Peer Support continues throughout the Pandemic
Usually HeadsUp Peer Support Workers (PSW’s) meet with Participants in cafes, libraries and other informal spaces, but because of the social distancing guidelines during Covid 19 we can’t meet face to face right now, but we can and do still enrol new participants over the phone. We know that there are lots of different support needs, especially at the moment, and we can still offer our support by exchange of email and continue with telephone, email and video calling.
In our first conversations we will still work with participants to build a picture of their character and life experiences helping us see how we might support them in planning their next steps into work or training.
Quite often whilst chatting people will divulge other issues that are happening in their lives that are preventing /have prevented them from moving on and we use our signposting training to encourage the individual to seek additional help. For example if someone is experiencing heightened anxiety due to the lockdown- we might encourage them to contact their GP surgery to make an appointment to chat about how they are feeling. We are aware of local and national organisations that support people in crisis in many different ways and can put them in contact with them, or can refer on their behalf.
We acknowledge the importance of presence, in as much as being isolated and the fear of the seriousness of the virus has meant that even the most enthusiastic people longing to get into employment, training or education aren’t in a place to do this right now and that’s ok. We will stay in touch, offer support and continue to look at ways that can help prepare these participants for when it is possible.
Equally, some are ready to seek work, education or training as soon as possible and there are many ways to offer support. Our Development & Skills Officers might offer help with IT Skills, CV and cover letter writing, mock interviews, creating an email address, and these aspects are still being offered by HeadsUp using phone calls, video calls and we’ve even produced some fantastic videos available on YouTube which run alongside our one to one sessions.
We are helping those who can help themselves, for example one of our participants was to have a Skype interview which was making her very anxious as she didn’t know how to do this. So, simply using a series of telephone calls her PSW helped her to create an account for both herself and her partner so that they could practice having online conversations and get her used to seeing herself on screen.
Another individual asked for support in answering interview questions, coping mechanisms for interview anxiety issues and a mock interview, so different members of the HeadsUp team organised a practise telephone interview so that the participant could give it a go in the security of their own home. Feedback was then given to the participant and it turned out to be a really effective tool showing that the individual was more capable than he was giving himself credit for, and this was a huge confidence boost for him.
So as you will see we have adapted perfectly well in supporting our participants during this pandemic, and it has in no way dampened our enthusiasm or commitment to obtain the best outcome for each individual. We are missing seeing people face to face, but we realise the power of hearing someone’s voice and making that connection, communication is key!