Humans and Resilience

By Alastair Reid, CWC
 
Apparently September has been one of the warmest since records began, thank goodness after a disappointing August. Now we’re dealing with the stark complications caused by political dogma and intransigence in dealing with, among other issues, the supply chain.

I spoke about pressure and stress last time, pressure and stress are part of the human condition. Where these cause issues are where we don’t have the available resources to enable us to cope.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has caused /revealed mental health issues in an unusually stark way. Thank goodness we, as a culture, are beginning to be more comfortable in talking about this, I say beginning advisedly, as we have millennia of prejudicial attitudes to overcome.

Humanity is essentially a resilient and creative species, a species that wouldn’t be populating the planet otherwise. Homo Sapiens have evolved over millions of years, adjusting with the planet as it evolved, working out the best ways of surviving on a day to day basis. It could be argued that the rate of change has accelerated during the last two hundred years or so, however, this outline form of change shouldn’t be confused with evolution. Perhaps a better word might be development – this development being very location specific.

We may be developed in many ways, however, humanity is relatively undeveloped when considering its response ability to some events, especially when these are threatening, especially life/species threatening. The essential life preserving response mechanisms are, for want of a better word, basic and  are dependent for effectiveness on many factors, such as needing good physical and mental health and needing resilience.

In the developed state which I’ve tried to describe, humanity has needed other response mechanisms, and the pandemic has exposed/highlighted mental health issues and consequences. Recognising and learning how to create resilience has only recently started to be discussed. It is important the two are not confused.

How does this translate into our work supporting the Workplace? It’s important we recognise and understand the difficulties and consequences that have and are being experienced and how and where we can be most effective.

We’re in direct contact with employees, employers and the self employed. We hear their concerns, we hear about when they can’t cope, we hear about when they collapse as a result of the pressures they have experienced. Fortunately, due to this more open culture, more personal accounts and honesty about health – much more than in the recent past where most of this would never have been admitted. Progress has been made but there is still a long way to go to change mindsets.

CWC’s body of knowledge enables us to engage with the emerging challenges of, for example, employers and hybrid working. We constantly seek to find ways of engaging with and helping our significant numbers of self employed. Our Workplace Wellbeing Hub has been a universal hit with whoever has seen it, we can all help in actively promoting this.

Our chaplains continue to give the care and compassion needed, sometimes at great emotional cost to themselves. They have been and continue to be under significant pressure, for which they have our total support.

There are interesting times ahead, the workplace could be better for many, work life balance should be encouraged to be more balanced, organisations will I’m sure see the overall benefits, but vigilance about mental health is very important.  
  
Alastair Ure Reid, Chair CWC

Where to Now?

By Paul Hills, Vice-Chair, CWC
 
We seem to be in a strange position in work and in life generally at present.  The pandemic is still here, but things seem to be easing.  The lockdown has been handed over to personal action, but what does that mean in reality?  Are we getting back to work “normally” or is there a new normal to be found?  If so, who decides what it will look like and how will it be implemented?  And, when all this is over (whatever that means) how do we stop something similar happening again?
 
I recently came across an article by an Australian academic, Glenn Varona entitled “Ethics and the resilient society: examining the role of ethics in building societal resilience”.  Ethics is certainly something that should occupy a work-place chaplain.  Issues of right and wrong, justice and fairness all impact on the workplace.  Varona suggests there are two ethical elements needed for society to weather profound disruption:-trust and accountability and the latter he further defines as “shared responsibility”.  It struck me that in answering the question “Where to now?” these elements are very important.  In the lockdown trust in one another was largely replaced by government edict about what we should do, wear (face masks) and how to associate with one another.  Responsibility was reduced to keeping the rules.  Now government has stepped back and we have to re-establish trust and shared responsibility.
 
As the new workplace “normal” emerges, how do we encourage the growth of these ethical attitudes?  Chaplains would seem to be well-placed to help this.  Their work depends largely on developing trust with employers and employees.  They don’t have any “axes to grind” about management and unions (or shouldn’t have!).  They are seen as having a caring role (hopefully!).  All this should help them help those they serve address the issues of building trust and shared responsibility as the “new normal” emerges.
 
So, how could we go about promoting the growth and nurturing of these two ethical realties? No doubt there would need to be some reflection upon how these are functioning already in any particular workplace.  Seeking to heighten awareness of them would be another step.  The use of and strengthening of relationships within any given setting would be needed as well.  Given all that has happened in the lockdown, all this will be a challenge with less use of workplaces for actual work and the general attenuation of relationships.  But if a new normal is to emerge which does not result in friction and possible conflict, this is a challenge that will have to be met.
 
Where to now?  No doubt everyone reading this article will have some experience or views to share about this.  Please do that by feedback to CWC and sharing what you have with whatever colleagues you may have.  CWC has regular monthly online sessions for chaplaincy support.  Questions could be asked there and experience shared.  So,…..where to now?
 
Paul Hills, Vice-Chair CWC

Has anything ‘good’ come out of lockdowns?

By Clive Morton, Vice-Chair, CWC

“Devastating” and “unprecedented” are terms that have been repeatedly used (some would say over-used) throughout the pandemic. The experience for so many has been dire and it’s easy to see this past 18 months in very negative terms.

However, there are positive outcomes and I’d like to share one of those experiences from Peterborough.

Along with other local authorities during 2020, Peterborough City Council (PCC) were struggling to engage effectively with communities and individuals, particularly those isolated at home. The Council needed to get ‘Covid messages across’ and were struggling.

We have a wide range of ethnic communities in Peterborough and, in parallel, strong membership of world religions. Peterborough has had a long history of Inter Faith links and a pattern of strong partnerships between the Council and volunteer organisations including those associated with the Faiths.

Jawaid Khan, Head of Community Resilience and Integration for PCC, approached Rev Canon Tim Alban Jones, Vice Dean at the Cathedral, with the idea of setting up an Inter Faith Support Group (IFSG) with the objective of addressing the Covid issues and working in partnership with PCC and volunteer organisations. Tim Alban Jones took up the challenge and very swiftly set up and coordinated membership of the IFSG establishing fortnightly Zoom meetings and those meetings have met right up to the current time.

The prime objective was to communicate to and between the faiths on the situation with the pandemic and to aid this Dr Tony Jewell, public health consultant to PCC, attended each meeting bringing powerful epidemiological data from the ‘big picture’ right down to ‘drilling down’ detail on Peterborough and its districts and ethnic communities. Apart from the data on the pandemic, opportunities were taken to introduce to the group experts on current community issues where help, action and partnership was needed.
This support group became a self-managing social action forum facing up to the presented and discovered issues and suggesting and implementing solutions that crossed boundaries, engaging each Faith and the related voluntary organisations.

There were many products of the deep relationships established. For example, work across the faiths to provide for the homeless and rough sleepers – Muslim based charities and restaurants, the Sikh Gurdwara, all providing meals for Light Project Peterborough, a Christian charity caring for the homeless and rough sleepers, who were then housed in hotels by government. Later, Mosques and churches became information hubs, testing centres and eventually vaccination centres.

The core topics were getting the Covid messages across; and implementing policies to tackle infection including spot lighting ‘hard to reach groups’ and those lagging behind in the vaccination programme. However these new connections also embraced an amazing range of shared issues such as:

  • Chaplaincy and the work of CWC – including the helpline for those isolated work from home and the self-employed. Through the partnership with the Council CWC was able to develop the Workplace Wellbeing Hub website with links for mental health support. www.workplacewellbeing.org.uk Also, the City Centre Chaplaincy model, that has operated for some years, is now being extended through the partnership with PCC to other townships and communities in Peterborough
  • Fostering – identifying needs and connections.
  • APPG Faith and Society guidance on partnerships – research on local government experience. Support for food banks. Access to those isolated.
  • Public Health and use of worship space – preventative measures during lockdown.
  • Issues of domestic abuse and training for those interacting with such situations.
  • Crafting for Well-being
  • Organising the Census 2021.
  • Links to Policing priorities, in particular for any outdoor events as restrictions eased.
  • Funding opportunities for community groups and faith organisations
  • An opportunity to be a trustee of ‘Headway’
  • Investing in Mental Healthcare for Minority Ethnic Groups in Peterborough.
  • Protection of places of worship against hate crime. Action against hate. SAFE. ‘We Stand Together’ – tackling hate crime on the transport network. Safety in Ramadan.
  • Access to Social Prescribing
  • ‘Stop Suicide’ training (CWC organised)
  • Samaritans – access and volunteering
  • “What may happen as we come out of lockdown” (CWC)

We have all been amazed at what has been achieved from the ‘mustard seed’ of the approach from Jawaid to Tim.

Now, the challenge to build further on this!

Clive Morton Vice-Chair CWC

Online seminars and workshops:

Wellbeing topics, reflection, chaplaincy and more…


Here is a selection of online events (July – autumn) that we spotted are coming up which may interest supporters and Chaplains alike; covering a range of topics relevant to work, spirituality and more.

Ageing and spirituality  
3rd July (there is a registration fee to attend)

Faced with the norm of seeing ageing as despair and fragility, we explore ageing as a source of wisdom, joy and growth through Spirituality.

Lighting up eternity in the midst of work and life 
5th July (small charge to attend)

A time of visual and verbal reflection based on the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh. This lunchtime event will be accessible to Christians of all denominations and to people of all faiths and none.

Can we overcome rhetoric and address the tensions of workplace wellbeing? 
6th July (free to attend)

This webinar will pose several questions – such as: Are you a wellbeing donkey? Or is your work becoming more of a health burden? In the webinar we will explore what is wellbeing, can it be measured and better understood? What research is taking place to fully understand workload pressures and how these effect our mental, and physical wellbeing?

Safeguarding Adults – Strengthening Faith Institutions
6th July
Strengthening Faith Institutions is running online training on Tuesday 6 July on ‘Safeguarding Adults: An Introduction’.  The webinar runs from 3pm to 4pm.

Listen to the World Open Mic Night
6th July

St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace is hosting an Open Mic event on Tuesday 6 July on ‘Listen to the World’.  It will be an evening where the musical traditions and talents of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers find a home among local artists. It is being held from 6.30pm to 8.00pm. For more information, contact Jo Winsloe Slater at jowinsloe@stethelburgas.org or register in advance here

Neurodiversity in the Workplace. 
8th July (free to attend)

A virtual webinar event for professionals looking to understand more about Neurodiversity in the workplace. The term Neurodiversity encompasses (among others) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Asperger’s and Tourette ’s syndrome. In the workplace, often there is a fear and stigma about employees whose brains work differently which does nothing to help the employee or employer. In this webinar we will review the key aspects and best-practice regarding disability discrimination.

Self-care for staff and volunteers 
13th July and other dates available, usually one per month (free to attend)

It is essential that as a volunteer, you are putting the same care and love towards yourself as you would towards the programs you serve. Join this monthly session to hear how others are managing under pressure and, if you wish, share your stories. Hear some tips and strategies for Self-Care from a trained counsellor, with opportunities for further support if you need it.

Returning to the workplace – employee wellbeing 
14th July (free to attend)

As restrictions are starting to ease many of us will be swapping our home offices, kitchen tables, trackies and slippers and returning to workplaces over the coming months. If you have been working from home, or managing staff who will going back to the workplace it can feel like a big change and for many a daunting challenge, it may well be very different from what you previously experienced. In this session we will be sharing some practices that may help you with upcoming transitions.

Bereavement Friendly Church  
14th July (free to attend)

Run by Ataloss.org this session helps individuals and religious leaders consider accessibility to the many bereaved people in their communities. The learning from this webinar can be applied to chaplaincy such as in prisons, hospitals and Universities/colleges.

Hannah Malcolm – ‘Grief and Courage in a Dying World’
15 July (free to attend)

Hannah Malcolm is currently training for ordained ministry and writing a PhD on theology, climate and ecological grief. She campaigns around the subject of climate justice and recently edited a book entitled Words for a Dying World: Stories of Grief and Courage from the Global Church (SCM Press, 2020). This event is part of Heaven & Earth at Ely Cathedral Tickets are free, but please book a place here. If you can’t join us in person, the talk will be live streamed.

Meditation in the Christian tradition – weekly practice sessions 
Saturdays, weekly (free to attend)

Meditation in the Christian tradition is a very ancient and very simple way of prayer. It is a way of being fully present to the gift of our life, each other and God. It’s about establishing peace in ourselves so we can be places of peace in the world. Each session will involve a short talk, a period of silent meditation practice and an opportunity questions and conversation.Happy people – healthy workplaces 
24th August (free to attend)

Organised by Workplace Chaplaincy Scotland this seminar will help you to consider the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ of engaging with wellbeing in the workplace. ‘Why’ explores how happy employees benefit the workforce and the ‘How’ explores the role of senior managers and line management in enabling a happy environment.

What is Mindfulness? Buddhist Roots of a Modern Movement 
14th October (£17 to attend)

This two-hour talk will cover the fascinating roots of mindfulness. Mindfulness is used widely in the world today. But, how did these practices come about? Mindfulness is useful everywhere, so the Buddha said. Using Early Buddhist Texts, this session will focus on the Buddhist foundations of Mindfulness. 

Love @ Work


It could be a slogan for Work Chaplaincy. But it isn’t! It’s the title of a book about the 100 years of the Industrial Christian Fellowship (Love@Work – Ian Randall, Phil Jump, John Weaver – DLT – 2020). 

Its forerunners, the Navvy Mission Society (1877) and the Christian Social Union (1889) joined together in 1920 to become the ICF. 

The book details a fascinating history of social thought and action by Christians. Included in its history is the work of G.A. Studdert Kennedy, perhaps better known as “Woodbine Willy” the First World War chaplain and poet. Much of what it has been about could be termed a form of workplace chaplaincy.  The history talks of sacrificial practical action by individuals and groups. It also tells of challenges to institutional religion to take seriously the social needs of workers and to industry to take seriously the spiritual, social and emotional needs of workers. 

Quotes from Studdert Kennedy make clear some of the values and mission of the Fellowship. Faith “does not relieve us from the duty of thought…It does not put an end to research and enquiry, it gives a basis from which real research is made possible and fruitful of results; a basis without which thinking means wandering round in circles, and getting nowhere in the end, and research means battering at a brass door that bruises our knuckles, and does not yields by a millionth part of an inch.” (p.55)

On the place of organised religion, in this case the Christian church, “If the Church is to be the Church, and not a mere farce – and a peculiarly pernicious farce, a game of sentimental make-believe – she must be filled to overflowing with the fire of the ancient prophets for social righteousness, with the wrath and love of Christ.” (p.57)

In these words we hear, an awareness of the need for a holistic approach to work life which includes social, emotional and spiritual needs, a challenge to religion to take seriously the life lived at work, based on experience not sentiment, a driving passion for justice and the good of all.

These don’t seem a bad summary of how workplace chaplaincy might perform!

Given our present context of pandemic, we have been appraising how we might continue to be in contact with people in the workplace now that so many work from home and covid makes personal contact so difficult. Perhaps we should also be reflecting on some of the issues raised in the historic ICF approach.

Are we “speaking truth to power” over the injustices and inequalities the pandemic has underscored? 

Is there a “prophetic” element to chaplaincy directed both to the religious and the secular?

Are we sufficiently energised by a vision of meeting the whole needs of people, emotional and spiritual as well as material? 

The mental burden of lockdown cannot be underestimated, nor the hollowing out of spiritual sensitivity that it is bringing. 
We have seen the best of people in the dedication of the NHS and of the myriad of volunteers giving time and energy to help their communities.  But we have also seen the worst in the carelessness and selfishness of some, the outright and ignorant denial of the problem by others and the slovenliness (at least) of some government decisions.  What does workplace chaplaincy have to say and do in the light of all this? 

As the pandemic begins, please God, to fade these are questions and issues we need to face if the work of chaplaincy is to be relevant post-covid. 

What are your thoughts and views on this?  Please let us know what they are. There is a future as well as a present in which the whole range of human need must be addressed, physical, mental, social and spiritual.  Love@Work requires our passionate engagement. 

Tells us about yours and let us share what we know and have for a better future in the workplace.  Paul Hills, Vice-Chairman. CWC

The Past is a Different Country

Today, as November ends and December begins, across the UK the numbers of people affected by COVID19 have been rising dramatically. Even now, we are hoping the recent lockdown may have slowed the spread of the virus. While the emergence of possible vaccines is giving us some cautious reason for optimism, we know that it will be a long time before we are out of the woods. The situation in Cambridgeshire is a microcosm of the national picture.

We’ve heard about the different areas of life in our county: hospitals – especially intensive care units – in danger of being overwhelmed; schools constantly having to reorganise their ways of working; some businesses facing imminent insolvency or bankruptcy with employees being made redundant whilst others are so busy that they don’t have time to think; prisoners being locked up almost around the clock; police officers trying to understand and implement frequently changing regulations; and local government officials battling with ever increasing demands on rapidly dwindling resources. And there will be others known to each one of us.

Although the present circumstances are unprecedented in our recent history, it is times of stress and trauma that underline the need for someone who can be ‘present’ for those who are struggling with the pressures of life; someone who can offer listening ears and words of encouragement and guidance. And that, surely, is what the ministry of chaplaincy has always been about?

How can those who are chaplains fulfil that ministry when the pressures on host organisations are so great, and not just financial pressures, although those will be a factor. There are so many challenges for chaplains who want to walk alongside those in the various workplaces where they have a role. But it is not something that is easy to do at the moment, when people have to socially distance and wear masks that muffle their voices. You can’t have a confidential discussion with someone when you have to shout through a face covering to someone who is six feet away.

It seems as though the pressure on government to ‘move things on’ has been amplified because of the desire to be able to celebrate Christmas in some sort of traditional fashion. But, deep down, probably most of us realise that there will be no return to that which was there before. In the notable opening words of (one-time Peterborough resident) L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between:

‘The past is a different country: they do things differently there.’

L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between

The normal in future is going to be very different to the way it was.

Over the past few months many people will have started to interact with their doctor, their supermarket, their bank, their children’s school, even their place of faith or worship, via the medium of the internet. However, even as these interactions take place, there is a recognition that there is something missing. No matter how good our electronic device nor how fast our broadband connection is, there is something of the muffled shouting through a face covering about it. We are rediscovering that it is the personal contact, the soothing voice, the fleeting smile, the gentle touch on the arm, that makes all the difference.

Today, as November ends and December begins, we are starting the season of Advent. Contrary to popular belief, Advent is not about putting up the Christmas decorations and opening calendars to find bits of chocolate. For Christians, Advent is a time for anticipating Christ’s return to earth, for desiring an immanent God to be present in this corner of creation.

The great German theologian Dietrich Boenhoffer, who was tortured and died in a Nazi concentration camp for speaking out against Hitler’s horrors, said that “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”

If there ever was a time for people to be troubled in soul and to know themselves to be poor and imperfect it is now. But Advent is also surely the time for us to sing:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

A prayer: Almighty God – we hold before you at this Advent season those who hold roles as chaplains in our county; those whose desire it is to walk alongside people with a whole variety of needs. Compassionate God, may our chaplains be aware of your firm and constant embrace as they minister to those they stand with at this difficult time. Amen.

(Photo by Smart on Unsplash)

The Place where I work…

It sounds simple enough. The place where I work. My workplace.

We used to say this in a matter of fact statement in a conversation, and often it involved a physical description; a description of an organisation, based in a town, a specific industry, business park or office perhaps.

Of course, if you’re working in healthcare, or retail or perhaps education your workplace is still the same physical place; albeit with many modifications and possibly some virtual existence too.

But living through Covid-19 is showing how everything has been shaken up like a pair of dice, then thrown in the air whilst we all look around at where the dice have landed! Some of us are struggling with the constant uncertainty – it’s completely normal to feel like that as humans need some certainty.

Recently at CWC we have been discussing the need for interactions with others and how the changing dimensions of a ‘workplace’ is affecting so many people. If the workplace is now as varied as kitchens, offices, living rooms, co-working spaces, shops and factories then how do we ensure employees and the self employed are best served emotionally? How do workplace chaplains respond and adapt to this? This is a key area we are considering and discussing with chaplains to ensure CWC can support them as best we can.

Boundaries for comfort

Whatever your personal circumstances; it’s important to create boundaries that comfort and support our emotional, physical, spiritual and practical needs during these times – wherever our place of work may be.

How do we separate work (paid and unpaid) and home life? I know of some friends who are working from home but have a ‘commute’ to help get them in the mode for the working day, it could be a walk that is equal to a (previous) commute or it could be a different morning ritual to nourish and separate home from work.

I recently read 7 great tips that many of us can try, whatever your circumstances. I hope you may find some of these useful:

  1. Plan ahead – plan out your week and days so you can see where you need to divide up time for things to replenish you. It could be a lunchtime walk or set breaks every 30 minutes if you’re working at a desk. Work with your other household members so that everyone knows how the week is looking for you all.
  2. Routine – It sounds boring but these strange times mean your mind will be craving routine when life around us feels so uncertain – these boundaries will help you feel more organised and give structure to your week
  3. Maximise your outside allowance – we all know time outside is important and never more so than now. Whatever you can manage outside will boost your overall health and wellbeing, even if you can only fit in a quick walk round the block.
  4. Learn to switch off – make food breaks the time to switch off or hide your phone/laptop to aid you switching off. Go for a walk. Plan something nice for the evening like a social call or a hobby. Talk through your day with someone to help you process your day.
  5. Make time off sacred – whether you have a morning off in the week, a day off or a weekend, make this time special and restorative. Make sure it is relaxing or fun – whatever you crave and don’t feel guilty about a lie in or treats!
  6. Create a designated workspace – if you’re someone working from home, try to create an area where you only work. A spare room/office is of course a luxury for many so it could just be a section of worktop, a certain chair or area of the kitchen table that is the only place where you work. It just means you can separate out where you might sit to relax or watch TV and this simple divide can help.
  7. Prioritise your relationships – Everyone is experiencing the pandemic in a different way so we all need to be tolerant of how others are feeling even if it is at odds with how we’re personally feeling. At home if you are part of a household then remember that being together 24/7 under exceptionally stressful circumstances can put a lot of pressure on relationships and dealing with these thoughts and emotions is necessary so that you don’t bottle them up. You may feel you can’t talk to a loved one if things are difficult but find someone else you can talk to. We all need this release!

Jane Thompson

Administrator, CWC

Image credit: Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

What do we do now?

What do we do now?

With the Covid-19 crisis there are plenty of restrictions on what chaplains can and cannot do.  What do you do when a lot of people are “home-working”?  How do you help those being furloughed or even made redundant?  Things have eased up somewhat, but as I write, there is talk of new restrictions, a “circuit-break”.

Recently I took part in a quiet day on Zoom with a number of volunteers in chaplaincy. At one point what do we do now came up.  A number of suggestions were made.

  1. Find some open space that can be used to meet, like a nearby garden. In a hospital context this may well work for relatives unable to spend much time with patients.  Other contexts might be able to find some space too.  A poster on a notice board about the “space” might help.
  2. Use modern technology might help with things like “Facetime” and various video calling apps. Where the work is within a factory or office, the managers could be given a phone number and asked to circulate it carefully to those needing time with a chaplain.  There could be privacy issues here, but they might be ameliorated. There is always the CWC Listening Line too!
  3. Maybe this is a time to develop some of our own skills. CWC is looking at accessing appropriate webinars about mental health etc which could help this.
  4. There is always prayer, and not as a last resort! Chaplains work is not just about face to face contacts (although we all want more of them!).  Holding people and situations in the peace of God in prayer may be one of our main callings at present.  In a world where there is so much uncertainty and anxiety, finding quiet, calm, restful places, whether external or internal, would seem to be essential. Can chaplains find ways to help this happen?  And, this work of prayer is no soft option when there is so much pain around.  But it certainly needs to be done.

These are some things that arose out of one conversation.  So, what do you think?  What have you tried?  Perhaps the other thing we can do at the moment is share ideas.  This newsletter can be a forum for that or there may be other ways to be explored.

What do we do now?

What do you think?

Revd. Paul Hills, Vice Chair, CWC

Thanks to the pandemic women are being adversely affected in many areas of their lives

Jane Thompson looks at the different evidence emerging and how it affects the workforce and asks is the essential nature of caregiving now being realised?

You may have read various articles recently documenting how women are being hit hardest during Covid-19. Being female, a working Mother and one who has been juggling homeschooling since February this is a topic close to my heart as I see the fallout affecting myself and friends.

Due to the complex mix of lower paid work, being more exposed to the risk of infection, reduced working hours due to homeschooling; and even an increased risk of furlough or redundancy enforced by their employer (Mothers 47% more likely to lose their job compared to Fathers) women are indeed shouldering the brunt of a rapidly changing work and caregiving environment and frequently these collide.

The Guardian led with how the pandemic is destroying women’s rights citing how women are bearing the brunt of the economic fallout and taking on a greater share of domestic work and childcare – while visits to the Refuge website are up 950%…they state – Is this the biggest ever leap backward for women?

Clearly there are many issues going on, and no two situations are the same; but when you think of the caregiving in our country the vast majority of care is carried out by women – be that paid carers roles in our hospitals and care systems, or ‘invisible’ care not recognised by the economy in the form of caring for children, elderly or sick relatives. The unpaid care offered by many week in week out is a huge benefit that keeps the wheels of the economy working – so are we now seeing the result of this situation with claims from the Government that we ‘all need to get back to work’ whilst parents (especially Mothers) around the country cry back ‘we will once the Children go back to school!’.

In the journal Nature they reflected that previous pandemics had the same results commenting that Governments need to ‘gather data and target policy to keep all citizens equally safe, sheltered and secure’. So what has the current pandemic taught us? I think it has shown families how they need to work differently to be as productive and supportive of each other as much as possible – women in particular need support to close the gap on work they can achieve whilst homeschooling or from other caring responsibilities.

I think it has shown that more value needs to be placed at the heart of caregiving in the UK – all types of care is essential to our families, friends and communities and it protects the NHS and wider services from becoming overburdened. Unpaid care is the unseen pillar of many communities and indeed organisations (through volunteering).

I also hope support for all Mothers in particular will be seen as a greater priority; by their own partners and families but also in the wider community. I speak from personal experience when I say the mental health of many of my female friends is at breaking point right now thanks to complex balance of looking after children and working.

Let’s hope these lessons will be learnt.

Survey results from Workplace Chaplains and Supporters

Thank you to all our workplace chaplains, supporters and religious leaders who gave up two minutes of their time to give us feedback on our service.

Since our launch event in early 2018 we were reassured to see Chaplains in particular still wanted the range of support we are offering (or planning to offer) including regular chances to meet and support each other, access to training and CPD and financial assistance to attend events and training. Since the survey was circulated we have launched our bursary scheme and we are delighted that chaplains are already making use of this offer.

We will now look to see what training and courses we can offer online; and give chaplains more opportunities to discuss their experiences with each other.

Supporters and Chaplains alike felt promoting the concept of workplace chaplaincy to be very important and this is an area we’re striving to build on constantly. We’ve recently moved our social media emphasis to our Facebook page (to reach Chaplains and the general public) and now to LinkedIn to build relations with organisations and HR professionals.

Summary of results showed:

Demographics:

  • 36% respondents were workplace chaplains
  • 33% respondents were supporters
  • 15% respondents were religious leaders or institutions
  • Most workplace chaplains were from Cambridge area (43%) followed by Peterborough area (33%) and Huntingdon (19%) with others scattered around the county
  • 43% or respondents are supported by a religious institution with 14% supported by an employer. 24% do not have support.
  • Half of workplace chaplains in our county are working at full capacity (50%), with 45% having some capacity for further work

What Chaplains want

  • Key issues workplace chaplains want to see CWC actively doing and offering were promoting workplace chaplaincy, support and training opportunities, networking with other chaplains and CPD and non-managerial supervision

Communications

  • Supporters and chaplains alike want to see the value of workplace chaplaincy to be promoted by CWC
  • 100% of respondents were happy in the way CWC communicated with them
  • Preferences for the future were communications by email, newsletter and Facebook