Q: How are we going forward with 1-1 counselling? With 2m distance out of buildings and potentially into people’s homes?

A: We are currently staying with Government Guidance that if you can work from home then you should continue to do so. Before we return to offices, we are guided by 3 tests – Government guidance, Local Guidance (offices, landlords, commissioners) and the Health, Safety and Welfare of Carers, Volunteers, Staff and Public. As we employ over 50 staff and volunteers we need to provide full risk assessments & publish them on our website before we can return to any offices. As for face to face counselling in carers home, it is not something that the Emotional Wellbeing Team Leader Lyn Chappell has considered, and we would need PPE to do this. We have taken the counselling service to a telephone service and would want to use these preferable options for people’s safety and wellbeing. This is proving successful but for some carers we appreciate they don’t have a private space to do this and it is not always an option, but we have been able to continue with the service during this time.

Q: What will happen with groups – will the walking group start back first as they are a safer option than the face to face groups where you sit around in a room?

A: We are currently working on the safest option for all involved taking into account the 3 tests mentioned above.  Although we understand the importance and value from carers of peer to peer support, many carers will be nervous to meet given the risk to vulnerable people they care for. Some of our respite providers that we work with may be able to provide a larger space for us to do this. I do not for see us returning to face to face groups until at least Autumn/Winter of this year.

Walking group would possibly be the safest group but there is the “flume” to be considered in terms of the risk of spreading the virus, walking side by side is more safe option than meeting face to face but again some people may get out of breath and this would cause another risk. We don’t want to make anyone unwell or sick because of our activities. We have had excellent feedback from the 3 virtual groups that have been run so far.

Q: How much notice will we get when we return to office volunteering?

A: Minimum of 3 weeks and we would issue all the risk assessments and understanding of the rules within the office spaces.

Q: I was told I would get a laptop to volunteer from home and then that offer was withdrawn.

A: The move from office to home happened quite quickly and we had to prioritise the IT equipment for staff working from home. We apologise for any confusion caused and once we can get back to the offices we can reintroduce the volunteer admin roles. We have 43 volunteers who are unable to volunteer at the moment due to the current situation.

Q: How is the Charity as a whole doing?

A: It was very quiet at the start and we have put a huge resource into communicating that we are here for our carers. During the first 3-4 weeks things were changing rapidly, and we have been dealing with different issues as the weeks have progressed i.e campaigned for carers to be recognised as key workers, and getting PPE for them. Right now we are asking for WSCC to support carers with free PPE as they do in Brighton and Hove. The fund can be used for this, but the costs of PPE means it does not last long.

Many of our services have continued, from providing equipment to wellbeing fund, which has been able to adapt to the current situation. We have not furloughed any staff, everyone is working from home. WSCC will have a 20% shortfall from the costs of Covid and the shortfall in the financial support they have been given from the Government. We have been applying for additional funding for around 80k and have been successful for grants of 20k.

We need to keep being adaptable and agile, ensuring we continue to support our carers and staff. 60% of staff as well as volunteers are carers themselves and we all have additional pressures. Working from home can be a more intense experience, with potential caring and childcare responsibilities and people becoming more tired using Zoom/video every day.

We have a great team of staff and going forward we will all be here to support carers through this time in particular a focus on mental health and wellbeing for carers and the cared for. We are currently dealing with around 50 response line calls a day in addition to our usual contacts and workers are making around 80 contacts a day to carers that we have been involved in. We are registering new carers all the time and we have been reaching out to Care Homes for our information to go out to carers who are facing difficult times with access to their loved ones.