Stef Lunn: 3 minute read

Sharing best practice

Less than six months ago it would have been unthinkable. With ongoing pleas that proper attention be paid to the worsening social care crisis being left, unanswered, who could have imagined the new Thursday night ritual? Who would have predicted that more than half the nation would embrace a weekly celebration to thank key workers, including all of those providing social care, for the essential work they do on a daily basis?

Yet very quickly, this has become the new normal and offers a sense of pride and togetherness. This newly adopted, joyful (and sometimes very loud) event in the weekly social calendar comes in the wider context of unprecedented challenge, hardship, loneliness and for many, deep sadness and loss.

Our communities have responded to this crisis with their finest qualities. Enthusiasm, generosity and kindness, these have been exemplified by the actions of so many, with more than half a million new volunteers coming forward for the NHS at the time of asking. This overwhelming number saw the scheme struggle to manage the initial volume of offers.

Alongside this, we saw the determination of one war veteran, who has raised more than £31million pounds* for the NHS (and an unexpected 25,000 cards for his 100th Birthday). To support all of the activity that has been undertaken, we have seen a myriad of online and telephone help that has been offered to support people struggling emotionally at this difficult time. It is clear that people are pulling together.

Organisation and pragmatism

Amidst the goodwill generated in response to the current adversities, the role of Local Authorities remains key. Central government directed the creation of Community Hubs as organising bodies, designed to harness the power of the local community, to support coordinated response across community healthcare providers, social services, voluntary groups, transport providers and all other responders.

These hubs co-ordinate hospital discharge, offering resettlement support, whatever form this might take. They support a whole ‘new’ cohort of shielded individuals, many of whom would not previously have come to the attention of the Local Authority. This requires new ways of working in the wider uncharted situation of a pandemic, and Local Authorities are rising to this challenge.

The pandemic has caused an urgent need for partner agencies to work together more closely than ever before, and over the past few weeks, we have seen that ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ spirit. The willingness of individuals and organisations to build partnerships, to forge closer ties and to work as a team has overcome so many of the traditional barriers which had, for years, prevented closer collaboration.

The notion that remote (as opposed to co-located) teams, working for different organisations, without pre-existing interpersonal relationships could swiftly form an effective working unit would also have been unthinkable before. It seems that determination has won out amongst our health and social care teams in their creation of these Community Hubs, and they continue to develop practical solutions to overcome the unprecedented challenges that Covid-19 presents.

Social Care has always been about dealing with difficulty, change, problems and crisis, and so perhaps we should not be so surprised at the examples of innovation, big and small, that we have encountered over these past few weeks.

Sharing solutions

We have seen some great solutions that enable us to stay physically distant whilst remaining both professionally and socially close. The live streaming of events has taken off in unprecedented numbers, with families also using video calls to keep in touch. Social care innovates in this area too; from the small scale day services connecting people through bingo via calls to apps, managing a database of responders and offering a kind of micro procurement seldom seen, the way we use technology has been catalysed by the need for physical distance.

Our willingness to share personal lockdown ‘lifehacks’ offers comfort, entertainment and a sense of togetherness. Social Care leaders can learn a great deal from one another if we have the courage to share our challenges and successes. By sharing this good practice, we will continue to be stronger together throughout and beyond the Covid-19 crisis.

*Accurate at time of writing.