Every so often a CEO needs to go back to the front line. It helps to ensure they remain grounded and have the best possible understanding of the service that they are responsible for. Like most CEOs I don’t do this as often as I should; there is always something else which is demanding my attention. However, the importance of getting back to the front line can never be underestimated.
So, this week I arranged to go on shift at one of our projects. A project which is quite unique in the homeless sector, a service especially for frail and vulnerable people over the age of 55. A service which supports people who have been vulnerably housed in the past and have complex needs.
Having started my career in social care I wasn’t unduly concerned about rolling my sleeves up, getting my gloves on and getting stuck in alongside some of our team members. Part of me felt sorry for the poor careers who got the short straw (i.e. me as a care worker – it’s been a while!). However, the two carers I was on shift with were almost rubbing their hands with glee and offering to give me the toughest jobs. Although to be fair when it came to it they didn’t; the thought was sufficient. After a while on shift I was just another newbie who needed clear instructions about what was expected of me and what needed to be done.
One of the tasks I was allocated was to go round and take everyone’s temperatures and check if they had any Covid 19 symptoms. A simple enough task and one I had insisted was done across all of our projects every day. However, when it came to it it wasn’t as simple as I’d decided from the comfort of my office. People go out! People refuse (so you need to go back later and try again). People tell you to come back in ten minutes because they were busy. So, to my shame I only managed to get about two thirds of the task completed and I had to hand the task over to colleagues on the afternoon shift to complete. Sometimes the impact of important tasks on a busy service needs remembering. Whilst they are important they take time which isn’t always available on a busy shift.
I was also reminded that the people we support in this project need a very special worker. Someone who has the patience of a saint and a high level of resilience. They also need to be very fit – (there is a lot of running around a large building to be done). They also need to be able to sing along with one of the people who likes a song and converse about sport with another. Our team members and social care workers in general are very special workers. We should never forget this.
I’ve always been a very strong advocate of the importance of social care; it provides an invaluable support for the health sector but it has never been sufficiently funded or valued. We started to see a glimmer of recognition of the importance of social care during the Covid crisis. It is my hope that this glimmer will grow into a flame of recognition. Yes, our NHS workers are amazing but so indeed are our social care workforce. Being on shift with our team members was a reminder of the amazing work people across St Martins do every single day and the importance of social care. I went home with a feeling of pride in our work and a renewed vigour to do all I can to ensure that our social care workforce is valued in the way that it deserves to be valued.