With the autumn lockdown in England having now surpassed its initial halfway point, the levels of pressure within the care industry are boiling over to extreme levels. Much of the emphasis is on the NHS with concerns over staff burnout, however the same pressures apply in the social care sector and within charitable organisations dealing with those on the brink of destitution and homelessness as a consequence of the pandemic. In this article, Dee Tormey, director of social care provider Baronsmede Family Homes and Mark Goodway, founder and chief executive of empowerment and support charity The Matthew Tree Project, offer their views on the ongoing situation within their lines of work and what changes must be made within local and national government to help alleviate these issues.
While there is understandably much focus on the struggles of the NHS during the ongoing crisis, Baronsmede Family Homes’ Dee Tormey believes that the strife of the social care industry is largely going unnoticed.
She said: “As a director of an organisation that manages a number of care settings for adults with learning disabilities, the levels of pressure at the moment are extreme. There is a lot of focus on the NHS with regard to staff burnout and rightly so, however this also applies to social care, which I do not feel is always recognised.”
Meanwhile, in the background of the current situation, Tormey highlighted that her organisation is continually having to deal with tense relations with the local planning department which is continuing to hamper the planned and approved construction of a new purpose-built activity and education centre for the groups that Baronsmede Family Homes supports in its residential settings.
Tormey explained: “I currently employ two full-time tutors in order to deliver a programme of stimulating activities which can be accessed by not only the people I support in my residential settings, but also others living in the local community. The demand for these activities locally is increasing and my current facilities are no longer able to meet this demand.
“I have a three-acre site here and propose to develop part of this to accommodate the new building. To fund this project, I have also submitted a planning application to put a small housing development alongside this. Originally my planning consultants advised that following discussions with planners, I should be able to secure permission for five detached houses. When the application was being prepared for submission this was reduced to four following input from planning officers. After the application was submitted, the planning officer dealing with this has now stated that we would only achieve approval for two houses, although we are now trying to reach a compromise of three.”
Tormey believes that if the planned site is able to get the go ahead for construction, her organisation would be in a position to offer new employment at a time when redundancies are on the rise and the generation of jobs is sorely needed.
“I currently employ around 30 staff and would be able to create additional employment opportunities, as well as to protect current jobs if this development opportunity were secured. My point in all this is that whilst the government wants to create more jobs and opportunities, it also needs to support businesses to be able to develop and expand, and to ensure that other agencies and departments also encourage this growth. I am sure that I am not the only business that has experienced this.
“Fortunately, common sense prevailed in the end, but it has discouraged me from considering other similar projects in the future. If we are to come out of these dark times and look forward to a brighter future, we need to take advantage of every opportunity possible to encourage businesses to recover and move forward.”
Mark Goodway, the chief executive of The Matthew Tree Project, is also hopeful that there will be more positive engagement from government and local authorities with organisations on the ground, particularly frontline service providers to help limited resources achieve the maximum possible impact and much like the social care sector, the charitable industry has seen the pressures increased on its vital resources.
Goodway commented: “Households that are typically referred to The Matthew Tree Project tend to be those that are slipping through the cracks and are just one step away from homelessness and destitution. We have seen an increase in new referrals of 300 per cent since March, which has increased ever more sharply over the last month as job losses gather momentum in particular with the new lockdown restrictions entering force. Referrals due to domestic abuse are also continuing at very high levels.”
Goodway also believes that the support being offered by government is not being implemented in the most effective manner, and his organisation has seen a lack of engagement from local authorities and Westminster over how resources and support should be provided to those most in need.
He said: “Government support is being poorly implemented, meaning more people are suffering needlessly. The Matthew Tree Project are delivering a significant percentage of the crisis support across one of the UK’s core cities, yet neither local not national government are engaging with us with regards to the planning of how resources and support is provided to those who need it the most.
“Simply giving someone food, which has seen a significant amount of funding support, is not enough and is too one-dimensional when every situation is unbelievably complex and multi-layered. The lack of food is just the tip of the iceberg for the overall problem.
“Going forward we would like to see much more engagement with frontline local service providers, rather than umbrella organisations or national charities, so that the limited resources that is being made available can achieve the widest and most meaningful impact possible.”