01 March 2021

CLD staff share stories of redeployment during pandemic

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Community Learning and Development (CLD) staff have worked tirelessly to support emergency programmes across Aberdeenshire Council.

The following four case studies were provided by CLD staff who were redeployed and retrained in new roles while restrictions were in place. These individuals dedicated their time and expertise to services that needed additional support during the pandemic, while still completing their core CLD duties.

Philip Boath, Service Manager for Communities and Partnerships at Aberdeenshire Council said: “The individuals in these case studies have shown incredible resilience in the face of adversity by retraining in new departments, juggling their responsibilities, and of course, coping with any emotional challenges that might have arisen while dealing with members of the public. I commend their unwavering commitment, as well as the work they have achieved over the past year.”

Cllr Gillian Owen, Aberdeenshire Council’s Chair of Education and Children’s Services Committee said: “These stories highlight the wonderful work that redeployed council staff have carried out over the past year. Despite both personal and professional obstacles, they have risen to the challenge and embraced their new roles with integrity and perseverance. I have no doubt their work has made a difference, however small, to the groups and individuals they have supported across Grampian.”

From April to June 2020, Avril Morrison was redeployed to the Grampian Coronavirus Assistance Hub (GCAH) as a call handler, where she helped members of the public access information and resources related to their health and wellbeing. In June 2020, Avril joined the Connecting Scotland initiative to support the delivery and set-up of digital devices and Wi-Fi units across Aberdeenshire.

Ed Garrett was redeployed to Edenholme Care Home in Stonehaven, where he worked two days a week from April to August 2020. Ed facilitated activities within the care home, including meditation, tai chi, and poetry sessions. He built meaningful relationships with residents and staff, and continues to stay involved with the care home.

In April 2020, Vikki Carpenter also joined GCAH as a call handler, where she continues to lend her support today. In this role, Vikki deals with queries related to food parcel deliveries, dog walking, financial support, mental health support, furlough advice, etc. She has also undertaken further training to assist in other areas of GCAH when needed.

Simone Sinclair was redeployed to provide phone contact and practical support to vulnerable elderly women living in local sheltered housing. Since May 2020, Simone has been in regular contact with an elderly woman and assists her with any practical, emotional, or medical needs she may have.

Case Study #1: Avril Morrison

“As a Community Development Worker, I am used to working with a wide range of partners in my day job. However, my work with GCAH and Connecting Scotland has widened my network even further.”

Grampian Coronavirus Assistance Hub – Call Handler
“As a call handler, I was part of a very large team of people who were assigned to answer calls from across Grampian (I was working with colleagues from Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Moray Councils). All call handlers on shift were able to contact each other via a group chat, which was a brilliant way to get support from colleagues when you needed it most.

“I was able to help callers with queries about food parcel delivery, supermarket delivery slots, the prescription delivery service and information on business grants. I was also able to refer people on to the NHS Psychological Resilience hub if they required support with their mental health in these challenging times.

“I have helped people get online and access NHS ‘Near Me’, allowing them to attend medical appointments from home, reducing their risk of catching coronavirus and enabling better use of NHS services.

“I have also helped people join Aberdeenshire Council library and access books and other online resources, as well as supporting people who wanted to book a slot at their local recycling centre.”

“In my CLD role as an SQA Assessor for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), I’ve made use of translation services. This knowledge was invaluable as a call handler, as I was able to put Police Scotland in touch with our Equalities Officer at Aberdeenshire Council to get access to translation services for callers. I have also been able to share translations of Coronavirus guidelines with local employers to ensure information is available to everybody in our community.”

Connecting Scotland
“Connecting Scotland is an initiative by the Scottish Government that was set up in response to coronavirus. The scheme provides iPads, Chromebooks, Wi-Fi data and IT support to ensure the most vulnerable people in Scotland can get online.

“I have been responsible for receiving deliveries of digital devices and Wi-Fi units and ensuring that each recipient on the scheme receives the most appropriate device and support for their needs.

“Some people have been able to get online and make the most of their devices right away, while others have required 1:1 telephone support. In some cases, I have to ensure that accessibility options are turned on so people with limited vision can get the most from their device, as well as provide links to specialist support services like AbilityNet.

“Prior to lockdown I ran computing classes for older adults at my local community centre, and this experience has been invaluable while supporting people remotely on the Connecting Scotland scheme. I’ve been able to foresee some common difficulties that first time computer users may encounter (e.g., difficulty finding symbols to enter passwords and the importance of checking a website to ensure its secure).

“In addition, I’ve ensured digital devices were delivered to my colleagues in Health and Social Care to support looked-after children and those in the Gypsy Traveller Community. I’ve also worked with colleagues redeployed to the prescription delivery team to ensure laptops and Chromebooks were delivered to people across Aberdeenshire, with 96 devices reaching homes across Aberdeenshire just in time for Christmas.

“Little things like this can be taken for granted when you are accustomed to working online, but can be a major hurdle for people that lack either the skills or the money to pay for a digital connection. Hopefully, a few more people in Aberdeenshire are able to stay connected and access vital services during this second lockdown as a result of our team’s efforts.”

Case Study #2: Ed Garrett

“At Edenholme Care Home, I worked closely with the activities coordinator in the planning and delivery of activities. I also worked closely with the care home manager who was particularly involved in the engagement work. I am looking to further extend this working together through the local learning partnership.

“I also worked with other redeployed staff from other council services and LLA. More broadly, I established some links with other care homes through the Grampian Meaningful Activities Network which I am looking to develop further in the coming months, particularly in relation to engagement with residents.

“Initially, due to restrictions, it was only possible to work with small groups or individuals in the different households within the home. Largely, this was a matter of chatting, playing games and doing arts and crafts. As these restrictions eased, we were able to bring together larger groups in the main lounge or out in the garden.

“During my two days a week at the home, I ran regular meditation and tai chi sessions and set up a poetry group. In this popular group, residents read, listened to their peers, and wrote poetry. A video link was set up with a CLD colleague, who led the sessions via a big screen in the lounge.

“Other highlights included doing science experiments with all the households, music and singalongs and being taught to knit by the knitting group.

“After my redeployment period ended in August, I have stayed involved in the home and have been part of their regular testing programme. This has allowed me to support some engagement with residents on their experiences during the pandemic and begin to explore with residents the ways in which their voices can be heard on what matters to them.

“Relationships established with residents and staff during my redeployment have made this work possible.”

“Although I was able to make some small contribution to the home during my redeployment, what I got in return was far greater. The residents and staff were supportive and welcoming at a very challenging time. The experience helped me better understand care homes as important parts of our communities, which is something I will take forward in future work.

“The experience also deepened my understanding of my own practice, particularly around values such as self-determination, empowerment and lifelong learning ,and what these can mean in very different circumstances.”

Case Study #3: Vikki Carpenter

“As a call handler with the Grampian Coronavirus Assistance Hub, I was trained to answer incoming calls from members of the public from Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray.

“The main training was on using the software for the online call centre: Cirrus. The training was very thorough and allowed us to practice with other newbies before starting. Cirrus connects with my Aberdeenshire Skype for Business, so calls come directly to me when I am free and logged into the system, enabling me to work from home during a time when myself and my family were shielding due to my daughter being in the high-risk category. It was also beneficial, as my 3 children were home-schooling (due to us shielding) and I was able to stay at home to support them, whilst feeling like I was doing something useful for the people of Grampian.

“Before each shift we were required to read daily updates, including changes in NHS and Scot Gov advice and support, information on persistent callers, and links to web pages for mental health referrals or welfare funds. Aberdeenshire Council set up a good support system for all this information in Teams, capturing the headlines in the daily updates and providing an in-depth database of files for FAQs and all the connections/links needed to offer people immediate support.

“When on Cirrus, you could also connect to other call handlers and supervisors who were on shift using a group chat. This has proven to be invaluable, not only for peer support, but to share information and ask questions if you need urgent assistance while on a call. On several occasions, I have found this ‘group chat’ to be critically supportive when I have dealt with a distressing call (e.g., domestic abuse, a starving family, a suicidal individual, or a recently released prisoner in need of someone to talk to.

“Some of the topics I have provided support on include: Food boxes, prescription deliveries, dog walking, financial support, shielding and self-isolation queries, mental health and wellbeing support, transportation to hospital appointments, test and protect queries, travel restrictions, furlough advice and signposting for businesses, and vaccination advice/signposting.
“As a CLD worker, I am experienced in working across sectors, with a wide range of partners, and within differing communities. This deployment has enabled me to build further positive relationships with people from different networks and services.

“I believe a strength we have within our CLD team is the ability to adapt our working practice to suit the needs of the community or individual. This has been very useful when needing to work remotely and stay connected to the service, my network team, my adult learning team as well as the new teams I found myself in when deployed.

“I have found this experience to be humbling, invigorating, stressful and enlightening. I am privileged and happy to be part of the GCAH team, and to be able to use my skills to support people in such difficult times and help them navigate through unknown territory. Overall, it has been a positive experience and helped me stay optimistic and grounded through a stressful time.”

Case Study #4: Simone Sinclair

“I have been speaking with a lovely lady – ‘C’ – each week since May 2020, when I was first asked to take on a redeployed support role. She is almost 80 years of age and has some health and mobility issues and a visual impairment, but has a very active mind and a lot of interests.

“During the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, C had become increasingly anxious about the situation and was feeling isolated, bored and a little depressed due to having to shield alone in her flat. Her daughter lives reasonably nearby, but she works and cares for her two young children, so has limited time with her mother. This causes worry and stress for both mother and daughter.

“After getting to know each other a little and chatting though her worries, C and I soon struck up a rapport as she told me all about her very interesting professional and personal life, and her travels to various countries. C told me that she really values our chats each week, as it keeps her connected to the outside world, and she is pleased she can discuss some of her worries with me.

“I have also helped C with some practical issues, such as contacting the sheltered housing warden to arrange repairs and let C back into her flat after she was locked out a few times. I arranged for C to get access to the library’s Housebound Library service, and they have been making regular deliveries and collections to her flat ever since.

“I also sometimes deliver (in a safe and socially distanced way) a few small bits of shopping for her if she has been stuck without anything.

“As we’ve had regular conversations, I have noticed when she didn’t sound like herself. On two occasions, I called the GP on her behalf to arrange medical care (with C’s permission). One occasion was after a fall outside, and the other was when she was taken unwell in her flat. On both occasions I contacted the doctor surgery to arrange an in-house visit that day; I explained the situation to the doctor who then visited C directly. I also informed C’s daughter and the sheltered housing warden (after checking with C that she was happy for me to do this on her behalf).

“C often discusses her care/support arrangements with me, as well as with her daughter, and says she likes to talk things over with me. Due to the contacts I already have through multi-agency working in my CLD role, I have been able to put C and her daughter in touch with other appropriate agencies and have been able to advise them appropriately.

“My varied CLD experience has helped in this role, as I have already worked with these multi-agency partners. My CLD experience has also kept me up to date on all the relevant support services that could be made available to C post lockdown.

“Most importantly, my CLD experience and skills have helped me to quickly build a rapport and pleasant working relationship with C and her daughter, which I think has been key. This is in line with the educational and person-centred CLD ethos to ‘help people to help themselves’ wherever possible, in a respectful and empathetic way.

“I have taken the time to get to know about C and to build up trust with her. I feel it has been important to see C as a whole person, and to take interest in her interests and experiences, as well as supporting her with any issues, worries and practical problems.

“It has been my pleasure and privilege to get to know C during this very difficult time! I was very pleased when she said I had helped her and that she enjoys our conversations.

“Most importantly, C has had another person to talk to during this very difficult time – someone who can not only offer practical information, support, contacts and reassurance, but also another ‘human’ to have a laugh, cry or just a wee chat with!”