Interview with Surrey care worker on life in lockdown

Georgia Richardson, assistant locality manager for Dimensions in Surrey, said she’d tried 9-5 office jobs before but they just weren’t for her.

She decided in 2019 to become a support worker for the charity that is the UK’s largest non-profit supporting people with learning difficulties.

Almost exactly a year later, the Covid-19 pandemic hit. It threw adult social care work into a new world fraught with challenges and strains but also moments of inspiration and joy too.

The Surrey Comet caught up with Georgia, who was promoted after her seemingly tireless efforts as a support worker over the last two years, a year and a half after the advent of coronavirus in the UK:

What was it like working in adult social care during the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns?

“I started as a support worker in February 2019 and worked as one in the pandemic. I think the main thing is we’ve really strived to help keep the people we support as indepedent as possible. From them having part-time jobs to attending day centres and social groups…during the pandemic this had stopped so that makes it quite hard. They were going out and being part of their community and then the pandemic happened, which a lot of them didn’t quite understand. We tried to be as creative as we could be with keeping morale high during a lockdown when we’re all scared about Covid and it coming into the care home, and the people we support being at high risk.

“It’s been really stressful and hard. I feel like I have come out stronger at the end of it. I’ve come out with a lot of creative ideas in order to keep the people we support happy and still feel valued and full of life. But it has been really difficult during Covid, which no one expected.

How did you manage to support residents in the lockdown environment?

“We got really creative finding new hobbies around the home such as cooking, a lot of cleaning, arts and crafts, home workouts, books, music, connecting with people who are also struggling on Zoom calls…just really trying to think outside of the box and thinking on our feet: What can we do to make this day better just because we can’t go out?

What was the impact of the Covid-19 situation on you and your colleagues?

“Staff were doing a lot of hours because they were worried about other people coming in which would potentially be high risk for the people we support because of Covid. It was a bit like living in Groundhog Day. I was getting up, coming into work and generating these ideas for them. I would say it took up most of my mental attention, but I know some members of staff did really struggle with not being able to see loved ones. Talking about it now it almost seems bizarre that we all got through it.

Your Local Guardian:

Is it fair to describe adult social care as being in a ‘crisis’ at the moment?

“It is struggling. I can see that working in a managerial position now. It is hard, people turn to it when the pandemic first happened and they lost jobs but then they’ve been overwhelmed by it.

“It isn’t a job for the faint-hearted. But if you have a real passion for helping others then I think you’ll thrive. I’m speaking from personal experience here but I have a real passion for making a difference and wanting the best for other people and that’s definitely been reflected in my journey through the pandemic.

“I’d tried the 9 to 5 office work before and I found it really hard because you can’t see the immediate outcome of your actions. But with this I know that I’m doing a good job just by how happy the people I support are. Seeing the smiles on their faces when I walk in or how warmly they greet me and want me around shows me that I’m doing a good job. There’s no better feeling. You can see you’re making a difference straight away.

If you could pick one thing you would you like to see the government do to help you and the services you provide in your job, what would it be?

“The pay. It would be really nice to be rewarded slightly more by the government. I remember seeing support workers labelled as ‘unskilled’ workers. That really did effect the mental health of a lot of support workers who were breaking their backs to keep the people we support safe. It would just be some recognition that we are doing a good job and that we are seen as a bit more than just an ‘unskilled’ worker. Because a lot of people who are doing this job deserve more credit.”

How would you describe your time in adult social care overall?

All I would say is that this was the best risk I’ve ever taken in getting this job, and wanting to succeed. All I can say is if anyone has a passion in wanting to make a difference and help those who are vulnerable in the community to just go for it because you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

Click here for more information about Dimensions and how to get involved.

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