Covid Considerations: Weathering the storm of Covid-19

| Clenton Farquharson

This blog in our #covidconsiderations series is written by Clenton Farquharson MBE, the Chair of the Think Local Act Personal partnership board.  He is also a member of the NHS Assembly which was set up to oversee the NHS Ten Year Plan, he is the current chair of Quality Matters, a trustee of the Race Equality Foundation, ambassador for Disability Rights UK, director of Community Navigator Services CIC, and a Skills for Care Ambassador.

As my colleague Cat Duncan-Rees wrote at the start of this blog series, we all have a story to tell of how the coronavirus pandemic has affected us. Several things have been running through my mind during lockdown and I want to talk about them in this blog.

The first is the extraordinary evidence of human creativity in all the lockdown activities people have been doing. From the peer support networks I am part of on Facebook, to the In Control webinars covering topics like doing your own emergency planning: what you can do, what your family can do, what friends can do, what your social worker can do and what your neighbourhood can do.

The second, as shown by the examples above, is the variety and range of online communities substituting physical space to connect us.

But the main thing that strikes me is how we are all dealing with our different emotions and vulnerability during this crisis.

My story is shaped by my role as Chair of Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) and my own personal experience in lockdown. My wife is working on the frontline as a hospital matron and sadly my best friend from school has contracted coronavirus and he is in intensive care on a ventilator. When I heard about my best friend, I was angry. I was angry that I couldn’t visit him in hospital and neither could his family.

My Mum’s pain in this lockdown has been about feeling anxious and alone. This manifested in her calling my siblings and I several times a day. We realised how she was feeling and now we have a regular family group chat, three times a week to talk with her and each other. This helps her, but it also helps all of us with the internal pain and grief of not being with our loved ones during this time.

Our emotions affect how we deal with a crisis. We are taught that emotions can be either good or bad, but they aren’t that rigid, they are more complex. I have been fearful and angry, but also hopeful.

I have felt hopeful in moments when my neighbours, many of whom I’ve never spoken to before, have made offers to help my wife and I should we need anything. I felt similarly seeing my wife break down in tears in appreciation when our street clapped for our NHS, care staff and personal assistants, it meant a lot to her.

So amongst anger and fear, there is also hope and courage. Courage is all around us and the pandemic is shining a light on it. There is courage on our frontlines, within key workers (including personal assistants), within citizens, communities, neighbourhoods and ourselves.

This pandemic is uniting us. We are all experiencing a storm that is destabilising our collective health and wellbeing. No matter what we look like, where we live, or what our household income is, getting sick reminds us that at our core we are all just human. We are all ‘vulnerable’ as anyone can get Covid-19. Vulnerability is defined by the context and the situation we find ourselves in. In the context of Covid-19 no one will escape untouched in some way. But we do know it will be worse for those whose wellbeing was already on a shaky foundation before this pandemic took place.  

We must never forget that the core things that are getting us through this time are health and social care, the civil society sector and everyday people. They are the construction crews that are shoring up our foundations in the near term by providing things like meal delivery and nutrition support, mental health services, housing support, bin collections and making phone calls and checking on neighbours. Often putting their own health at risk to do so.

In the long-term, these people will be an essential part of the team rebuilding the emotional, social, physical, and financial wellbeing that the pandemic is weakening. Our ability to weather this storm hinges on making sure that people and communities have the resources now to function properly in an ever-changing environment and to plan and prepare for the rebuilding process that will follow. Because this time will leave a legacy.

Which brings me to my last thought, about how we take this moment of unknowing as an opportunity to rewrite the rules. Martin Luther King, one of the greatest dreamers of our time said: “The time is always right to do what is right”. If it is right for us to dream as children, it is right for us to dream as adults and now is the time to dream and create our new future once this storm has passed.

In order to rebuild we need to listen to the pain of our communities and people’s stories of what they have been through. We must rewrite the rules to ensure everyone can access the care and support we need without fearing we’ll go bankrupt in doing it.

This is a moment where we must stand with and for each other across our differences and against anything and anyone who seeks to divide us. Many things have been dividing individuals and communities recently, from Brexit to the Windrush scandal. We have ended up dividing into an ‘us’ and ‘them’ culture. This pandemic has shown we can let go of our differences and love one another as human beings.

We need to transform the way we live, love, parent and lead with courage and hope. What brings me comfort right now is that we’re in this together. It can all change in an instant for the better.

To rebuild we need to continue the things we have been doing in lockdown in caring for each other. So many of us will be facing emotional trauma, how can we keep supporting each other once the lockdown is lifted? This pandemic has enabled us to reset and reconnect as individuals as looking out for one another – that’s what loving one another is all about. Resetting what we value and reconnecting to what matters most: and what matters most is the love we have for one another.

Follow Clenton on Twitter @clentonF

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