Podcast Episode: Experiences of working on the frontline with a disability
Category: Coronavirus / Covid-19
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MM - Michael McEwan
SK - Scott Kennedy
LM - Lynn Murdoch
DR - David Ross
MM On this episode we’re going to be hearing from people with disabilities working on the frontline. So first up we’re going to be hearing from Scott Kennedy. Scott is registered blind and he is a support worker. Okay, so now we’re joined by Scott. So can you tell us, Scott, now because you’re registered blind and it affects your kind of central vision, how have you adapted to this crisis?
SK It’s been quite difficult, Michael, especially the social distancing. That’s the problem for me. It’s great that the streets are more quiet and the roads are quiet and I can use my hearing a bit more. That’s definitely been a benefit recently but the social distancing and the two metre distancing is a problem because I struggle to see two metres. So walking into a queue or joining the back of a queue can be tricky, just being able to see where the queue begins and all of these kind of things, but I’ve found a lot of the supermarkets have been quite helpful in terms of putting big signs up, and certainly the floor markings tend to help, but one of the main things is - or certainly I find it helps - is to try and follow the crowd, and obviously just now that’s not a possibility. There aren’t any crowds. So certainly the social distancing, that’s the biggest issue.
MM So now let’s speak about your job. You started in a new job as a support worker for adults with autism and learning disabilities. Can you tell us a bit about your job and also because of the whole crisis at the moment what challenges are you facing in your job?
SK Right, so my job as a support worker is very basically to be responsible for someone who has issues with certain things like maybe their personal hygiene or being able to cook, or even the likes of now being able to cope with the crisis and the new restrictions and what it kind of means and what we’re allowed to do basically, but fortunately in a way, Michael, I started my job at the beginning of the crisis. So basically a fortnight before the lockdown kicked in I started my job, so in a way I’ve only really known the job to have the coronavirus. So my clients are kind of, you know, that’s what they’ll relate to me, if that makes sense, and it’s been in a way kind of easier to explain things because it’s not a massive change for them. As I’ve come into the new job they kind of relate these new restrictions to being with me. So in some ways it’s been easier. In the long-term that’s going to cause a bit of a problem when they can start going out again and they’ll start to kind of wonder why, and I’ll need to kind of just try and find a couple of measures around that, but obviously the charities and the activities that support people with autism and learning disabilities are closed down. I believe they’re still being supported by the Scottish Government but when they’ll open is a big question, because it is a social event. That’s what these things are and that’s what certainly my clients need in their lives, is a social event, and these are going to be difficult, the new restrictions of being something new to work with and to try and learn around, and that’s just been part of my job.
MM And can you relate to some of the issues that people go through with a learning disability because you’ve got a disability yourself?
SK When I think back to school, reading the blackboard was always a struggle and being able to read a textbook at home, things were fine when I had my own space but classrooms were difficult, and I can totally relate just that people have their spaces for learning, whether it is at home or it is in the classroom or being social. You relate these things to your certain activities and simply going out for a walk in the park or wherever it is, that’s not the same as getting the social interaction. So I can definitely relate in that kind of way with people ‘cause we all can socially interact just now, but in terms of getting to grips with things if you like, I take a little bit more time with all the new stuff and just getting to grips with things so I can at least advise my clients and just to take a wee bit more time with things and not try and rush, especially just now.
MM Do you support people in their houses, Scott, at the moment?
SK Yeah. So it’s not in a residential home or anything. It’s in their own kind of flats or wherever it would be, and so they do have a bit of freedom and this is the thing, it’s trying to promote the freedoms that they do have as opposed to what they’ve had in the past, where they’ve maybe been in these sort of homes or secure wards or whatever. Always positive. That’s always a thing I find helpful.
MM So I mean that sounds very interesting as well because obviously you can relate to some of the issues that your clients go through but obviously it works both ways. So maybe like some of the clients relate to some of the issues that you kind of face when you’re out and about supporting them?
SK Yes. I definitely notice kind of things where my clients will struggle, and because I’m aware I’m thinking ahead and anticipating that joining queues will be difficult, and kind of finding a way to the entrance as opposed to the exit now that the supermarkets are different. So I’m anticipating these things for my clients so that when we get to the stage it’s a bit easier to deal with, ‘cause it is very confusing a lot of the time. It’s confusing as to what times to go shopping. Shopping seems to be the big sort of thing at the moment. That’s really all you can do but now that we’re starting to transition into an easing of the lockdown, kind of actually understanding what we can do and what’s still safe and what’s still responsible, that’ll take a little bit of work I think.
MM So now obviously you’re in a kind of second job as it were, but your first job was in retail. So why did you want to move out of retail basically to being a support worker, ‘cause I would imagine it’s two kind of different types of job?
SK Yeah. They are very different, although retail is kind of about serving people and getting them what they want in an appropriate kind of way and in a proper sort of manner. That’s really what we do as a support worker, is to facilitate our clients’ needs in an appropriate manner, but the reason I really kind of looked to change was because of the support I’ve had from the RNIB and several other charities and individuals in my workplaces. I felt that I’ve learned a lot and I feel like I can give a little back and I can - like we’ve spoken about - I can relate to a lot of issues that are caused just socially in normal circumstances and how difficult it can be just going to a new place, whether it’s joining a new club or even just walking a different way to the shops or back to wherever. So I kind of find that I’ve definitely got a lot to give and a lot to share in the care sector.
MM Okay, thanks. Now we’re going to be hearing from Lynn Murdoch. Lynn works in a care home in Paisley. Okay Lynn, so tell us a bit about your job.
LM I work in a care home. I’ve been there since 2007, so that’s about thirteen, fourteen years I think, and I do activities with the elderly, which I really love.
MM So what made you want to apply for the job, Lynn?
LM I got the job through the job centre. The care home manager went in to advertise the care home and they thought it’d be a really good job for me to do, and as I say, I’m still in the job thirteen years later.
MM So because of this coronavirus at the moment what are some of the barriers that you’re facing in work at the moment?
LM Well obviously we can’t get too close to the residents and I can’t give them cuddles, which I miss, and some of them really like a cuddle now and again but we’ve just got to keep our safety and their safety as a priority, and when I came back from my holidays in March when this all started, some residents were in their rooms and the resident’s lounges were quite empty, so really hard to do activities. So we just did one-to-one activities. So we just did kind of one-to-one activities but we couldn’t do the bingo and all that, but we’ve just started back up with the bingo a couple of weeks ago. So we’re kind of getting back to normal now ‘cause we had testing done and everybody was okay. So we’ve kind of relaxed a wee bit.
MM So how are the residents getting to see their families? Is it on like iPads and stuff?
LM Yes. Some of them have got iPads but well we had a Facebook page but we never really had anything on it, but since it all started we’ve been putting weekly videos and pictures up so they can see their family members while they’re on there.
MM Oh that’s nice. So how has your job changed? Was it changed in any way because of the coronavirus?
LM We just need to be really careful what we’re doing and wash our hands a lot more and if we’re doing any kind of like personal care, like cleaning and cutting their fingernails, we need to wear aprons, gloves, masks.
MM I take it you like your job still even though it’s a bit difficult at the moment?
LM Yeah. I would say it’s getting better now that we’re relaxed a bit more, but we still need to be careful, like they’re still not allowed any families in or anything.
MM And finally, we’re going to be hearing from David Ross. Okay, so now we’re joined by David Ross. David, you’ve got two jobs working on the kind of like frontline. So do you want to start off by telling us about your support working role?
DR Well as a support worker I’ve been supporting a young gentleman who’s on the spectrum. I’ve been supporting him in various ways lately through phone calls and video calls due to the fact that because of the pandemic his parents feel more comfortable with doing it that way for the time being.
MM So what did you usually do if like we didn’t have this pandemic? Were you usually going to the person’s house that you support?
MM And kind of like take him out and stuff?
DR Well it can vary ‘cause I can either help him around the house with some of the daily tasks, everything, a little bit of help, or if he’s wanting to go out and about then we’ll go out and I go with him to a place, for example, to the pub for a bit of lunch or the local caf? for a bit of lunch.
MM So do you like being a support worker then, David?
DR Yes, I do.
DR Something I had never actually really thought about doing as a career before.
MM I take it you’re thinking about it now kind of hopefully going to support more people?
DR Something that I have thought about. If the opportunity arises then I think I would.
MM So how many times a week do you do that at the moment?
DR Well at the moment because most of it is phone calls I’m phoning him pretty much every day, but if I’m out supporting him I do it over three days.
MM And so tell me about your other job then, because you really are a frontline worker because you are a carer but also you’re a security guard as well?
DR Yeah. Most of my work on that field is normally like football shifts, but during lockdown I’ve had when McDonalds have reopened they had me doing shifts on the drive-thru, but then for the last three weeks, well four weeks including this weekend, I’ve been doing taxi ranks on a Friday night and a Saturday night. That’s getting people into taxis and making sure they’re getting into taxis safely.
MM So first of all would you recommend being a support worker, but also would you recommend being a security guard?
DR Truth be told, I would actually recommend being a support worker a wee bit quicker than I would being in security, because again it depends on individuals and what they’re like, ‘cause myself personally, I prefer helping. I think because I’m quite a helpful person I’ll take any job that’s going that’s involving people and helping people, whether it be support work or doing security, ‘cause in both jobs you’re still helping people.
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