Mary Wimbury, Care Forum Wales 

Care providers in Wales are a diverse bunch: small, local, family run organisations; large UK wide corporates; charities; housing associations – and I’ve only scratched the surface… Care Forum Wales brings together 450 registered care providers to share good practice and issues. We advocate on their behalf to decision makers: Welsh Government, regulators and the local authorities and health boards who commission care. 

The last two and half years have been particularly gruelling for the sector. The vulnerable people our members provide care for were at extremely high risk if they contracted covid – and we saw any number of tragedies unfold. But we also saw those working in the sector go above and beyond. Staff moving in to care homes to protect both residents and their own families. In the early days care providers finding inventive ways to source and make their own PPE. But also just dealing with the day to day struggle to keep on top of the latest advice about how to deal with a new, evolving and extremely dangerous disease.  

Prior to the pandemic sharing good practice amongst members meant regular in person events with an opportunity to network and sometimes putting members in touch with each other to learn about dealing with specific issues. Like everyone else, the way we worked changed dramatically almost overnight. Straight away we set up a whatsapp group to share emerging guidance and where members could ask questions and exchange information but also raise queries for us to get answers about how to deal with things on the ground. We know members found it an invaluable lifeline – for the information, but also the solidarity from others in similar situations. That’s now expanded into a range of whatsapp groups on different aspects of care and covering different geographical areas with Wales. We’ve also morphed from our regular full day in person updates to shorter bitesize seminars on particular topics of interest to members. Our pre-pandemic monthly e-updates to members were at point going out on a daily basis. We’ve now settled into a weekly routine and feedback from members is they find these useful. 

In the heat of the pandemic we were in touch regularly and frequently with Welsh Government, regulators and commissioners of care. And I know they found the on the ground feedback we brought from our members invaluable too. The best relationships were those where we had iterative processes. Decisions often had to be made fast, based on new and emerging evidence. But where we could provide feedback from providers about how things were working in reality we could then help refine those decisions in real time to get us to a better place where up to the minute advice was implemented in a way which worked on the ground with as much speed as possible. 

As we emerge from the pandemic, like other organisations, and with our partners, we are working out how to keep the positives and build on them as we face the current challenges of staff retention and recruitment and cost of living pressures. We’ll continue to be there sharing good practice amongst care providers and advocating on their behalf to ensure a stronger system that works in terms of delivering care to our most vulnerable. 

This resource was uploaded as part of our conference, ‘Home Comforts’, which is aimed at sharing best practice in adult social care.