Resilience within our communities is promoted and people are supported to fulfil their potential by actively encouraging and supporting people who need care and support, including carers, to learn, develop and participate in society
Conwy Family Centres
The five Family Support Teams have adapted to make sure that families have all the support they need during this most strange and difficult of years. As we are finding alternative ways of engaging and communicating with families we have established new projects and partnerships. It was lovely for this hard work to be acknowledged by being ’highly commended’ finalists in the Social Care Accolades in November under the Building Bright Futures with Children and Families category. We also had the opportunity to share our work in a Wales Audit Office blog. Here are some examples of what we have done this year:
Open access provision for all families
- Zoom groups, including cuppa and chats, baby clubs in partnership with Health Visitors, and savings clubs
- Establishing our web pages as a hub of information and activities: www.conwy.gov.uk/familylife
- Hosting ‘ParentTalk’ webinars and bitesize clips on topics such as sleep routines, supporting children’s emotional well-being, grief and loss, and child development
- Well-being activities such as small group walks and play sessions
Targeted provision for families
- Adapting our parenting provision to run informal and formal courses on Zoom
- Themed sessions and courses such as Seasons for Growth for parents on bereavement, and Separation and Divorce peer support groups
- Using closed schools and Conwy Castle to provide play spaces for anxious families with limited outdoor access during lockdown
One to one provision for families
- Our Family Workers have been flexible and more available than ever for families during this period, using doorstep visits, delivering food parcels and resources, craft packs, walks, video calls and regular well-being checks
- Identifying further avenues of support for families through the Vulnerable Learners panel and referrals to our partners
- Community clothes swap in the east of Conwy with local charities and community groups
- Enhanced provision, like Conwy Mind Family Worker, Crossroads Carers additional respite sessions, Play, Babi Actif for pre-schoolers
- Delivering webinars and developing bitesize video clips with Conwy Education Psychologists, sleep practitioner, and parenting practitioner
- We have been working more closely with schools and the Community Police to engage with families
We launched an ongoing survey with families this year, based on our Service Standards.
Here is some of the feedback we received:
My family worker was there when I needed her, especially when it was lockdown she would call me in the evening and weekends because I was lonely.
I got support for me, supporting letters to different agencies and was put forward for a day out at the castle and play scheme.
Taking steps to be more confident in certain areas will take time for me, although knowing that the door is always open is very reassuring.
The team were always very polite and welcoming. I always felt so much better after talking with my family worker. She is so committed, passionate and non-judgemental to help and support me and us as a family. Even through the pandemic she took time to check in with us. The calls were never rushed, giving me / us that sense of being valued and respected. Thank you.
Providing Online Community Wellbeing Activities
The Community Wellbeing Team has had to devise new ways to provide support during the Covid-19 pandemic, so during this period they went virtual, offering a range of free online activities for adults living in Conwy to participate in. Initially the team mapped out existing provision in order to identify any gaps. Various sessions such as yoga, chair exercises, stress and anxiety courses, bingo and singing were developed and offered online via Zoom.
Feedback has been very positive
I am new to the area and shielding; these sessions have been an absolute lifeline for me, thank you for organising.Chair exercise participant
Thoroughly enjoyed this session tonight with Paula and the Conwy Wellbeing team. Extremely relaxing. I would highly recommend anyone to join in these sessions to de-stress and gently stretch.Yoga participant
I think it’s amazing work you guys are doing at this current time. Trying to lift the mood of everyone and getting people smiling. Good work.Singing participant
Thank you for organising the singing sessions with Rebecca. Both the residents and staff have benefitted and loved every minute. For me personally it’s been a joy to see them smiling and dancing along, and a lovely distraction during these difficult times.Care home manager
What were the challenges?
The biggest challenge was supporting both providers and members of the public with the use of digital technology. Many providers hadn’t delivered online sessions before, and were not familiar with using Zoom. Support was offered by the team to help them not only get online, but to also be confident enough to use the technology and deliver/host an online session effectively.
In order to respond to the issues members of the public were facing, we set up a service to support people by telephone to get started with online services and activities.
Until it is safe for face to face activities to be held again, the team are continuing with the delivery of online provision and over-the-phone digital support. New sessions running in 2021 include a six-week ‘Living Through Challenging Times’ course, Bollymoves dance sessions and Mindful Crafters, which is a weekly social group.
Case study: learning new skills
The Community Wellbeing Team arranged a hand massage tutorial via Zoom to enable people to give themselves much-needed self-care, focusing on the hands to keep them loose, flexible and engaged. The activity incorporates mindfulness techniques to relax the body and mind.
A 63 year old lady, whom we had previously supported to make video calls to her family during lockdown expressed an interest in the course, as she suffers from arthritis in her hands. She experiences a lot of pain, and the impact of not seeing her family in person had made her quite depressed. She contacted the team via our Facebook page to book a place, but was concerned that she didn’t know how to use Zoom and didn’t have an iPad or a ‘fancy’ phone.
One of our Wellbeing Officers reassured her, and were able to talk her through getting Zoom set up on her phone. A tester session was arranged to make sure she was confident in accessing the session on the day.
As a result of the contact we had with this lady she:
- Is now confident to use her phone to access online sessions via Zoom and to make video calls to her family
- Has learnt techniques to help ease her arthritis and reduce her feelings of depression/low mood
- Is now looking forward to being more social and taking part in things she used to enjoy prior to Covid-19, such as line dancing
Thank you for all the help you have given me, my phone is so old I never thought I would be able to use Zoom on it, it’s made such a difference being able to do some of the things I used to enjoy, I am very much looking forward to the line dance sessions you are arranging.
Seeing my grandchildren’s faces again has been a blessing, I can’t thank you enough to be honest, I miss them so much, this is the next best thing.
I massage my hands 2 or 3 times a week, I am surprised how much it actually helps ease my pain. I massage them in the mornings when they are at their worst and it helps loosen them up. It’s even helped with holding a kettle, that used to be a real struggle for me and I was contemplating buying one of those one cup machines, do you know the ones I mean?
Assisting Conwy citizens with food deliveries
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic the Community Wellbeing Team contacted local food providers to compile a directory of companies offering essential deliveries throughout the county. The list was shared widely via social media, health and social care services, and via external channels. We liaised with the companies on a weekly basis to ensure that the information was updated regularly. The directory was used by the Community Support Service to enable them to direct people to paid food delivery provision in their local area, as needed.
Between April and September 2020, 5,160 people accessed the food delivery information via our web page, and feedback suggests it was a useful resource for many.
Thank you so much for these! I saw them all on your Facebook page….really, really useful and a lot of people will benefit!Housing Association staff member
Just wanted to say how hugely beneficial these lists have been, especially for our rural families. I’ve been able to provide really helpful contact details to several families on my caseload and have been able to order fruit and veg for a friend who lives on her own, is over 70 and is profoundly deaf. It’s great to be able to refer to this and share it.Disabilities social worker
We even received feedback from the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales on Facebook!
What were the challenges?
The main challenge was making contact with the local providers in order to verify and update the information on a weekly basis. This process took up a lot of staff time.
There is still a demand for this information, and it is still available on the Conwy County Borough Council website, however, it has now been passed to the Community Support Service to maintain.
During local lockdown, we created a section in our autumn and winter wellbeing pack to promote what food delivery provision is available across the county, in order to share this information more widely and help us reach the people who need the information the most.
We were contacted by a 93 year old lady who lives alone, and a great distance from her family. She has no access to support from friends or neighbours, and has poor mobility and vision.
The lady contacted the Wellbeing Team as her family had struggled to get an online food order for her and she was running out of essential food supplies for herself and her pet dog. She was very upset and panicking, stating that she had eaten a scone for breakfast as this was all she had left in the house. Her son was extremely worried and had even considered driving from London to help, but she told him he mustn’t, as he himself was in his seventies and should be staying at home isolating. Her son had found a local Facebook group called ‘Rhos on Sea – Help the Elderly’ which he had posted in, asking for help and one member suggested they get in touch with us.
The lady called us and spoke to the Team Leader who was able to calm the lady down and chat with her about her needs, such as whether she could pay over the phone by card or needed to pay cash, where she lived and what essential items she was needing. We were able to put her in touch with a local convenience store. Payment was made over the phone and essential items were delivered contactless to her door that same day. We were also able to put her in touch with the Cinnamon Trust who arranged a volunteer to come and walk her dog three times a week.
The lady was able to arrange weekly food deliveries direct to her door, ensuring she had access to essential food supplies, avoiding putting her son or herself at risk during the lockdown period.
Her dog was less agitated as she was having regular walks, in the past when she has not been walked and became agitated she has jumped up at the lady in frustration resulting in the lady suffering a fall and sustaining bruising to her head and legs.
The lady called back to thank us for all our help and support and got very tearful when explaining that had she not found us, she really would not have known what to do other than allow her son to travel to help her, which would have not only broken the law but put them both at risk of catching Covid-19.
She also explained that the Cinnamon Trust volunteer was lovely and her calling to walk the dog had been such a relief, as she had worried about how the dog might react if she wasn’t able to go out for some weeks; the fear of suffering another fall had caused her a lot of worry and sleepless nights.
Community Wellbeing Pack
The Community Wellbeing Team recognised that the importance of providing opportunities for adults living in Conwy, to improve their Health and Wellbeing was more vital now than ever before. They were concerned that many individuals were not online, therefore unable to access virtual activities. To address this issue, the team developed a Wellbeing Pack containing lots of useful information and activities that people could do from the comfort of their own home, to help boost their physical and mental wellbeing.
Just before Christmas I felt at an all-time low. I spotted a post on your Community Wellbeing Facebook page and gave you a call and spoke to a lovely lady; she sent me a copy of your Wellbeing Pack. I can honestly say it was a god-send and came at just the right time for me.Member of the public
What were the challenges?
Our biggest issue was trying to reach those people who would benefit most from the pack. We promoted it widely through health and social care staff, via our social media channels and colleagues in the independent sector. We printed packs and sent them to people’s homes with help from our partners and colleagues such as Cartrefi Conwy, local food banks, our in-house care teams, the library service and community equipment stores service. Since the launch of the pack a total of 3,373 copies have either been distributed to people in their homes or accessed via our web page.
The feedback from both professionals and members of the public about the pack has been very positive and people have said they find the pack extremely useful. The team are continuing to develop new information and activities for future packs and our third edition is due to launch on the 1st of February 2021.
Supporting our unpaid carers throughout the pandemic
The Covid-19 restrictions have meant that our contact with Conwy’s unpaid carers has been very different this year. Our Carers Officers have been working from home and our daily duty system, which remained in place, has been busy. The officers contacted all carers and undertook weekly calls to the ones identified as being most vulnerable during the crisis, providing emotional support and increasing practical support if needed. Some carers felt that they needed two or three calls per week, so this was arranged for them.
At the start of the pandemic a number of carers chose to cancel their sitting service, with others also cancelling their domiciliary support due to concerns around contracting Covid-19. More recently we have seen an increase in the number of panel applications around recommissioning services that were cancelled by carers. Unfortunately, many carers are reporting that they are now struggling and need a break from their situation.
Contact is being made with all new enquiries to the Carers Team. Whilst home visits are not being undertaken, all the relevant support numbers are being shared and carers’ assessments are being completed over the phone, with support arranged as required. Carers with an existing support package are also being contacted in order to review the support they receive and ensure it is still fit for purpose.
Carers Week, which took place 8-14 June 2020 was very different as we couldn’t offer the usual drop-in event with face to face advice and guidance. Instead, we worked with the Community Wellbeing Team to provide online activities which were also available as a pack which could be sent through the post to carers. Activities included mindfulness sessions, singing, virtual walks, yoga and a quiz night, whist the pack contained recipes, a word-search, crossword, colouring pages, origami and information on where to access further support.
As time goes on we are expecting more carers to struggle as day care and respite support remains unavailable to them. Moving forwards, the Carers Team will continue to provide both practical and emotional support to the carers in Conwy during this challenging and unprecedented time.
Developing our Allotment Service
The allotment service has been running for some time within our Vulnerable People Service, and we felt that it needed updating, with a particular focus on accessibility. The series of lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that the service has had to halt group work for periods of time, allowing the support workers to develop the service. Previous plans were drawn up by an individual accessing the service who had a particular skill in horticulture and working with people, and who was able to provide that focus on accessibility.
Here you can see how the allotment looked before….
What were the challenges?
Accessing appropriate resources was difficult, however we reached out to various organisations and relied heavily on donations to support the regeneration of the Allotment Service. This included railway sleepers from National Rail, and bark donated to support the level access routes.
The service is open to other areas of the Authority, however due to Covid-19 and the associated lockdowns, they have not been able to access the allotments as planned.
We hope to re-launch the allotment service as Welsh lockdown restrictions are lifted. We also hope to engage with other services as they begin to re-establish their own activities.
Personal Advisor Team: Activity during 2020-21
Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 we have been busy with various new work streams:
- We have started to undertake a long-term research project alongside Bangor University to understand the behaviours of care leavers in the hope that we can explore their motivations and facilitate more meaningful engagement in services. The plan is for the results to inform future policies, procedures and practical working tools which will be shared Wales-wide.
- We have been working with unaccompanied asylum seekers to ensure that we are able to provide them with the support they need.
- We have asked young people for their views on the support we have managed to provide throughout the Covid-19 pandemic; results will inform an action plan to develop our service delivery.
- Champion roles have been developed in the PA team, with each PA having a specific area of interest which they’ll develop in order to improve service delivery and improve the team’s knowledge base.
- A service delivery plan has been developed to cover a wide area from sexual health, wanting to start a family, becoming pregnant, to the birth or loss of a child. Our multi-agency approach provides care leavers with access to holistic assessments, care and support in a transparent way.
- Promotion of bespoke work packages for care leavers who have no/low grade qualifications and are unable to undertake apprenticeship courses or gain work experience.
- We have provided care leavers with well-being boxes containing activities to support them during lockdown.
- We’re introducing team building afternoons to re-establish relationships which may have tailed off due to the pandemic and working from home arrangements. It’s hoped that information and best practice can once again be shared, providing a more effective and efficient service for the young people who receive the service.
- Our Kick-Start exit policy has been developed to provide an exit strategy for young people on the scheme to move on to appropriate accommodation in a planned and streamlined way as soon as they’re ready.
- We have access to two shared houses on the Maelgwn site which will provide four young people with up to two years’ accommodation. They will receive bespoke wrap-around support, access to out of hours floating support and general advice from the Vulnerable People intervention worker, who will oversee the running of both houses. The young people will be supported to build upon their independent living skills, understand tenancies and tenancy-related issues and prepare them to move on to more permanent accommodation by the end of the two years. The houses became available from 22 February 2021.
- We have allocated social workers to three Family Centres and have shared information about our services to GP surgeries. It is hoped that by raising awareness we’ll become aware of people before they experience crisis and can provide information, advice and assistance sooner.
What were the challenges?
There have been many challenges this year, the biggest of which being the lack of face to face contact with the individuals we work with, peers and other agencies due to lockdown. Work practices have had to change and the needs of individuals have inevitably changed due to becoming more isolated than ever. In the work areas listed above we have experienced delays in moving forward and we’ve had to find ways around the barriers to maintain communication and relationships.
Combatting substance misuse
The Vulnerable People Team often receive referrals for individuals who, through the assessment process, recognise that they may need support with their drug and alcohol use, but often don’t meet the criteria for specific services (or may not feel ready to access them). These individuals will have access to a social worker and intervention support worker who will work with them for up to twelve weeks to explore why they are using drugs and alcohol, provide coping mechanisms, education on available support and remove the barriers and stigma surrounding these services. This will be a holistic approach, with the social worker approaching other appropriate services for advice and guidance. If, at any point during the twelve weeks it is felt that the individual requires more specialist support, their consent will be gained for a multi-agency discussion to take place to see how their needs can be best met. It is hoped that this approach will provide individuals with the advice and support they need, when they need it, and possibly prevent them from slipping through the net until they do meet the criteria of other services.
Youth Justice: Providing support to our communities
This year the young people we support have been active in the community, particularly around Christmas time.
- We provided a reparative Christmas service with care homes across Conwy and Denbighshire, and with vulnerable adults in the community. This included box planters that our young people made and were organised with Health and Safety to comply with Covid-19 restrictions.
- Personalised shoe boxes were made with donations from Asda, B&Q and Home Bargains, and were given to colleagues identified in the mental health service to be distributed to vulnerable adults we support.
- We also put together pre-recorded messages and music from young people, and these were submitted to care homes.
We hope these gestures made a difference to some of the loneliest and most vulnerable people in Conwy, making them feel thought of during this difficult time, increasing their sense of worth and well-being. It is hoped that we can, as a result, build on intergenerational bonds.
What were the challenges?
The logistics, the isolation and delivery, and coordination of young people, as well as the tasks to put the exercise into operation were all challenging. We also needed to convince Health and Safety that we could comply with Public Health Wales guidelines around Covid-19 restrictions and reassure the public and community.
Youth Achievement Award
Our Education Officer has worked with the Youth Achievement Award to collaborate with the Youth Service to launch the award online. Due to lockdown we have not been able to do this in a group setting as planned, however we have now had approval from Youth Cymru to do individualised sessions online. The award looks to enhance young people’s skills and self-confidence. Our young people will be working on the Youth Challenge, which is a ten-hour project that will focus on one main activity, such as cooking, art, gardening etc.
Training and development for foster families
The psychology element of our Enhanced Foster Care Support project is provided by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) embedded within children’s services, and differs from general CAMHS work in that it contributes to core social work practice. Over the last twelve months this specialist service has focused on training and development, contribution to assessments or provision of complementary standalone developmental assessments, to inform placement and care. This has particularly focused attention on defining the kind of therapeutic input that would be appropriate to support foster carers, children and placements.
This role has also developed pathways and supported facilitation for young people who are cared for accessing CAMHS, neurodevelopmental and other services effectively.
The aims are to promote placement stability and prevent placement breakdown. There is a clear focus on identifying appropriate training opportunities that can support the children, young people and their Foster Carers.
A training pathway has been identified for the next twelve months, with all social workers and supervising social workers in the Looked after Children Service enrolled on mentalization-based training. This training has been developed and is a new approach specifically in working with children and young people in foster care, to try and support their emotional wellbeing more effectively. It aims to promote the quality of relationships, support effective and sensitive foster care, and help carers to help the child in their care understand and manage emotions better. The focus is on improving the core components of secure attachment, including collaboration, and parental (or carer) reflective capacity. The emphasis is on helping social workers support foster carers to mentalize the children they are caring for.
What were the challenges?
It has been a particularly difficult year with the restrictions of Covid-19, however we have moved as much as possible to virtual methods of support. We have reinstated training opportunities and have not allowed the restrictions to delay progress.
Identifying champions in the service for social workers, supervising social workers and foster carers that can take lead roles in specialist training such as:
- ‘BUSS’(Building Underdeveloped Sensorimotor Systems in children who have experienced developmental trauma)
- ‘CBTi’ (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approach for insomnia – the NICE recommended guideline for treating a sleep disorder)
- ‘The Meaning of the Child Interview’
We have also recently recruited a psychology assistant who will further enhance the service we can offer to support children, young people and foster carers, as well as promoting training and learning opportunities for social workers and supervising social workers.