It seems a long long time ago when every Thursday at 8pm many would take the time to applaud and appreciate frontline workers. There was warmth, compassion and outward displays of appreciation as this country slipped into a coma of isolation and uncertainty.

There was genuine fear throughout the country and the world as covid unmercifully took many lives. We were all in uncharted territory as the UK waited for the storm to pass and pass it did and here we are. Well, its kind of passed, a few last hoorahs as covid exits left of stage in the UK. Sadly, there are still countries pinned back by varying states of continued misery. They are still in battle mode as they take on covid, we understand their plight and offer our thoughts in appreciation for those frontliners leading the fight.

 

But what about the UK, what about Wales, what about Neath, Port Talbot, Swansea and Carmarthenshire, what about Family Support Wales frontline staff and team?

This small group of resilient and courageous care and support workers found themselves on the frontline toe to toe with covid. They stood side by side with vulnerable children, adults and families as covid unleashed fear and uncertainty on anyone in its path.

 

What does this look like in real terms? FSW team recognises that many families with children and adults with complex needs have found it extremely difficult to cope with the many changes and restrictions covid has caused. The routines and anxieties in the family home, no school, no familiar faces and friends, as well as many more difficulties, too many to mention.

FSW team did all they could to work with many families and children through this tough time. During this period they rightfully earned the Thursday night applause and recognition.

So where are we all now? Surly back to normal with everything hunky dory! Sadly, FSW as a team stand battered and bruised and in need of TLC and repair. This incredibly compassionate team has emptied itself on the battlefield. As a team FSW has given its all to support others, and now as it sits quietly, exhausted and beaten up it looks outward to others to allow us time to recover.

The bits of this great battle that some may have missed is simply this; in order to offer support and compassion to others during covid, this meant increasing the risk to themselves. While many others worked from home or hid behind Zoom or Teams, this team of support workers, admin workers, seniors and managers increased the risk to themselves, their families, children, elderly parents and anyone else they came into contact with. They did this out of compassion, to offer help to others.

Yes, I hear some say that’s what they get paid to do, that’s their job etc. And to a degree you are right, but each one of the team could have walked away from the job and looked for easier options. But they didn’t, they rolled their sleeves up and took on covid, the heightened difficulties of the many families they support, the increase in challenging behaviours, the increased risk. They took on increased personal anxieties and increased risk in regards to their own health and that of their own families.

Sadly, some of the team have experienced negativity, abuse and derogatory comments, a far cry from the Thursday night applause. For some of the team they have kept favour with those they support but sadly some members of the public have turned harshly to the seniors and admin workers to vent frustration and anger. Why would some want to vent anger at a team that has worked so hard for 18 months to go beyond what is reasonable to help others?

It has been disappointing to feel anger from a small group of people who are now in keyboard warrior mode looking to stamp the word ‘BLAME’ on anyone that moves. 18 months after covid, we stand exhausted, in desperate need to recover, to fix, to rest, to reenergise and to get back to where we were pre covid. This transition is proving to be very difficult due to the exhaustion of functioning in crisis mode for such a long time. It has not been easy to carry the weight of our own anxieties along with the anxieties of others during this period. We are now going through a period where we are physically and emotionally spent.

To get back to where we were, we need the support of the team and the many professionals and families we support, we can’t do this alone. We do see and feel the compassion from many families and we appreciate your support and kind words of appreciation and encouragement. We see that most of you understand the difficulties of being a service provider, and more so being a service provider during a world wide pandemic. We appreciate that you understand that we do make mistakes and more so under current exhaustion and pressure. We know that most still understand that we are still having to isolate staff with immediate effect due to risk of spreading covid to vulnerable children and families who would not cope with the disease.

Please don’t be quick to look for fault in a tired team. Please understand we do not purposely set out to make a mistake. We are still impacted on by illness, covid, exhaustion and pressure. These things are real to us and weighing heavily on us a team. We do understand the pressures are still there for many families, not helped by the 6-7 weeks school holidays. These past few weeks have been tough for those we support and ourselves. As a team, if we can support each other and offer patience and understanding to each other we will get through these tough times.

I was disappointed that someone criticised me personally and felt they could do a better job at running FSW. This person has not worked in the care and support industry and likely never will work in this industry. Over many years I have watched Wales rugby team play, sometimes win and sometimes lose. I regularly shout at the TV when a player drops the ball or makes a mistake. Like a fool I think I could have done better, that I could have scored easily. Reality is I’m clueless to the effort and commitment involved to do the job of a rugby player. I’m also clueless in relation to the pressure involved in playing for Wales on a big stage. Basically, as much as I think I know what I’m on about with rugby, I’m clueless to the reality of what it actually involves to play at that level. Although the persons statement was delivered in the same way as my rugby criticism, my disappointment came from feeling after 18 months of hard work from each and everyone of us, there are still some who will look for fault. FSW is a team, each, and everyone of us plays its part in delivering a service to a child and family. We came through covid with no casualties or serious harm to those we support or the FSW team. We supported many families and kept them safe while reliving the pressure of isolation. We supported families with heightened anxieties, children and adults with increased challenging behaviour and we helped keep families together. I’d say the team did really well under such incredibly tough conditions. Please keep this in mind as we make our way through the final stages of covid.

FSW like many other service providers and businesses are still experiencing a sudden loss of staff to covid isolation. On the date of this post, NPT and Swansea were identifying high numbers of new covid cases, even effecting some who were double vaccinated. Despite double vaccination we can be requested to isolate. There is still caution to be offered in respect of the risk of passing covid on to vulnerable children and their families. Many months have passed since we experienced the full force of covid, we no longer applaud the NHS and other frontline workers and many no longer work from home, but with the remaining months of covid, we continue to offer caution out of respect for those we care for and support.

 

Personally, I’ve dedicated 23 years to the health and social care industry. I have spent these years compassionately trying my best to do my best for those who deserve the best. I will continue to try and do all I can for those who have a need, those who are vulnerable and those who have complex needs. There is no need to clap anymore, all FSW and the many other service providers desperately need is patience and understanding as we try our best to fix ourselves while still feeling the hangover effects from a full on covid fight.

Thank You

Clive Pearce

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