A View From The Bridge - Tony Banks

Tony is Chairman of Balhousie Care Group, the largest independent care operator in Scotland. He bought his first care home - a converted country home - in Kirriemuir in 1991. Today, the award-winning company has 26 facilities, including specialist adult care, and stretches across five regions of Scotland.

We are all in this together

We have all seen the impact of the Coronavirus Crisis. It has reached all corners of our lives, and is without a doubt the greatest challenge we as a sector have faced.

But its impact has been most heavy and visible on our key workers. Here at Balhousie Care Group, our carers and other support staff work tirelessly day in, day out looking after some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society. I’m hugely proud to be part of our wonderful care sector during this crisis, providing care in the most difficult of situations.

We all recognise, admire and cherish the work of our incredible NHS workers who have been vital in treating those who have been affected by this new and frightening pandemic. They are the workers on the ‘front-line’, the visible force making a difference and saving lives.

However, sometimes the social care sector’s role in this effort has been lost somewhat in the public messaging and media. I cannot emphasise enough the valuable role my staff play in the response to this pandemic. Social care is vital in providing care to the most vulnerable in our society but is also vital in helping ease the pressure on the NHS.

We have heard the phrase ‘We are all in this together’ many times over the past few weeks, and this could not be truer than now. From our carers, nurses, domestics, support staff to district nurses, doctors, social workers, everyone across the care sector - we all play key roles in the support of those who need help the most across the country and we need to continue working together and looking out for each other in these challenging times.

Every Thursday at 8pm our key workers have been acknowledged and celebrated as we clap our hands, bang pots and listen to the distant swirl of the bagpipes. I know this outpouring of love and support has boosted and inspired our staff.

Internally, we call our staff Everyday Heroes – and that’s exactly what they are. The stories I hear and see about how our staff are keeping up spirits among residents and each other are inspiring. From serenading them with songs, to dance challenges on TikTok, to car lift sharing and covering extra shifts, it’s all the true stuff of Everyday Heroes.

We also know this is an exceptionally draining and difficult time for our teams, with their lives being impacted fundamentally by this pandemic. We’ve ensured our people have the support and information they need including our company intranet, a new staff phone app, internal newsletters, and employee support phone lines which offer counselling and information 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Support has also come from the local communities we serve, where our care homes have been overwhelmed by the kindness of others. Since we made the difficult decision to limit non-essential visits to our homes, many people, young and old, have found creative ways to lift the spirits of our residents and staff. We’ve had school children sparking up intergenerational pen-pal friendships, local musicians performing live gigs in our home carparks, pipers and many, many rainbow drawings – a real symbol of hope everywhere at the moment.

We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of local businesses who have gone out of their way to make things a little easier for our staff and residents, from dropping off freshly baked scones and free pizzas to keep staff going, to hand-sanitiser from a local distillery. These generous acts have been hugely appreciated and I’d like to, on behalf of my colleagues and residents across our homes, thank each and every business and individual who has reached out.

Like I mentioned before, we are in this together. My colleagues across Balhousie Care Group are Everyday Heroes, but I see Everyday Heroes across the whole social care sector making a difference and it is uplifting and inspiring to be part of this incredibly hard-working group. It’s time for us to be thanking each and every one of them.