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    In light of these challenges, we believe it more important than ever to listen to frontline workers and ensure that their views are heard by decision makers. Gareth Lynn Montes

Lessons from the Frontline #1: Staff health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Gareth Lynn Montes, Research Officer and Fronline Network Wales co-ordinator

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented stresses on society, including the delivery of homelessness and housing support services. In Wales, thousands of people were provided with emergency accommodation and support, with local authorities, housing associations and third sector support providers working together to utilise all available resources and staff capacity. Support workers also continued to support the thousands of people who were already in supported accommodation, keeping them safe and supporting their mental well-being. Classed as essential workers, many frontline workers have been expected to continue delivering face-to-face support, putting themselves and their families at increased risk of catching COVID-19. Those who have been providing phone and online support have also been under huge stress, continuing to deal with trauma, while being isolated from their colleagues with fewer opportunities to mentally unload.  

LftF 1 - Eng.jpgLftF 1 - Cym.jpgIn light of these challenges, we believe it more important than ever to listen to frontline workers and ensure that their views are heard by decision makers. As such, we are presenting Lessons from the Frontline #1: Staff Health and Well-being During the Covid-19 Pandemic, which is available in Welsh and in English 

This report is a study into the experiences of frontline workers working in homelessness and housing support services during the period March 2020 to March 2021The report largely focuses on the impact of the pandemic on the way homelessness and housing support frontline workers have worked, the support they have received from the organisations they work for and what support they wish had been available to them. Based on the feedback from frontline workers, we have made a series of recommendations for the Welsh Government, commissioners and employers.  

The findings from the report are not just useful in learning what worked well and not so well in this period, but they also offer some insight into how to improve support for staff in the years to come.  

Recognition of frontline homelessness and housing support workers was a key theme from the discussions, and the report highlights the need to reflect this in national and local decisions about policy, funding, safety, pay and provision of wellbeing support. The importance of supporting staff to deal with trauma is also referenced in our report, and the provision of reflective practice and psychological support features in recommendations aimed at the Welsh Government, commissioners and service providers. 

Our discussions with frontline homelessness and housing support workers highlighted many examples of good practice when it came to flexible working, support provision, well-being activities and opportunities for staff to maintain social contact with each other. However, this varied between organisations and a number of our recommendations relate to how organisations can learn from good practice and provide continued support for their frontline workers. Peer support was regarded as particularly important, given the stresses and strains experienced by staff during this pandemic. The restrictions made this all the more difficult, but participants in our meeting emphasised the importance of enabling workers to maintain social contact and peer support. 

Two other issues had a significant impact on well-being provision: the resources available to the organisation and the leadership shown by CEOs and managers. On the first issue, it became clear that some organisations had more resources to channel towards staff well-being, so one of our recommendations asks the Welsh Government to consider how national support could reduce this inequity. On the latter, we emphasise the importance of leaders and managers giving frontline workers explicit permission and ongoing assurances about being able to utilise well-being activities, flexibility and support. 

We are extremely grateful for the incredible efforts of frontline homelessness and housing support staff during this pandemic. Their hard work, compassion and dedication has played a huge part in keeping people safe from COVID-19. We would like to thank all of the frontline workers who took part in the meetings, contributed their views and experiences, and helped to shape this report. We hope the Welsh Government, commissioners and service providers take on board their views as we embark on the road to recovery. 

Make your voice heard at the Frontline Network Wales 

Sign up to the Frontline Network mailing list: sign up to our mailing list here and select the 'Frontline Network' option. 
Sign-up to our next round of online regional meet-ups, where we'll be asking you what the new Members of the Senedd should be doing to support frontline workers and reduce homelessness in the next 5 years: 


How do we define a frontine worker? 

The Frontline Network defines ‘frontline worker’ as a paid worker, who directly supports people who are experiencing homelessness. This includes those working in the Voluntary, Statutory, and Public sectors. Frontline Workers work in roles including outreach, housing, social work, and probation. 

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© Cymorth Cymru 2021
Company Registration No: 5093332
Charity No: 1116774