This week is Professional Care Workers Week, an initiative led by The Care Workers Charity to highlight the important and often unrecognised work done by those taking care of the most vulnerable people in society.

Our research team will shortly be resuming its counselling in care homes project which will explore the feasibility and value of counselling in care homes

It was set to commence in April but was put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Adapting to physical distancing requirements has already resulted in many care home residents maintaining contact with family via video platforms, and as restrictions remain in place on visiting care homes, the counselling sessions for residents will be delivered by video or telephone.

Public support

Counselling in care homes has support from the public.

Our Public Perceptions Survey* found that 75% of the UK population believe counselling or psychotherapy should be available for residents in all care homes. Only 3% disagreed, with the rest unsure.

The survey, which was carried out in February shortly before the pandemic, found that 73% of people in the UK believe counselling or psychotherapy should be available for staff in all care homes. Only 4% disagreed with the rest unsure.

As our project was being adapted, we were encouraged by research from Australia indicating that, contrary to commonly held stereotypes about older people using technology, counselling delivered via telehealth is well received by many care home residents and is a feasible means of delivering counselling.

In planning the project well before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, our research team took guidance from care home managers to include delivery and evaluation of support to care staff as part of the research.

Care workers

Often working long hours for low pay and in emotionally and physically challenging settings, there has long been a call from care sector organisations for care workers to have greater recognition, remuneration and support for the work they do.

There can be few professions that have worked in such proximity to the pandemic as care home staff.

Deaths from Covid-19 across the UK have occurred disproportionately in care homes, representing 47 percent of all Covid-19 deaths in Scotland, compared with 42 percent in Northern Ireland, 30 percent in England and 28 percent in Wales.

From the outset of the pandemic care staff have been in the frontline of the efforts to stem its devastating effects.

A recently published report detailing results of a survey of care staff reveals significant discrepancies in experiences during the period of the lockdown.

Only 38% reported being able to take time off work with full pay and 56% of care staff felt their physical and mental health had worsened over the period.

Our member Lynsey Judge-Porter is one of the counsellors who has been trained to start working with care home residents and, as a part-time care worker in a residential home in Coventry, she has personal experience and understanding of the pressures faced by care staff.

Return to work

On returning to her work in the home after a short break, Lynsey says: “Entering the building felt daunting, not knowing what to expect. However, after a few hours I felt like I’d never been away.

“It was great seeing the residents again, and although a couple of them had visibly deteriorated during the lockdown, I was pleasantly surprised by how resilient they are.”

On the need for support for care staff, Lynsey adds: "It’s our job. We get on with it and put our residents first, sometimes before our own needs.

“It’s really important care staff don’t view asking for help for emotional problems as a sign of weakness and that counselling is made more readily available for those that need them.”

BACP is continuing to call on the UK governments to recognise the psychological impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and to ensure that recovery initiatives include access to a choice of talking therapies.

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 5527 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 28th February 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 16+).