EXPERT COLUMN: Where can registered managers go for COVID-19 support?

Oonagh Smyth cropped

There’s been a huge focus, quite rightly, on supporting the wellbeing of carers through the pandemic, but what help is available for service managers? Here, Skills for Care CEO Oonagh Smyth offers her guidance.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has been the most challenging period for adult social care that many of us have known.

It’s put unprecedented pressure on the 1.5 million people who work in our sector, and in response they have shown unbelievable resilience and courage over the last few months.

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Equally true is that without the experience and single-minded dedication of registered managers (RMs) and other frontline managers, the outcomes for the teams they lead, and the people they support, would have been much worse.

Even before COVID, managers were balancing the competing demands of managing a service, running a business and, in many cases, directly delivering care. Now they were expected to add sourcing PPE, infection control, and organising testing to their responsibilities, whilst wrestling with new and difficult choices to keep people safe and well.

Managers have been providing emotional support, encouraging staff to access professional support to manage grief or anxiety, all while demonstrating their determination to continue to lead by example. But all of that has come at a cost to the physical and mental wellbeing of many of these skilled professionals, who pride themselves on being resilient.

Even before the virus hit we knew professional isolation was common for managers and the reality is that the majority of RMs are responsible for a single service at a single site.

Peer-to-peer communication between managers was important, and it is even more important now. These connections across services are a source of comfort, practical advice, ideas and templates, as well as supporting personal and professional resilience.

Skills for Care Support

Pre-COVID, we already supported over 150 networks for managers across England. These groups, who usually met face-to-face, provided managers with a safe space to share their experiences. As soon as lockdown hit these groups immediately went virtual, and the majority of networks established a WhatsApp group – helping thousands of mangers share information, talk though practical issues or just let off steam.

We also opened our RM members Facebook group up to all RMs and frontline managers. As well as getting some much-needed practical and emotional support, the groups allowed managers to celebrate their work and the work of their teams.

The rapidly changing nature of the pandemic is stressful and makes keeping up-to-date hard, so we have created a range of practical free webinars to help. They have covered the topics managers told us they needed support with, including contingency planning, resilience, supporting team wellbeing, time management, end-of-life care and essential training.

We know the last few months have been tough for very experienced RMs, let alone those new to this demanding role, so we’ve attempted to contact all new RMs, as identified by the CQC each month, to alert to them to the support that is available.

Managers have also called our free advice line – 0113 241 1260 – which is open to anyone has any questions.

Further Help

Of course, we know we don’t have all the answers, so managers who are feeling stressed, anxious or are dealing with bereavement can access free help available to all social care staff.

The Samaritans is offering a confidential emotional support line on 0300 131 7000 between 7am and 11pm. Managers can also call A Bereavement & Trauma line provided by Hospice UK, available between on 0300 303 4434 between 8am and 8pm.

Everyone’s experience of the pandemic will be different and equally valid, and accessing professional support is going to be important for individuals across society over the coming months and years.

Every manager will be feeling the pressures of the pandemic and will already be preparing themselves for what is likely to be a challenging winter.

My message is a simple one – no manager should suffer in silence or alone, so please use any, or all, of the support tools in the way that best addresses your own needs. They will ultimately benefit both the teams you lead and the people you work with.

Tags : Oonagh Smythskills for care
Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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