The impact of COVID-19 on Agincare and social care

Published: Friday 3rd July 2020

We’re now into the fourth month of lockdown, and as some restrictions start to ease, our CEO Raina Summerson shares her thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on social care, and Agincare in particular.

Getting through the last few months has been an exhausting battle, for all involved in social care. However, the  spotlight on the sector has highlighted its innovativeness, responsiveness and positive attitude. We have seen amazing personal commitment from many people who work within it, and I’ve been pleased to see increased recognition of our teams as key workers playing an essential role in frontline care delivery.

Raina Summerson - Agincare CEO
Raina Summerson – Agincare CEO

Supporting our teams

The start of the crisis changed my working day into a routine of daily director briefings, conference and video calls, both with internal teams and external networks, lobbying on essential social care issues, and communicating with our teams.

We had to keep abreast of the Government guidance, some of which has been changing on an almost daily basis. The issues and unknowns contributed to many sleepless nights, mostly worrying about how we could best support our teams to keep them, and those we provide care and support to, safe.

The management team and I made sure we went out to visit our locations, even though we had to stand outside branch offices and care homes to deliver PPE and offer our moral support. And felt pretty useless compared to the activity going on inside!

There has been constant (and often difficult) decision-making along the way, often based on changing or uncertain evidence. The driving pressure to protect and sustain Agincare, the employment of thousands of team members, and the vital services we provide to thousands of people across the country, has been immense for myself and my fellow directors. Their commitment to this has been simply brilliant.

New ways of working

I’ve always known our teams were skilled, agile and creative. But responsiveness and innovation really has been the name of the game during the outbreak, and I’m incredibly proud of the great projects that emerged to quickly support communities.

Home care provided essential care to people in their own homes,  often in the absence of other usual support networks in place and worked closely with health colleagues, pulling together dedicated teams to help people leave hospital safely, and return home or move into ‘care hotels’. They adapted and expanded welfare calls for people worried about home care visits and used their community links to support in countless other ways.

Our live-in care project work developed to flex with our health colleagues’ demands. And we were humbled by team members’ fantastic commitment as they remained in one-to-one placements to give continuity of care and minimise risk of cross-infection.

Complex care services for younger adults continued to provide a safe haven for those we support, accommodating an even wider range of needs caused by the pandemic situation and maintaining essential care when many others could not.

As reflected in the media, the outbreak impacted our care homes most of all. Our teams have had to adopt many new ways of working. But the way they’ve responded – managing outbreaks of COVID-19, dealing with the usual care, reassuring and supporting people, communicating with families, managing visitors for end of life care and using different ways of ensuring social connection and activity – has been just outstanding.

The photos and videos of life, laughter and ‘home’ have been a real pleasure to see and lifted my spirits on those days when it all felt so overwhelming.

Hem and Joan, who recently celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary at Waterloo Care Home
Hem and Joan, who recently celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary at Waterloo Care Home

Our support functions have responded so brilliantly too, dealing with new commercial agreements, complex central and local authority finance processes, more IT to support remote working and of course the frustrating world of PPE procurement and distribution.

Training and recruitment had to adapt overnight, responding to increased recruitment interest and ensuring robust yet streamlined interview, start and induction processes. Keeping teams upskilled to manage the increased demands on them has also continued.

Human resources, payroll, quality and marketing teams have dealt admirably with the increased team communications, access to testing, sickness and absence support and key information flow. All our services have tried new things, with lots of great lessons learned for ways of working beyond COVID-19.

At times, it has felt like a battle to get our teams recognised along NHS colleagues, but ’Clap for our Carers’ every Thursday and thoughtful donations and communications from local communities have meant so much in keeping up morale.

Donation of Easter chocolates
Many local organisations kindly donated gifts to help keep morale up at care homes

Seeing this recognition and resulting pride shine through our teams, amidst anxieties and tiredness, has been one of the joys of this time for me. The pride and gratitude I feel for all of our team members is immense.

Is the future bright?

In terms of impact on the future of social care, what can we hope will change?

  • We can hope that the calls for real social care reform remain loud and strong. Proper long-term funding has to be a key part of that.
  • We can hope that the collective recognition and appreciation of our social care workforce – and indeed of the range of organisations who employ them across the sector – will continue and gain momentum.
  • We can hope that adults and children in need of care and support will get what they need from a more joined-up system recognising the value of both social and health care, and that partnership working is more effective.
  • We can hope that society and organisations have learned the benefit of streamlining processes, focusing on essentials and minimising red tape.

We still have significant challenges facing us across society and in social care but I am certain that Agincare will come through this, thanks to our amazing team. Let’s hope for all our sakes that our teams’ commitment and care during COVID-19 is not forgotten. This extraordinary time must bring about real and positive change for the sector and those who work within it.