Cllr Lucy Caldicott is the Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care (job-share), and a councillor in Stockwell ward.
“Continue straight ahead (as if there were no railings in your way).”
The directions to Central Hill Day Centre seemed like a metaphor for how the social care sector has managed during Coronavirus. The centre offers a range of services to people over 65 with dementia or other frailties, which in turn provide respite to their carers. Whilst it had to close during the first lockdown, the staff team maintained contact with service users and their carers, providing advice and encouragement.
In August 2020, the centre was able to reopen, but when I visited on 19 July, so-called ‘Freedom Day”, strict health and safety measures mean that it’s still only at a tenth of pre-pandemic capacity.
Over thirty people used to come on a daily basis, for activities such as gardening and music, and a hot meal. The centre is now only able to manage three or four, in tightly managed separate bubbles, one or two days a week.
Sarah* told me she comes to the centre for company. “Otherwise I’m just looking at the same four walls. It’s boring.”
I was struck by the dedication of the staff, their care for service users but also for each other. Ann has worked in Lambeth day centres for 43 years, Agnes first joined as a home carer 27 years ago before moving to the day centre, and Sandra is a newbie having joined the team 18 years ago.
“Anything you choose to do, you do out of love. You give it your all.” Agnes told me.
I could tell how concerned they are about the people who haven’t yet been able to return 16 months into the pandemic, and their carers and family members, many with their own health issues, who’d benefit so much from the respite that the centre offers.
It can be easy to forget the Sarahs. They’re usually behind closed doors looking at the same four walls.
Our task as the country enters this latest perilous stage of Covid is to continue to protect Lambeth’s service users and their families whilst still providing vital services to those who badly need them.
Cllr Lucy Caldicott
*Not her real name