Opinion

This the season to be helpful…

Karolina Gerlich, CEO and Founding Director, National Association of Care & Support Workers Ltd

A time of the year is coming when a lot of people around the country are starting to plan and look forward to the holiday season. Many people around the country will have a few days off to spend with their families or maybe go on holiday.

In social care there is a different story though. Most of us are going to be working at least some days over the last few days of the year and some wont get any time off at all. Rotas and plans are being put together to ensure that people who need our support get the best care there is with something extra special on top on Christmas Day. It is wonderful to see how we are all coming together to ensure that the fact that someone needs care doesn’t mean that they cannot have a wonderful Christmas. I am amazed and proud of the work that is being put into adapting this Christian celebration to suit everybody, no matter their religious or spiritualty belief. I have heard of plans and stories where inclusiveness and acceptance of different views are at the forefront of plans and celebrations.

In between these amazing stories I have heard and read some worrying news and comments: staff in some care services not being given any time off over Christmas and New Year so it is ‘fair’ and ‘easier to manage rotas’; blanket bans on any annual leave in December for all staff and expectations of doing longer hours. This is where the celebration and humanity seem to abandon thinking. It is unacceptable not to consider care workers’ needs to celebrate with their family and have some time off. It is a time of the year where it is more difficult but not impossible to plan. There are always some people (like myself) who do not mind working at Christmas and are happy to do so, so colleagues with children can spend time with their families. There are ways to have people work either Christmas or New Year but not both. In all of these negotiations apart from thinking about the needs and cover for people we provide support to, we need to ensure that care workers are treated with respect for their home life. There is a balance possible where, in collaboration, mutual respect and understanding we can ensure that we do not make people miserable in the time of the year that is supposed to be special for everybody.

It is a season to be helpful: extra helpful to each other in making sure we are all ok; offering each other warm cups of tea on cold winter days, especially in community care; sending managers additional availability to support additional winter pressures and demands; giving each other a friendly call, as when the darkness calls at 4 pm already, it is harder to be cheerful all the time; and checking in on each other, neighbours and vulnerable people in our communities to make sure they are all well.

For many people, December is a very difficult time of the year. Short days and long nights attract depression and anxiety. Holiday season reminds people with no family of the severity of their loneliness. Financially, it can be very hard on many families and I have personally seen people make sacrifices for weeks building up to Christmas to make those few days special.

Let’s make December a month when we all look out for each other more. A month were we use the plentiful opportunities given to us to make our communities better places. Let’s share care out of the care settings, with other people around us. Make special gifts of time off at Christmas, a friendly phone call and words of kindness to registered managers. We rely on each other to make our lives better and that’s the best gift we can give.

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