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Southampton care team hailed as ‘heroes’ for ‘selfless’ act to protect residents during pandemic

Pictured L – R: Darren Richards, Stephen Lindsay, Hassan Ceesay, Ben Farringdon and Rosie Marriott
A team of social care staff who opted to self-isolate with their residents during a Covid outbreak have been recognised for their selfless commitment to keeping people safe. A team of five from The Squirrels, our specialist autism residential service in Southampton, chose to self-isolate at the service so they could continue to support their residents.

The team wanted to cause minimum disruption for the nine adult residents whose autism can cause them to become very unsettled if new or unfamiliar staff are brought in. Deputy Manager Rosie Marriott organised the 10-day isolation in January and was pleased to lead the team at a special meeting with Cygnet CEO, Dr Tony Romero, so that he could personally say thank you for all they did.

Rosie said: “When some of the team and residents returned positive Covid-19 tests it quickly became clear that self-isolation would have a significant impact on staffing. If we all stayed away, agency workers would have been brought in, which would have been incredibly difficult for our residents to adapt to. Our priority was to act quickly to contain and minimise any distress to our residents.

“We contacted Public Health England (PHE) and relevant professionals to put all the necessary agreements in place and ensure we were following the guidelines correctly. We spoke with the families of all our residents who were very supportive and relieved to know their relatives would continue to be cared for by familiar faces. I am really proud that at the core of our team is the instinct to care.

“Additional PPE to keep everyone protected was provided and families sent in treats and kept in touch online so that they could see everyone was OK throughout. We spent 10 days keeping ourselves busy with movies, games and mealtimes – much like many families who have had to isolate over the past 18 months.”

Steve Lindsay, Senior Team Manager who has worked for Cygnet for more than 20 years said: “Obviously it’s unlike anything we’ve ever had to do before but Squirrels is home for the people who live there and we are like family. The residents have been together for many years now and at a time when they needed our support the most, we made sure we were there for them. We couldn’t have brought in new staff at that point.”

A parent of one resident recently wrote to Cygnet’s CEO, Dr Tony Romero to express her gratitude to The Squirrels team. Eleri Green’s daughter is a resident and she said: “When Covid struck at the Squirrels, we couldn’t believe it. We had thought all along how lucky they had all been to get this far, following the rules and regulations, but as we know Covid has a way of getting everywhere. As a parent I was worried sick but I was constantly updated by the staff on how my daughter was. When Rosie rang me she quite rightly said, ‘the residents need us and they need to stay in their home.’

“After seeing what these select few people did for my daughter – interrupted sleep, constantly thinking one step ahead and wearing PPE 24/7 – I have a lot of praise to give but it would never be enough. It’s been so hard throughout the pandemic but the staff helped me feel connected to my daughter and I feel emotional thinking about it. I’ve missed my girl so much but can’t thank the Squirrels enough for keeping her safe.”

Ben Farrington, Team Manager said: “I actually felt quite emotional when the 10 days was over. It was a real bonding experience for all of us and I was proud to be part of a team that didn’t think twice about doing the best for those we look after. It was just the right thing to do.”

Hassan Ceesay is a long-standing agency support worker who has worked at Squirrels for more than a year so is well-known to the residents. He committed to isolating with the team and following his 10-day experience, he has now decided to become a member of Cygnet staff and join the Squirrels team permanently.

Hassan said: “When Rosie asked if I would be part of the isolation team, I immediately agreed. We all have our own families outside of work to consider but for those 10 days we had the backing of our loved ones so that we could do the right thing for the people we look after.”

Dr Tony Romero, CEO of Cygnet Health Care said: “The approach from the Squirrels team was truly amazing. It was the first case of its kind within Cygnet, and indeed, one of very few examples like this anywhere in the country.

“Their response to do what felt right at such a challenging time is a testament to why they work in a caring profession. The feedback and thanks from families is heart-warming I would like to commend the team for this incredible action.”

All the staff and service users who tested positive for Covid-19 have made full recoveries, none became seriously ill and everyone at the service has now been vaccinated.

The team enjoyed a special thank you lunch with Dr Romero at the Cinnamon Club in Westminster on Tuesday 29 June.

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