CEO Blog – Living With COVID

CEO’s Blog September 2022

I have been taking some time to try and get an up to date ‘feel’ for where we are as an organization in relation to COVID; this is in relation to the relaxing of almost all restrictions and the move to a government message of ‘living with COVID’. However, this is not easy exercise.

We support around 450 people with a disability some of whom live in care homes, some in supported living and some with their families. With the exception of care homes, all mandatory restrictions have been lifted and we can exercise our own discretion which allows us to consult with each group about their views and ‘risk appetite’. We would welcome this discretion being allowed within our care homes which are all very small (between 4 and 10 people).

Whilst the vast majority of the people we support have been vaccinated, some have not, and speaking with many, their feelings about COVID are, unsurprisingly, enormously varied.

The COVID related pressures on you if you are a person with a disability are huge; we know that as a group those people with a learning disability are up to 30 times more likely to die from COVID, and then we read that twice as many people died of COVID this Summer as compared to last Summer! On the other hand, this group of people are much more likely to be adversely affected by restrictions to their social lives e.g., if visits to their home are restricted or if their support staff are wearing masks, with the impact this has on their ability to hear and to lip read.

We also support many people who have no concept of a pandemic, and will have been puzzled and frustrated by the changes to their lives over the last few years which, to them, will have come out of nowhere.

With regards to our staff, we employ around 500 people, each with their own take on COVID, and whilst there was limited vaccine hesitancy the first time around I wonder if the more relaxed approach being advocated will lead to a poorer take up of the booster when it becomes available. I feel too that the cost-of-living crisis has shunted COVID aside for the time being. I do, however, detect a clear and increasing appetite for more face-to-face meetings and visits (which I welcome), and personally I worry that we can take on new staff that I may not get to meet for months and months.

So, what is my conclusion? It is that it is impossible to have one consistent response when we are considering almost 1000 individuals who will each have a circle of family and friends.

We have always striven to be adventurous and curious as an organization, and not to be risk averse but, as a balance to that, we must always be mindful of our moral and legal duty of care to those we support.

After all of that pondering I think it simply comes down to the core principle underlining all that we do… let the people we support decide.