Turn the clock back to the beginning of March 2020, we were all sitting in the Healthbox CIC office with new projects coming through and working through our schedules as normal. Within the space of a few weeks, the Covid-19 virus turned everyone’s lives upside down and forced us to enter a livelihood we couldn’t have ever imagined. So, just like many other companies, we had to find a way to navigate the huge upheavals, and fast.
We knew we had a brilliant team but managing a team of staff who you see everyday in the office, is entirely different to managing a team of people and projects who are miles apart, both physically and geographically. It was so important to us to make sure that we kept our staff up to date and well informed on the guidelines, as we’ve always been well aware that we need to look after ourselves to be able to do our best for others. We would soon be turning to Google Hangouts and Zoom for our catch ups and meetings – now the new ‘norm’. So, as a community interest company, who’s daily projects would involve going into schools regularly, hosting classes for elderly people, yoga sessions, counselling sessions, etc, how did we adapt our work from primarily face to face contact to strictly online? We’ve put together some quotes from our members of staff to outline the changes they’ve had to make and how they are actually seeing the benefits to this new way of working…
“My role as a Community Development Officer has completely changed, I would usually have spent about 3/4 of my time out in the community and I am now confined to my home office working on the Cheshire East Council ‘People Helping People’ scheme. This service helps to match vulnerable residents with volunteers who are able to help with shopping, prescription collections, friendly phone calls and other tasks – which has been a lifeline to residents who could not access other support from family and/or friends.
We have also connected people with other support services; for example, we have helped families access carer’s assessments, arranged social care services for the elderly, and helped residents’ access mental health support.”
Joe – Community Development
“Since lockdown I have moved to telephone counselling with all my clients. Myself and my clients have had to adapt to the change this brings to therapy sessions. I have had to adapt to telephone counselling where I must rely solely on the clients’ voice. How do they sound? The speed at which they speak, the meaning of a sigh or a lump in their throat. This has been a difficult transition as visual cues such as body language used to be central to understanding how clients really felt even if they said they were ‘fine’.
‘Although working in this way has been challenging, I believe it has strengthened the therapeutic relationship because we have adapted to the change together.”
Louise – Counsellor
“As a new Social Prescribing service, our aims were to engage with the community and find out exactly what health and wellbeing services were available to them.
Due to the crisis we have kept the same aims but had to change our methods and take our connection with the community to phone and online. To get the message of ‘what help is out there’ we have made information videos and also ‘video adverts’ celebrating the great things that have been happening in the community as a reaction to the lockdown, deepening our faith in the generosity and support that ‘community’ has to offer.”
Andy – Social Prescribing Link Worker (Ellesmere Port)
“My day to day role involved lots of travel around the lovely rural areas of Chester for face to face appointments in different community groups during which I helped people unpick the issues that were affecting their health and wellbeing so they could be connected with services that may be able to help.
Then, when Covid-19 hit, I expected my role to become much more difficult, however, there was a rapid response from each of the rural villages I work with: Parish Councils rounded up volunteers to help with grocery or prescription deliveries and Church groups provided weekly quizzes and newsletters. All of which not only brought communities together but made my life easier meaning I was able to further support those who needed extra help and refer to these services when needed.
Also, prior to lockdown, I was setting up a mental health support group in a local church, starting with RE:SET -a series of workshops provided by Chapter around stress, anxieties and confidence – and instead of waiting to get things back to normal, Chapter held these online via Zoom. Initially I was concerned that “people may not want to do this online”, well again I was wrong as they preferred this option and have asked to keep the group going using Zoom.”
Claire – Social Prescribing Link Worker for the Rural Alliance
“We are currently working closely with a number of schools to deliver bespoke wellbeing support for Yr6 pupils during transition to high school. We’ve had to adapt our sessions to deliver them online and work out ways we can loop into people’s new routines and get them to access and engage in our content. Some projects we have even started since being in lockdown, having no physical contact with those involved, which is such a different experience to how we used to run.”
Sarah – School Programmes Manager
“I have adapted my role to offering telephone consultations, text messages and Zoom meetings – something that I may develop going forward.
My role is usually out in the Community working from several locations to see clients and the Macclesfield Job Centre.
I am no longer on the Covid-19 Social Brokerage team.
So I have been focusing on promoting the Community Connector role and welcoming our new team member and offering my support where I can”
Tracy – Community Connector
We are extremely pleased as a company to see that even during these difficult times, people have come together. Our staff have worked so hard from the get go – we’ve even had new members start who have never stepped foot in the office nor ‘seen’ anyone other than on Zoom yet! Yet, in these unsettling times, one thing is for certain, our passion to keep striving forward, to help everyone in our local communities as best as we possibly can, is continuing to rise, day by day.
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