GMA Weekly Blog 9th April 2020

Published: Thursday, 9 April 2020 by Dunc

GMA Weekly Blog 

Where did Easter come from!!! I don’t know about you, but in these strange and testing times it feels like the Easter break has crept up on us this year. For many of you the Easter break would mean a time for meeting family, taking a short break away (weather permitting) or tackling those DIY jobs that you have been “getting around to” for the last year. This year we all have a part to play in helping to slow the spread of Coronavirus so from all at GMA we urge you to Stay Home, Save Lives and protect those key workers who will be working tirelessly through the holiday weekend to keep us all safe. 

Covid-19 

We are continuing to provide services to the best of our ability adhering to government guidelines. Our Dudley facility is still operational and the team have been fantastic in adapting the programme to ensure we can run on a skeleton staff with social distancing observed at all times, space is available for those that need to self-isolate and provisions of PPE, cleaning equipment and other necessities are in place. Gambling Therapy remains fully operational and online support is being offered to all service users past and present.  

Necessity is the Mother of Invention 

Written by Jane Faye RMBACP our Retreat and Counselling Programme Manager 

The old English proverb, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” has never seemed more appropriate to me than it does today.  At no point in recorded history, since the industrial revolution, have so many changes in technology and ways of working happened over such a short period of time.  There is no doubt, during such challenging times, that change, invention and reinvention are required if we’re going to adapt to the needs of our service and the people we support.  So, we rose to that challenge, and here’s how. 

We settled in and got comfy with technology: 

If you’re at all familiar with people in caring professions, people who are driven by a need to assist those who are suffering, you might know that, generally speaking, we’re not known for our tech skills!  It’s a left brain, right brain thing and kind of falls outside of our wheelhouse to a lesser or greater degree.  But, doing the work we do, it’s essential we keep in touch with each other and communicate regularly to ensure consistency of service and the provision of support to our colleagues.  You’re reading a blog so I’m going to assume you’re familiar with technology and you know about Microsoft Teams, and so did we, sort of…mostly anyway!  But we had to REALLY get to know it, figure out how to invite people into meetings who were outside of the organisation, look at how meetings work best with 20 or 30 people in order to stop everyone from talking over each other.  We had to think about lighting and framing when talking to people we were supporting, what can they see of our environment, our body language?  What can we see of theirs and what do we do with that information? 

We started to use WhatsApp more to keep in touch with our teams, it’s great to be able to check in and out but how formal is that medium supposed to be, when is it appropriate and safe to use it and when isn’t it? 

We asked lots of questions and, after a pretty steep learning curve, we gained answers, experience and the skills we needed to make technology work for us and keep us connected to each other and the people that needed us. 

We asked, what can we do for the people who need to come into residential treatment but can’t? 

We recognised that just because we’d pressed pause on taking in new residents, in order to adhere to current government guidelines, the people needing our services hadn’t pressed pause on their lives!   We couldn’t allow the waiting list to grow, and just allow people in need to sit there and wait until the storm passed without reaching out to them.  We set up a new system, at break-neck speed, that allowed us to support those people remotely, both practically and emotionally.  We made sure we had systems in place to ensure if a member of staff contracted the virus and had to take time away from the service, people couldn’t fall through the cracks.  We reviewed capacity across the service and moved resources to where we needed them to be and increased scrutiny regarding what support was being provided to each and every person who needed our help. 

We recognised the impact of global events on people already well into their recovery 

The staff at GMA have been doing this for a while, we know our client group and we know what kind of things can throw them, and in turn trigger old coping strategies.  We wanted to head this off at the pass so we let them know we were creating more text based groups, new VOIP groups through Teams, scheduling additional phone catch ups and making more staff available to create safe spaces for them to talk about the difficulties they faced.  They didn’t let us down, they took us up on our offer of help and connected with us, and with each other, in droves. 

Above are just a few of the things we’ve done, I haven’t even touched on the whole programme we adapted so it could be delivered remotely, or the changes we’ve made in the treatment centres to keep everyone safe!  I think it’s fair to say that at GMA we have risen to a significant challenge, we are adapting, supporting and learning and through all of this we are still putting one thing front and centre, helping the people that need our help. 

#Staysafeonline 

This week saw the running of the Virtual Grand National, for the last couple of years this has been a sideshow to the main event but with horse racing suspended due to coronavirus the virtual race took centre stage on ITV last Saturday attracting 4.8million viewers. There has never been such attention on virtual sports as there are at this time and the staging of the event divided opinion. The Betting and Gaming Council issued a 20 point plan to operators to ensure player safety including an advertising ban (excluding those already signed up to betting accounts), set prices with no bonuses, boosts or special offers and a stake limit of £10 win or each way. A positive outcome of this was that UK betting firms donated all profits from the race to the NHS with £2.6million raised there will also be 10,000 free tickets to the 2021 running of the Grand National for frontline NHS staff. There were still concerns amongst many however that this was merely a PR stunt to attract people to online gambling. Whatever your stance it has never been more important to stay safe online. If you are feeling vulnerable please seek help, you can exclude from gambling sites at www.gamstop.co.uk or apply blocking software using www.gamban.com  

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