Coronavirus: The council workers switching roles to help the vulnerable

By Chris Clements
Social affairs correspondent, BBC Scotland

  • Published
Hub canteen
Image caption,
Councils across Scotland continue to provide essential services to residents

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak local authorities have been reassessing how to deliver vital services during lockdown.

It means councils' key workers are performing extra duties to take care of the most vulnerable.

North Lanarkshire Council is now using school catering staff to feed elderly residents living in the sheltered housing complexes.

BBC Scotland's The Nine visited a school in Viewpark where lunches were being sent to 56 vulnerable pensioners.

At the hub

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Jane Aitken says an initial scheme to feed sheltered housing tenants has been expanded

Jane Aitken works as an area manager for the council, overseeing operations at a newly-opened school hub at John Paul II Primary.

She said the scheme to feed tenants in sheltered housing grew quickly over the course of the week.

"People in the sheltered housing units are no longer able to congregate in their communal areas due to the new regulations on Covid-19," she said.

"Our colleagues in the complexes came to us and asked whether meals were a service we could provide.

"Initially, they asked to service seven hubs. We are now doing 26 across the week, so it's quite a lot."

Image caption,
Councils across Scotland continue to essential services to residents

Managing the kitchen is Charlotte Stewart. As well as cooking for nursery and primary-age children, her team are also preparing dozens of steak pie lunches.

"We are doing 56 meals today," she said.

"We're here to help and it's nice to see the old buddies getting dinner.

"It's a busy time, let's put it that way."

The driver

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Gerry Clark normally drives school buses

Key workers for the council are being deployed in other roles as the authority adapts to the outbreak.

Usually, Gerry Clark drives buses to take children with additional support needs to school but now he is tasked with meal runs from schools to sheltered housing.

But he says he and his colleagues were at first unsure how the pandemic was going affect their job roles.

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Meals prepared in school kitchens are then delivered in the community

"Nobody seemed to know who was going to be a key worker and who wasn't," he tells The Nine as he delivers to three complexes in Bellshill.

"We are bus drivers normally, so we weren't sure what was going to happen to us.

"Some of the guys have been sent to different departments, like helping cleansing out. Other ones have been doing the catering side of it."

'Blitz spirit'

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Home carers dish out the meals at sheltered housing complexes

Normally active social lives at the Unitas Court complex in Mossend have been put on hold. The communal areas have lain empty for weeks.

Housing manager Gillian Whitehead arranges the delivery of food to the front doors of residents.

Those who need help, however, are aided by home carers.

She said: "We just chap their doors and leave it on the floor for them to pick up.

"It puts our mind at rest as well that we know our tenants are getting fed.

"You're talking about an age group that has probably seen worse than we have, so they have got a wee bit of that Blitz spirit."

The resident

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Joyce Park says it's nice to have food cooked and delivered

Joyce Park is 73, a great-grandmother and suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

Like her neighbours, she has been shielding indoors since the start of the outbreak.

"It means you aren't getting the company the same," she said.

"You're not even speaking to your neighbours, very seldom do you see them.

"It is nice to getting something cooked and delivered for you. You can just sit down and eat it, rather than trying to make it yourself which is not always possible, depending on your groceries."