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An Outsider Looking In - A Personal Reflection

So many people across Pobl have stepped up to the unique challenges society has faced in recent weeks, be it those on the front line in Care & Support, our Trades team carrying out emergency and urgent repairs to keep people safe in their homes, the Homes & Community staff co-ordinating an incredible response to help those in need of assistance, or our colleagues working from home to keep the wheels turning to support the fantastic team effort.

Many of our colleagues have volunteered or redeployed to assist across our schemes, assisting with the care and support we provide to customers across Wales.

One of those is Sian Gethin-Pymble from Technology, who took the time to share her Coronavirus story with us – enjoy the read, we guarantee it will make you proud of Sian, and all her fellow difference makers who are doing Pobl proud!


Since the beginning of April, I have been spending some of my time working with the team at Ty Eirlys, Newport. Driving home last night it occurred to me that I have a unique window into what I believe to be a hidden demographic who have had little or no mention in the mainstream media.

We hear plenty about care homes, the elderly, children, vulnerable adults with underlying health conditions, people living with mental health conditions – but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard mention the adults with learning disabilities having to cope with their whole world being turned upside down.

Routine is immensely important to people living with these disabilities and all of a sudden they have new rules to follow, they are no longer able to go to work, they are no longer able to see family, they are no longer able to shop for themselves, they are no longer able to socialise with one another in communal areas, they are no longer able to attend classes and groups…

…the list goes on as it does for us all.  But reflect on how difficult these things are for those of us with the capacity to understand the why, and then try to imagine having all of this taken away from you without that same level of understanding.

This doesn’t just have an impact on the residents, but the staff as well. Suddenly there are new rules to follow, which change regularly, additional jobs to be done, dealing with staff being off/new staff being brought in.

There are the additional support needs for those in their care, both practical and emotional, almost as if they are having to absorb some of the distress that the residents are feeling at any given time. Imagine having to do all of this on top of the uncertainty, anxiety and sometimes loneliness that we are all having to cope with.

I have seen how this has affected people, and have had many conversations over the last few weeks about worries and the impact of this strange situation we all find ourselves in. As time goes on it seems to get harder rather than easier. All of that said, I cannot speak highly enough of how well our residents are being supported during the most difficult of times.

I have witnessed staff go out of their way to make lockdown birthdays special. I have witnessed staff accompanying a resident to a parent’s funeral. I have witnessed a decline in how the residents appear to be coping, and how hard staff are working to keep spirits up, in spite of feeling low themselves.

Then it got me thinking. I can’t begin to imagine how managers must be feeling at the moment. The idea of not being able to regularly visit their schemes and see their staff face to face must be incredibly hard. Did we ever really envision a time when managers were going to be asked to manage care homes and other supported living services remotely?

It almost feels incomprehensible as I write it down, but it has become a very real sign of the times! And as well as the usual job of being a manager in this setting, we have now added into the mix the need to provide additional support for the wellbeing of staff and residents, the additional management and pressures around budgets, PPE, staffing, training, compliance – I could go on. I have so much respect for what is being done and the resulting achievements are testament to how much they care. To them they see it as their job. To an outsider like me I am in awe of what has been achieved.

I am happy to admit that I have had my own ups and downs during the last nine weeks. I live nowhere near any of my family so can’t walk past the window and wave.

I worry about my parents being rural and having access to food deliveries. I am Mum to two vulnerable children who are currently home schooling (although I am so proud of them, I could burst). I have plenty of moments where I don’t feel like I’m good enough and some days take all of my effort just to get by.

I try to do weekly Random Acts of Kindness, surprising people who I know may be feeling down or lonely. I enjoy putting a smile on other people’s faces and hope that I’m making a difference to their day, even in a small way. I have experienced overwhelming feelings of anxiety and it took me a while to work out why. I’m always worried about being pulled over by the police (it’s happened once), I get angry and frustrated about the way some supermarkets have treated me, being made to feel like a second class citizen because I’m not an NHS employee – even though I’m not shopping for myself and have proof of this. I worry I’m not supporting my children as much as I should with school their work.

I have days where I can’t face that drive to Newport, even though it’s not far from where I live in Cardiff. I can literally feel my heart rate increasing, sometimes starting the night before. I find it fascinating that I can even track this on my Garmin watch (you can take the girl out of Tech…!).

All of that said, I wouldn’t change what I’m doing for the world. My part may be small, but I think I’m beginning to realise that even the smallest part makes a difference. My family and friends say that they’re proud of me, but I struggle with that. I’m just doing something I enjoy, and it happens to make a positive difference to some amazing people.

Here is a Facebook post I made a couple of weeks ago, sums up beautifully the roller coaster of emotions I feel during this important period of history that we are all making.

I speak with people I know who work for other care homes, and I am incredibly proud to work for Pobl. Even on the days I feel like crying, I always feel supported and part of a wider team all working together to makes things as good as they can possibly be.

I just hope that one day, in the not too distant future, we can all sit back and reflect on the enormity of what has happened, and the gusto and positivity that has seen people from across the organisation pulling together to achieve some incredible things. I for one feel privileged to have had my own unique window into this part of our business, and the faces of Ty Eirlys will always have a special place in my heart. It’s amazing the new experiences we can have if we just say yes! Thank you.

And on that note, I have a bake-off competition to win (doing it for Ty Eirlys!!) and a show to put on!