“As a care worker I have never seen anything as frightening as Covid”

Alastair Gittins
4 min readMay 29, 2020

Denise Thomas is a support worker caring for adults with learning disabilities. Her employer is the non-profit organisation, Dimensions and she is based in Cardiff. Here, Denise explains why she’ll be accessing UNISON Cymru Wales’ courses on mental well-being to help her with the challenges she faces at work every day.

Denise Thomas. Photo credit: Natasha Hirst

Being a support worker I have never come across anything as frightening as Covid-19. I and many support workers and care workers have been through distressing times on a daily basis; not knowing what we would be walking into and this is on almost every shift we work. Social distancing is impossible in our line of work, especially when giving personal care.

At the start of the pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) was a huge worry for us all; we had very little, just aprons and gloves to begin with. Our employer followed government advice and we were only given a mask if the person we were supporting tested Covid-19 positive. This left us and the people we care for unprotected. Government guidelines regarding PPE for social care workers were very confusing and this increased anxiety levels. Now Dimensions has provided all the PPE we need.

Photo credit: Natasha Hirst

Support workers are terrified of taking the virus home to their families and loved ones, yet their duty of care to the people that they support is foremost; they still turn up for every shift that they can.

Helplines for NHS staff’s well-being and support have been set up and provided with funding. Yet the same provision hasn’t been made available for all care workers, particularly in the private or non-profit sectors. It makes us feel like we don’t matter.

My union, UNISON, has been pro-active and put on courses to support our members, such as PTSD training, trauma and bereavement workshops and other courses on mental well-being. This is vital in this current climate. Without UNISON, thousands of care workers wouldn’t get this sort of training. I am happy that my employer, Dimensions, has recently said well-being support will be provided.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition caused by a traumatic experience. During the pandemic, members from the non-profit sector have worked in different circumstances, many without PPE or the correct support. Our members will need support as any situation that a person finds traumatic can cause PTSD, leading to anxiety, difficulties sleeping and other symptoms.

Denise with Dave Prentis and Roger McKenzie

I want to be able to support all care workers and encourage them and their employers to recognise the symptoms of stress on people’s mental health at an early stage so that people can gain access to the support that they need as soon as possible

We have all lost someone close to us, be it a work colleague, family member or someone we cared for in our services, that’s why I signed up for UNISON’s training on mental well-being. Doing these courses will not only further develop my skills on how to cope with the stress but they will give me the skills to support colleagues, members and family too.

Care workers are skilled professionals and should be valued just like our NHS colleagues. Unfortunately, there’s not enough investment in the care sector. We are always seen as the ‘Cinderella service’ and it’s time we are recognised for what we do with a decent wage, fair employment conditions and security to match.

Find out more by clicking on the bold italics below: -

· Check out details of our online training on the UNISON Cymru Wales Learning Face Book page and our GoToTraining catalogue

· FREE Covid-19 awareness course - application form (use Edge, Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers) or https://forms.gle/vMtTYZS5ccthVheXA or https://docs.google.com

· People can sign up to our Wranx e-learning courses here

· Staff Skills Academy - CPD certified e-learning for members - access the free courses here.

· Dealing with Bereavement Workshop - for UNISON members working in care - find out more and register here.

--

--