Frontline workers adapting to “new normal” to keep county running safely

This story was published 17 July 2020

The country is well over 100 days into Covid-19 restrictions and people across the county are getting used to a “new normal”.

Jayne Howarth

Our key workers are still adapting every day to working in new environments and unprecedented situations to ensure customers across North Yorkshire get the best service, despite being in the middle of a global pandemic.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak began key workers have tirelessly put in extra hours, early mornings and late nights, working for the community from their dining room tables and spare bedrooms.

They’ve also been out and about, making sure the vulnerable or elderly within each community is accommodated for, safe and healthy.

Richard Webb, Corporate Director for Health and Adult Services, said: “The team of frontline workers across North Yorkshire have shown how strong and resilient they are, even during a time of global crisis.

“They truly have been there for anyone who needs them and ensured that no-one slips through the cracks, making sure their ways of working reflect the times safely and with everyone’s mental wellbeing in mind.”

We have highlighted two more examples of our exemplary frontline workers.

Robert Swindells is one of North Yorkshire’s key employees, working in the Whitby Planned Care Team.

Like other frontline workers across the region, Robert has been continuing to work during the Covid-19 pandemic – but has adapted in a big way to a new, socially distanced way of doing his job as a social worker.

Robert said: “The biggest part of our job is about communication, as well as assessing people, so that has been very difficult not being able to do it face-to-face.

“It’s about gathering information, developing a plan and forming a solution, all done via good communication.

“Generally this has been done face-to-face, but the Covid situation has denied us that ability to meet with our customers.

“We deal with a full range of people, from our older residents, those with disabilities, mental health problems to those who might be homeless, may have issues with substance abuse, asylum seekers and vulnerable young adults.

“So it’s been incredibly important for me doing my job to adapt in the best way to deal with the broad range of lives I come into contact with because of my job.

Robert, who is also a Safeguarding Officer and Best Interest Assessor, explained he’s had to adapt to be able to speak to people in a way they understand – and especially with elderly people, many of them may not use the technology some of us have become so familiar with like video calling.

He added: “For me, it’s been about having more regular contact in smaller doses.

“A lot of people are feeling overwhelmed at the moment, so it’s important to take time for answers and responses to assess people appropriately.”

Robert added it’s also been important to communicate with colleagues both within NYCC and within the heath service – and says he believes this has been a positive to come out of the pandemic.

He said: “We’ve had to learn to communicate more efficiently across our own teams and the teams we work with and I hope we don’t lose that when society goes back to normal.”

For Jayne Howarth, a social worker based in Whitby and Scarborough, the biggest way in which she’s had to adapt to life and work during the Covid-19 pandemic is not being able to speak to service users face to face.

Jayne, along with other key workers across the county, has helped keep North Yorkshire running smoothly despite the unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic.

“There’s two sides to my job, I’m in the independence team – normally we do assessments of people who are not currently open to health and adult social care.

“We assess, screen and put in Reablement if it’s appropriate or we pass it on to the planned care team if they have long term support needs. At present we are adopting a one team approach across all of the independence and planned care teams so we are doing a bit of everything.

“I’m also a safeguarding officer, so a good chunk of my work is safeguarding too.

“This is how I met one lady, through my safeguarding work.

“She has a care agency helping her at home, but when her daughter had to self-isolate for 12 weeks she went to live with her during this period, so that her daughter could still provide informal support and it meant carers not coming in and out so it reduced the risk to her mum.

“With situations like this one, you have to be aware that it might cause deterioration and dependency having a family member around 100 percent of the time.

“But it was a really positive outcome – the daughter did a fantastic job of empowering her to be independent.

“The lady greeted me at the door when I visited her after she had returned to her own home, with her hair and her make-up done, independent as ever.”

Jayne said small successes like this are heartening to see in her role.

One of the main ways Jayne has adapted in her job is doing assessments over the phone, rather than face-to-face.

“The hardest thing has been giving assessments over the telephone.

“I’ve not worked with anyone so far who has been able to use Skype or video call meaning most of my assessments have been done over the telephone.

“We had one case where I had to make a decision about a long term care plan for someone who lacked mental capacity to make that decision for herself.

“Usually, you’d spend time with them, getting to know them, but under the current circumstances that hasn’t been possible.

“The person was in a care home; it was a potentially life-changing decision.

“I found out family had been going to speak to her through the window of her care home, so I decided to do that.

“We had a good chat.”

Jayne and her team are close-knit too, and despite not seeing each other in their usual working environments, they ensure they are all there to support each other through Skype calls and group messaging.