Richard Wilson
When the clapping stops – care for the carers

When the Coronavirus lockdown first began in March there was an initial period of readjustment for all of us. For some, overnight, working at home became a new experience. Holidays and social activities were cancelled, public church gatherings ceased and, for all of us, our shopping habits changed. Many people simply couldn’t leave home at all. However, for frontline workers – in hospitals, care homes, the other emergency services, on public transport and in shops – work went on, but in very different ways. These people gained a high profile and deserved public praise; many responded well beyond the call of duty.

In that first phase of lockdown we were all adapting; learning new routines, running on adrenaline, reacting one day at a time. It was all so new. Some people experienced significant and unexpected trauma immediately, but it was not until a little later that we could more fully start to appreciate some of the psychological and emotional impacts of our new circumstances. For most of us social isolation and the absence of physical touch had to be accepted, for some it meant not being at the bedside to comfort a dying relative or, later, saying goodbye at a sparsely attended funeral under social distancing rules. Then there was the particular impact on frontline staff, especially those in hospitals and care homes facing suffering and death. We would hear on daily broadcasts of the number of cases and deaths rising and also of a not insignificant number of frontline workers dying. Our NHS and care sector were experiencing new medical problems and practices, often of a traumatic nature.

Into this situation have stepped several agencies and professionals, including the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC). Approached in April directly by the NHS – while at the same time independently receiving a clear word from God – the ACC was quickly able to establish a dedicated Counselling Support Service to help people experiencing difficult feelings, thoughts, and circumstances. “As a Christian body we wanted to do something in our expertise that could help alleviate some of the suffering experienced by those at the frontline of the epidemic and the bereaved,” they explain.

The service is geared to supporting those who work within an NHS setting (medical and ancillary staff) and are being impacted by caring for people who have COVID-19, or those working within a residential care home setting and are being similarly impacted. But in addition, counselling is available to any person who has been bereaved at this time, whether due to COVID-19 or another reason. Able to call on around 250 trained counsellors, the service is offers up to ten sessions of counselling on a no-fee basis, either online or by telephone.

Kathy Spooner, ACC’s Director of Counselling & Psychotherapy, comments:

“The service has been running for several months and we know that it is proving of immense value to people who have been bereaved and/or who are working in health care settings. The service is open to all people of any faith or none. We encourage anyone who is eligible for the counselling service and who is looking for support from a trained counsellor to refer themselves. We particularly encourage people who may not otherwise be able to access counselling support, and those who have not thought it for them. We are conscious that many people from BAME backgrounds often feel excluded from such support, and we are delighted to see that increasing numbers of them are finding their way to us and are being helped at this time.

“Qualified counsellors from any of the accredited registers are welcome to sign up to offer their services through the scheme. Those who are currently volunteering have welcomed the opportunity to serve others from a place of expertise, skill and knowledge, and many have found it a personal blessing."

The public clapping for our frontline workers may have ceased, but the need to provide care and support has not. This link gives further details of this valuable work.