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Delivering adult social care support in Cornwall during the pandemic

Soon after the Government announced the lockdown, Cornwall Council’s adult social care services adopted new ways of working to ensure that people who needed care in Cornwall still received the support they needed, with an anticipated much higher demand for services.

This meant working much more closely with colleagues in the NHS, and social work teams across Cornwall soon looked a lot different to how they did previously.

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Principal social worker for older adults, Tonya MacKenzie-Burke, is part of a team that has brought together representatives from social care, district nurses, occupational therapists, and Volunteer Cornwall. They are working as a united team to support the increased number of vulnerable residents who need help at this very difficult time.

“Our role is to prioritise all new referrals coming in and to decide which service is best placed to provide the care that’s requested.

The teams had different working styles and many of us have had to adapt to working longer days and to cover 8am-8pm, 7 days a week. All normal work and family routines have gone out of the window. We just work the extra hours to cover whatever needs to be done. Balancing the needs of those we support, with ensuring that we also care for each other is vital to making this new way of working successful. 

There’s really no typical working day any more but I usually get to Chy Trevail in Bodmin before 8am – it’s really strange not seeing anyone around!

Most of my colleagues are working remotely from home so no worries about social distancing.

The day starts by thoroughly cleaning the desk and equipment.

We then check that the social workers and case co-ordinators due to be working that day are safe and well and ready to get started.

Then it’s time for the team to ‘virtually meet’ for the first meeting of the day. Skype has now become a way of life for supervision and team contact and support. It’s good as we can all see each other which is really good for morale especially as we normally work together 5 days a week.

‘Sitting’ with our health colleagues, we take the first check of the day to talk about all the new referrals that have come in. They keep coming in throughout the day – we’re dealing with over 300 a week.

As one team, we look at each referral and, unless it is very obvious such as a request for a blood test, we will look at each one to decide which service needs to respond - and then arrange for the work to be done.

One referral we received was a resident who needed some personal care, some medication collected from the chemist and help with shopping and cooking.

The voluntary service was able to help with meal planning, shopping and collecting medication. Another team member found an agency to provide the long-term personal care and while this was being sorted out they also found someone to visit the resident to give them the more immediate care they needed.

My new routine at the end of the day, when it eventually comes, is yet more cleaning ready for the next day! Then it’s time to go home….