*SCSA = Separated Children Seeking Asylum. Written in the 2nd week of ‘lockdown’.
Tuesday 31st March 2020
9am – My day of work starts by joining in a staff zoom call; eleven of us today. We (whoever is in the office) always pray at the start of a working day, committing our time and actions to the Lord praying for strength, guidance and wisdom for specific situations and people. What has been lovely about this lockdown time is that more staff (people who perhaps are not usually present at 9 o’clock for whatever reason) can now join virtually together. We are sharing more from the Bible of things that we have read and personally found strength, encouragement and help from in these surreal times.
9.20am – I check and deal with any emails, then I read through the personal statement of one of our young people who is applying for a bursary and hoping to go to university this year.
9.45am – I have organised a video call to support with her application process. This begins with a comedy moment of each of us turning our devices over several times until we realise that for whatever reason we would both be seeing each other on our sides. We carry on tilting our head at intervals whilst speaking. There’s nothing like a national lockdown to make you realise that you are at the limits of your technical ability. Who knew that you could share your document over the internet and edit it in real time for both parties to see? I really am feeling older by the second!
When not in a national state of emergency, I sometimes take this particular young person for bubble tea. So, when we chat, I gain some advice about making bubble tea for my daughter at home. Apparently brown sugar and condensed milk is the secret.
We speak about how trains are now only for key workers and about how shopping in the local supermarkets is going with new social distancing rules. Her online college work is going ok and she can attend online lessons successfully. Most of the young people we support are in education, so making sure that they are all able to access this virtually has been of key importance.
I arrange that I would go into the office tomorrow to print the application form and personal statement so that I can drop them off with her to fill in. I’ll go back to the office and work from there for a couple of hours before I pick up the completed forms so that I can scan them in and send them on her behalf.
We have two youngsters in that building so I must remember to take some electric cards so that they can top up their electric.
10.45am – A couple more emails that have come in need filing. There can usually be a steady stream of correspondence, but emails are getting fewer by the day as appointments that can’t happen virtually are gradually being cancelled.
Currently, we have ten young people aged 16 to 20 years old under ICN care supported by me, a colleague and our manager. There are also a sizeable group of other SCSA’s in Bournemouth and Poole who we often work with, supporting in health and legal appointments at the social workers request. As a team, we work quite closely with social services and I know that I shall miss the more relational side of my job both with the young people and other professionals.
ICN is a hive of activity on most weekdays where it is not unusual for someone previously under our care to drop by for some support – ‘Where can I look for a job?’, ‘How do I apply for a travel document?’, ‘Look at my foot, what do you think this is?’ I love the variety; we joke about the many hats which we wear, doctor, dentist, pharmacist, removal worker, travel expert, nutritionist, cleaner, handyman, advisor, teacher.
11am – My manager calls, and we talk about work for the day and the following week. We decide who will send which report. We fill in reports for each young person under our care which details all appointments and support that we give surrounding health, education, legal processes and their emotional well-being. These then get sent to each corresponding social worker or personal advisor (if the youngster is over 18) at the end of the month and are a good record that we can refer to.
We also talk about the challenges of working in small flats with no separate space set aside as office space and how to manage the same area for work, rest and family life. We don’t really have an answer; the whole country is adjusting to a new normal, but it’s nice to be honest about how we feel.
I’ve been in this role for just under 6 months now, having previously been a teacher of young children for 12 years. I am used to relational working and communication, in all its forms, as it has been a huge part of my past working life. Working on a computer for extended periods of time is a new thing for me as I’m sure it is for many others. I praised God for my new office chair which arrived in the office the day that the government declared a nationwide lockdown. I promptly took it home; out with the rickety old second-hand dining chair and in with the cushioned seat and lumbar support.
11.15am – I receive a picture message of a tee-shirt that needs some serious repair, ‘Can anyone at ICN sew?’. Usually I would arrange a 1 to 1 meeting to teach the young person how to sew but because of the current situation that would involve there being less than 2 metres between us so I say that I will come and pick it up from him. I’ve started a new list of things to do after the lockdown: Teach this particular young person to sew.
Another photo appears, ‘Can you fix this shoe?’ the picture reveals a trainer where the front piece of rubber has come unstuck from the base.
‘I would go for superglue!’ If I pick them up today, then drop them off in the office tomorrow my colleague can then take the items back on Thursday when he delivers the weekly allowance to some of our youngsters.
I phone the accommodation where he lives so that they know that I will come later to pick up the items as no visitors are allowed into the main building at present.
Whilst out I can see about folders and pens for a creative activity idea that I’ve had which will help with boredom and mental wellbeing.
I fill in the relevant details from this morning’s work on the reports then check and send the other reports on my list. At the same time, I create new ones for the month ahead.
12.30pm – I stop to have lunch with my daughter who is also learning how to be a college student at home. It’s been important to create the bones of a routine and times to be ‘present’ as I’m here but not here. ‘Meeting’ for lunch is a good way to do it. I suggest that she can come when I drive to Poole later for a ‘change of scene’. She jumps at the chance even though she won’t be able to get out of the van.
1.15pm – I phone the contact within the university to check if the personal statement can be 800 words instead of 500 as a physical interview date is becoming more unlikely by the day. The University want to see a more ‘full rounded’ picture of the young person applying, so this is fine.
I email the young person’s social worker to keep him updated on the award application process then start to research and design the creative packs that I want to put together for each young person.
2pm – We drive to Poole. The tee-shirt’s stitching has come undone and the front of his trainer has completely fallen off. He’s put a pair of jeans with a small hole in the bag as well. I explain that this would take longer due to needing a patch. As it’s only a small hole he decides against giving me the jeans. I have things that I’ve been needing to fix for literally years, but I’m determined to get this done tonight as I am aware of how little many of our youngsters have.
I manage to get everything in a local supermarket that I need to complete the art packs, so that feels good.
3.45pm – At home, I get to work creating them and repairing the clothes as I will need to get both ready to leave in the office tomorrow morning so that my colleague can take them with him the next day. I usually finish at 5pm but I work a bit longer today so that I can get it all finished in time.
Mel Kerour – SCSA Support Worker
30 April 2020