Leadership in a time of pandemic

Featured article - 15 April 2020
By Kim Carey, Director of Adult Services, London Borough of Bromley


If there was ever an opportunity to raise the profile of the sterling work that is undertaken in social care to protect and safeguard people, the time is right now. Headlines rightly praise the work of the NHS, but there is also a hidden army of people working, volunteering and generally keeping people safe and well in their own homes who deserve just as much recognition for what they do.

The strength of the social care sector has shone through to me. Staff who have dedicated their lives to working with the most vulnerable have continued to do so despite the adversity of coping with their own lives and challenges, supporting their families and loved ones, at a time when many need that support themselves in order to face another day working to keep others safe.

The COVID-19 experience

Providers have been at the sharp end of this, struggling with the delay in getting PPE to protect staff, dealing with high numbers of sad losses of people for whom they have been caring, whilst continuing to motivate their teams who themselves can easily become tired and unwell. They have really shown how dedicated they are and, I believe, need to be valued as highly as their health colleagues. The COVID-19 experience has challenged our thinking about vulnerability, highlighting the difference in perception across health and social care, within council teams and for individuals themselves.

This in itself reinforces the premise that people’s wellbeing is defined on an individual level, so it is in terms of vulnerability. The pandemic is creating vulnerability for individuals where previously there had been none, be that the challenge of getting regular and fresh food, medication, or socialising and keeping in touch with friends.

As a Director of Adult Social Services, as well as ensuring that my teams deliver the day job in these extreme times, I have also taken the lead to moblise the impressive number of volunteers who have come forward recognising their contribution as they are checked and matched to individuals who need support.

Information needed on a daily basis

Creating a hub to gather and interpret the huge amount of data coming in, reporting out on what we are delivering and constantly feeding the ever-changing requests for information on a daily basis – all provided by staff drafted in from other disciplines across the Council - has been a particularly challenging, though extremely rewarding, job.

The pandemic has enabled us to remove some of the more stubborn obstacles to integrated working, driving us forward at a pace that is unprecedented to ensure that, as a system, we can move people from acute settings to support in the community that enables them to return to their homes and carry on with their lives.

It is difficult to draw positives from a situation that is causing such heartache to people in so many different ways, but getting this work on the radar is worthy of mention. So let’s build on keeping the profile of social care high when we all return to ‘normal’ and ensure the social care sector - and the highly dedicated people who work within it - continue to receive this well-deserved recognition well beyond the pandemic.

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