right thing in the middle of all this, too. We’ve prepared her to use things like Zoom by doing games of bingo – me, Esta and her personal assistant played and Esta was the bingo caller.

“It’s about letting her practice, making her feel comfortable and providing a bit of consistency in these bizarre times. If she has any questions, she knows every Friday I’m going to be there. It’s best for Esta to have consistency, have someone who knows her and knows what’s best for her.”

Esta, 24, from Craven, said: “Charlie just gets my autism. She listens to the tiniest of things and knows how to help, even if it’s something other people wouldn’t think of.

“I struggle on the phone with my deafness and Charlie has always texted me instead, because I prefer it.

“With my autism, I had certain things I’d do on certain days. With lockdown that isn’t happening now, but every Friday I know Charlie will call. She’s added structure – I know it’s Friday, because that is when Charlie rings.

“It’s really nice that she’s checking in on me. With Covid-19, it’s easy to think everything has stopped, but she’s still making sure I’m okay.”

Both Esta and her mum, Ruth, said they trust Charlie, which is so important when sharing intimate details of your life.

Esta Watson

Ruth added: “Charlie is amazing, gets things done and is always there if we need her. She’s always checking in to see if there’s anything she can help with or do. She really goes above and beyond.”

Richard Webb, North Yorkshire’s director of health and adult services, said: “I would like to thank all colleagues in adult social care and public health, whether employed directly by the County Council or by our partners, who are going way beyond the extra mile to support people who need our help to stay safe and well.

“And I would like to thank the family carers who also do so much to support their loved ones. Jemma, Samantha and Charlotte are examples of thousands of people who are working so hard at the moment.”