Supporting care workers through the Covid-19 crisis

UNISON is helping residential care staff deal with the impact of coronavirus deaths at work through specialist support via video learning.


Residential care workers affected by the Covid-19 death toll have been enrolling on a new video-conference course that is helping them deal with their feelings of loss and the grief of co-workers and residents’ families.

UNISON Learning and Workforce Development Officer Stevie Milward explained:

With all the news coverage of the difficulties residential care workers and their residents are facing, it’s no secret that a lot of our members in the sector are suddenly facing multiple deaths of people they have often been looking after for many years.”

Because of the current restrictions in care homes, our members are sometimes the only people dealing with residents who are dying and then they are having to break the news to family members who have been unable to visit because of Covid-19 – and in some care homes, they have been facing all this over and over again.”

To help workers deal with their own feelings surrounding bereavement and support colleagues and families, Learning and Organising Services (LAOS) has developed a new partnership with national bereavement charity Cruse Bereavement Care to offer video-conference training.

Over the course of roughly two hours, a specialist tutor from Cruse helps learners:

examine the impact of grief and bereavement on workers and on families

take care of people (including themselves) experiencing loss

improve communication skills with bereaved people

understand the boundaries of their roles

gain awareness of sources of support and advice.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Rachel Harper, who manages a small care home group in Malvern, signed up so she could better support family, friends and staff around bereavement.

Rachel said:

The course was very useful for me in my work life, particularly about the models of grieving, and I have put together some training resources for my staff team and made an awareness board with links to the Cruse website.”

Carol, who works in adult mental health services, particularly enjoyed the space the tutor made for discussion from participants.

Carol explained:

I have already been able to incorporate what we learned into my working life and have used the beautiful Tonkin model that explains learning to live with loss.”

I would recommend this course to all staff in the caring field.”

Now that the first batch of 10 courses has been completed UNISON is now looking into the best and most cost-effective way to extend this support to more members affected by bereavement because of Covid-19.

This case study first appeared in U Learn Summer 2020.