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How our Scotland residential services continued to deliver quality care to young people during a pandemic

Friday 30 April 2021
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As lockdown begins to ease, we reflect on how our services got through the challenges of coronavirus

Despite the many challenges that the pandemic has created, Action for Children have managed to keep 99% of our services open since it began.

Our residential services provide accommodation for vulnerable young people who have various support needs. Our service users receive a high level of social and emotional support to make positive life choices and build resilience.

Barbara Keenan, Children's Services Manager for South West Scotland, oversees a cluster of services including two residential services and a family support service, Upper Nithsdale Family Project.

Barbara reflects on the impact the pandemic had on her services and how they adapted:

The challenges faced

“Delivering residential services during Covid has been challenging for staff, just as living with the Covid restrictions have been hard for the young people we support.

Barbara highlighted the following as the main challenges her services faced:

  • Staff absence due to Covid or due to self isolating via track and trace.
  • Changes to working practices to implement social distancing and high level PPE.
  • Supporting young people at close contact who tested positive for Covid.
  • Supporting young people who were struggling emotionally due to the restrictions on their freedom.
  • Limited options for outings and social interaction.

“The young people we support already face additional barriers in life. And Covid only amplified this.

"They have experienced social isolation, separation from friends and family, loss of routine of school or college, reduced options for activity and recreation and having to spend a lot more time in the houses and with their support teams.

"There was a clear impact on mental health and emotional wellbeing, which was reflected in their choices and behaviours."

Staff put aside their own fears and difficulties and continued to deliver a high level of care and support.

Barbara Keena, Children's Services Manager
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Staff from one of the residential houses wearing IIR masks, which all staff wear at all times on shift to minimise potential transmission of Covid.

Maintaining a high level of care for young people

“To try and counter this impact, staff put aside their own fears and difficulties and continued to deliver a high level of care and support, thinking creatively about how to engage the young people positively within the houses and gardens and to provide the best social and recreational opportunities they could in line with national Covid guidelines.”

“An example of the quality of care given to the young people was over the festive period when one of our residential young men contracted Covid the week before Christmas. This meant that he would not be able to spend the day with his family as planned and nor would the other young man who lives alongside him.

“Despite the impact on their own selves and having to sacrifice time with their own families, the team pulled together and did all they could to make the best of the situation. We purchased portals to enable 3D video calling to their families on Christmas Day and had a festive meal and all the usual activities. As a result of staff dedication and commitment, both young people had a good festive experience, and their families were also able share their company virtually.”

The positive impact made on families

Our short breaks services provide a variety of opportunities and activities for vulnerable children. They can have fun, gain independence, and learn and develop while their families get to take a much needed break from their full time caring role.

One of our short breaks service managers received a letter from the dad of a young person who had accessed the service during lockdown. Her dad was concerned by the impact the pandemic had on her emotional wellbeing.

The letter read: “S has found lockdown a very negative experience and has been very reclusive. She has not wanted to leave her bedroom and some days she didn't want to even get out of bed.

“Her mindset changed just at the mention of coming to stay. This is testament to the positive impact your staff have.

“Since the visit, S has been spending more time with the family and using her trampoline again, so the positive impact didn't end with the break.

“I want to thank you and your staff for playing such a vital role in easing her anxiety and helping her re-engage with the world around her.”

Looking ahead to a new normal

It has been a difficult time for everyone. Our staff have shown commitment and dedication to continue making a difference to the young people we support.

We’re now looking ahead to coping with the new normal.

The support that you give us allows us to continue keeping our services open and to make sure that vulnerable children and young people receive quality care.

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