9 Apr 2020

'Lockdown' - Week 3 - from a front line Support Worker

We chat to Mandy Kennedy, another of our Support Workers working on the front line.

It’s our third working week now of lockdown. For the first week and a half I wasn’t very well but still working from home doing telephone contact with the majority of my clients. I have a couple of clients who are sofa surfing or who I don’t have contact numbers for and it’s really difficult to get in touch with them, especially if they’ve self-referred and there’s no other agency to contact them through like there would normally be. There’s still only 2 I’ve struggled to contact out of my case load, which is about 22 clients.

In the first couple of weeks, my clients seemed calm and they knew what was going on. I just have one client in his mid-50’s who couldn’t grasp what was going on at all. He has a learning difficulty and he just couldn’t understand why he was being asked to stay inside and couldn’t go and get his shopping whenever he wanted. He really enjoyed coming to SmartSkills before as well so it was hard to explain to him why he couldn’t come anymore. Then all of a sudden, I couldn’t get hold of him. When I rang it just went straight to voicemail and obviously I still wasn’t well at that point so, working alongside Focus4Hope in Brighouse, I asked if they could do a door knock for me which they did. They took him a food parcel and he came and answered the door and he was fine. He’d managed to get all his medication and everything he needed so that was a huge relief because I’d been worried about him.

This week I’ve been feeling much better so I’ve been able to get out and do my food parcel deliveries and I’ve taken some Easter eggs out which were donated to us so that’s been really nice. I’ve taken a food parcel today to another client who isn’t isolating but suffers with poor mental health and anxiety. She self-harms and has bi-polar and struggles to leave her flat under normal circumstances and is petrified of leaving now. She doesn’t have a family support network or anybody else so she’s very isolated and lonely. Noah’s Ark have dropped off some ready meals for her and it’s services such as ours that will really save lives like hers. It is a huge worry. I’d been trying to contact her for a week and a half and there’s so much less we can do now if they’re not picking up the phone. Thankfully she answered and she’s safe.

I’ve been trying to text them all as much as I can. I send a welfare check every Monday morning just reminding my clients we’re still here. Most have been absolutely fine and not demanding anything. I think people need to be aware of those around you who you haven’t perhaps seen in a while. Like the lady from today, on the outside she looks young, fit and healthy so her neighbours probably wouldn’t worry that they haven’t seen her in a while, they’d just think she’s self-isolating or distancing. But in reality, she isn’t OK. We’re all being told to check on our elderly neighbours but we need to remember those that might be suffering with mental health issues, anxiety and depression – they can’t get out to get their medication and they’re frightened and alone.

I’m alright in myself now. Myself and my husband are 99% sure we’ve had the virus, although we haven’t been tested so can’t be sure, but we were really poorly. We have our grandson on lockdown for 3 months because he’s high risk so we’re dropping food off for them and only being able to look at him through the window. He’s only 3 and is starting to learn he can’t come out of the doorway which is hard.

It’s nice to be able to continue to do things for others because it takes your mind off what is actually going on out there, particularly when it’s a personal thing affecting your family as well. It’s nice when you get a message from your client asking “how are you” and “how is your family”. They’re asking after us now rather than us constantly asking after them. They won’t know it’s affecting us personally because they don’t know what’s going on in our family, but it’s so nice that they ask.

There is a hell of a lot of support out there for our clients. We know if any of them do become street homeless again we can rely on the Hub or the Council because there is a different duty of care now. I think they’ve all grasped it really well and are managing. All deductions from benefits have stopped for 3 months, issues with utilities are being sorted with suppliers so nobody is at risk of anything being cut off, phone providers are offering free extra data when you top up and with other charities and even the government offering help there’s plenty of support available. We’re all in this together and I feel like all of us charities are really working well and sharing the workload. It’s the isolated and lonely ones I’m most worried about.

With regard to the team, we have a group WhatsApp chat so we’re all keeping in touch with each other, but also there’s a lot of work that continues behind the scenes. We’re not able to fundraise at the minute and this will have a huge impact on us financially when we do eventually come out the other side. The management team are working really hard to try and get more funds in to keep us running as we are.