Chris Atherton – A Kaleidoscope of Emotions in Adult Social Care

Hello everyone, my name is Chris Atherton and I am the Adult Principal Social Worker in Haringey. I wanted spend a few minutes in this podcast talking to you about my experience of working with my social care staff over the last few weeks. Specifically, I wanted to talk about the emotions that some staff have been, and are currently feeling, around the situation brought about by COVID-19.

So, there are 3 emotions specifically that I wanted to focus on for today’s podcast. Now I am only focusing on 3 because I only have a few minutes to talk with you but I did want to recognise that we have all probably felt, or are feeling, a kaleidoscope of emotions. What we are facing at the moment is unprecedented and the demand that staff are facing in health and social care is huge, and with that comes the spectrum of emotions. If any of you are having a particularly difficult time I just wanted you to know that we are with you and please do seek support through your employer.

The 3 emotions I wanted to focus on for this discussion are Fear, Helplessness and Hope.

Firstly, Fear. Given the worldwide impact that COVID-19 has had, the lives it has taken, and the effect it has had on our day to day lives, fear is a completely rationale emotion to have. Fear helps keep us and the ones that we love safe. Fear will be particularly prominent for those of us who are working directly with individuals in our community. It is something that staff have expressed to me regarding the lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) and the differing guidance being given to those working in the NHS and social care. But, even though people are afraid, they still continue to do their roles. They still continue to go out in to the community and work with those who are most vulnerable. To be fearful of something and yet to confront it shows courage, the one cannot exist without the other.

Secondly is Helplessness. For a number of practitioners, like myself, home working has come into play and face-to-face contact with those we support now being done via telephone, text, Zoom, Skype, to mention a few. This feels very alien for many of us. Social Care is about being there. It’s about showing up, supporting, empathising and enabling. So, to be told to retreat to the safe space of home and wait for further instructions has led to a lot of practitioners feeling helpless especially when other social care colleagues and those in the NHS are battling from the frontlines. The role that we all play will be invaluable and those who feel they are sitting on the bench will get their chance to join the fight, but this challenge is a marathon not a sprint.

Lastly, Hope. Even in the most challenging of circumstances we can always find hope. COVID-19 has presented devastation and despair but there is still hope to be found. So, there’s the big things we all might be feeling. Firstly, hope for the approach we have to tackling adversity as a system, a nation, a species, Hope for the environment given the pause to our normal routines and given those pauses hope to what we prioritise most in our lives.

For my practitioners, hope for better recognition of those heroes in health and social care and perhaps even hope of a decent pay rise, hope of communities, partners and systems working better together in the future as we are showing what we can do now and hope of changing our working processes – reducing red tape and reducing paperwork – getting away from our desks and into our communities more.

Thank you so much for listening keep safe everyone, goodbye.


Chris Atherton is the Adult Principal Social Worker in Haringey Council. In this podcast Chris draws on his experience and that of his adult social care colleagues to talk about three emotions, among others, felt in response to working during the pandemic; Fear, Helplessness and Hope.

Wellbeing Quiz Profile: #FeelingHopeless