Cllr Tessa Hodgson, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Social Services, has expressed her gratitude to all members of the social care workforce in Pembrokeshire, both in the private and public sector.
“Carers have always been on the front line and their work is of the utmost importance,” she said.
“I’m glad to see their status as key workers has been recognised during this crisis and I thank them all for their continued support and dedication to the most vulnerable in our communities.”
The Council’s Home Support Manager Amy Simes said staff had been doing a fantastic job.
“They’re doing back-to-back visits with a positive smile on their face, helping people to get up and about and providing emotional support as well,” she said.
“What they do and the amount of people they support is amazing.”
She said carers often play down their role. “A lot of them say it’s my job – but it’s not just that. It’s about having empathy and the right approach to work with someone emotionally and physically.
And she added that the crisis has meant some changes for both carers and residents.
“We’re working hard to protect and reassure not only our customers but also our staff.
“All carers use personal protective equipment for every visit, and we have procedures in place so that we can continue to provide a service no matter what happens.”
But, she said, the essential aspects of the job – to be a friendly and reassuring source of support for people – has not changed.
“For some people, their carer is the only familiar face they see all day. We’re really aware of how much it means to them and how important it is that we continue to provide this service.”
One carer who says she finds the role ‘extremely rewarding’ is Samantha Williams from Milford Haven.
Samantha, 44, started working in domiciliary care last year after 22 years at Tesco’s in Haverfordwest.
“The first day I was terrified!” she said. “I was worried about messing up or doing something wrong.
“But as time went on I loved it. It’s just lovely being out and about, meeting people all the time. Quite often the people we go and see are a bit down in the dumps and if you can have a laugh and make people smile by the time you leave, raise their spirits a bit, then it’s great.
“Sitting and talking is a big part of it too. Some people don’t get to see anyone else. They might see their family and have a chat through the window, but they can’t come into their home like they used to. They just want to have a chat.”
The coronavirus pandemic has also seen a number of Council staff redeployed from other jobs to help, including 20-year-old Nia Matthews of Maidenwells.
University student Nia has worked as a part-time lifeguard at Pembroke Leisure Centre for the last three years in between her studies in Chiropractics at the University of South Wales.
But when she had an email offering an opportunity to be redeployed, she jumped at the chance.
“I’m always willing to cover shifts and help out so I was more than happy to give it a go!” said the former Ysgol y Preseli and Golden Grove pupil.
Following manual handling and safe administering of medication courses and several e-learning modules organised by the Council’s learning and development team, Nia started working shadowing care staff at a nursing home in Tenby.
Now in her fourth week, she says it’s been a ‘really positive experience’.
“Everyone has been so nice. I’ve been really lucky. It has given me such a massive appreciation of the work of carers and what they do; I had no idea. I’ve loved talking to them and the residents. They’re all so lovely, and they have so many amazing stories!
“It’s great spending time with people, helping them to get out of bed in the morning and encouraging their independence, helping them with their personal hygiene, keeping everything tidy and keeping their spirits up.
“You do hear people saying that you’re either the sort of person who enjoys care or you’re not; but I’m honestly so keen – I didn’t expect to be! It’s great seeing people look happy.”
Nia said she’s also finding time to keep up with her university work.
“It’s more than manageable, and actually what I’m doing is really useful for my studies as well. I happen to live in a house with perfectly healthy people and so I’m not exposed to people’s different complications and troubles, so it’s really opened my eyes.
“I’m so grateful for the experience. I come in helping them but they’re also helping me!”