So, like all other advocacy services across the country, here at Ceartas, we are all in lockdown and working remotely from home. As most of you know there is no “ordinary” day in advocacy at the best of times and our current times have brought us a little more of the “extraordinary” Our Services manager Sharon Bairden explains further…

8am: Set up my workstation for the day; I log into our system and the phones and check for emails and voicemails from the night before. I note down messages to be passed on to the team and deal with any emails that I can and forward the rest on to the appropriate member of staff. I then check through the team task list and my own “to do list” for any items outstanding from the day before and prioritise these for the day ahead.

9am: We’ve worked to ensure that all staff can work remotely from home and as long as they are connected to the internet it continues to function well. This has included rerouting phone systems, emails, shared drives, database entries, learning about Zoom and of course co-ordinating Whatsapp groups!

In preparation for the rest of the team logging on I send out a morning welcome email. It is important to maintain a regular contact with the team and ensure that everyone understands the tasks to be completed that day. As we are not in the office, it is also important to give everyone a reminder of the availability of the rest of the team to allow people on their days off to have a break. This also allows us to check for any IT/remote working issues in preparation for the day ahead.

As we are not providing face to face advocacy or group work the team maintain connection with individuals we work with through regular telephone calls. We check in to see if there are any issues we can help with over the phone but also to help link people into practical assistance being provided by the third sector and volunteers across our community. People have welcomed these calls, not only as a means of staying connected but also sometimes as just having someone to listen as they struggle with the changes to their lives at the minute.

With most hospitals and care homes being closed to non-essential visitors we maintain our links with the wards through phone outreach once a week. The advocacy workers liaise with hospital staff over legislative work and look at ways in which contact can be made if hospital visits are not possible.

10am: Around this time, I check in with our CEO and Finance Manager; we go over any changes in National and Local Government guidance which will impact on our work; continue to work on plans for future service development, fundraising opportunities and to discuss ongoing contingency planning for the service in these current times. This includes how we will begin to deliver groups online to the individuals who have access to the internet otherwise we will continue to keep in touch via the phone.

11am: Check the case management system for any new referrals and ongoing casework issues and check in with individual advocacy workers if there is any information that needs to be passed on.

12 noon: Check in with our marketing assistant regarding any social media updates. During this time we are working to keep our social media and website up to date. We include updated official guidance and try to seek out easy read versions of this to make it as accessible as possible. We are also being as creative as we can be to try and bring our service and our team to those isolated in their homes. Michelle our Dementia Link Worker has been providing Playlist for Life sessions and tips on creating memory boxes and life story work are also in the pipeline.

We also try to bring a smile to the faces of our social media followers; most of the team are pet owners and we have daily pictures and videos of our pets in various work poses; it’s important that not everything we do is related to the outbreak.

2pm: After lunch I usually check in with the team again just to see how their morning has been. As a team, we are also used to working together so things are very different for us now.  It’s important that we all keep in touch with each other and we do this through email, WhatsApp and phone conferencing. Keeping in touch isn’t just about sharing information though, it also helps maintain a connection with the team and helps ensure we are not struggling with feelings of isolation.

3pm -5pm: We have found that this tends to be the quietest part of the day since remote working began and this is the time that most of the team spend doing their case notes; writing up case studies and any admin and development work. We continue to operate our duty system via the phones between 9am-5pm so there is always someone available to take a call. We expect this to grow in intensity as we have joined forces with the local Third sector interface, Citizen Advice Bureau and Carers Centre in resourcing an information helpline to identify those most at risk in our local community and enable them to access the appropriate support.

Finally, I plan out the tasks for the following day and prioritise any casework to be completed in preparation for the morning team email and conclude with a final team check in and senior management call to ensure that the day has gone to plan, as much as is possible, in these challenging times.

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