The magic of Christmas is often in the preparation, and it is no different for the adult-focused team where I am a manager.
The team has worked tirelessly this year, adjusting to the ‘new normal’ following the pandemic. But it’s not the normal we once knew. Contrary to past years, we are now working against a biting cost of living crisis and a wave of increased loneliness, as some people still don’t feel confident to access the community in the way they once did post-pandemic.
It is the week before Christmas, and I walk into the duty hub to find a social care worker and a nurse looking for ways to reunite a husband and wife, who live in different locations, for the holidays. We discuss ideas and plan for what needs to be in place to enable this reunification, and I leave the ad hoc multi-disciplinary team that has gathered around, hoping there will be a way for this to happen.
This has been the coldest period I have experienced in a while; you need to put on piles of clothing to brave a step outside, while the news brings endless talk of people being unable to afford to both eat and put their heating on.
It is a frightening situation playing out in front of our very eyes.”
So it is no surprise when, back at my desk, I am notified of a social worker on an urgent visit to get a person’s heating back on. Their key has run out, and they can’t access any money to top it up.
Increasing need for food
Once the heating is on, the next job is to arrange a food parcel for them. For the past weeks, we have been arranging more food parcels than ever before. Yet we are all worrying over whether the food will last people until Christmas. But we have averted a crisis for now and will be here to make plans to support and enhance our community’s long-term resilience.
On a positive note, we receive an email to remind us that there are still some spaces left for a free Christmas Day meal at a local church. I know we have been able to direct many members of our community to this. I feel so grateful for the local voluntary services that support us and our community so well.
Soon after, I find myself caught up in a flurry of calls and duty activities; I am ready for a cup of tea now. Suddenly, a colleague appears, holding a hand-written sign asking if I need a drink. She must be a modern-day Christmas angel. I smile, knowing that no matter how busy we are, we are looking out for each other.
‘Supporting each other and our communities’
I know the run-up to Christmas is likely to bring more of the same concerns to our team. The cold is not letting up and neither is the cost of living crisis. It’s been a hard week and everyone I have spoken to is feeling the strain. The team has to rearrange their diaries to accommodate the additional urgent work that keeps coming up.
However, despite all the difficulties, I feel genuinely happy to work in a team that is so supportive of each other and our community. We do this every day, but the goodwill feels magnified during Christmas time.
As the week comes to a close, the social care worker who was looking to reunite the husband and wife informs me they have been successful – the couple will be spending Christmas together. It’s a good end to a busy Christmas week, and I feel renewed and ready for the next wave of activity that awaits me.