'It's all hands to the pump' - senior social worker David Jeffrey says preparation has been crucial

I'm 'blessed' with the social workers in my team - Jeffrey

Senior social worker David Jeffrey has said it has been "all hands to the pump" for him and his community care team during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ballymena United manager's Larne-based day job sees him work with older people with complex healthcare needs and people with physical disabilities.

Jeffrey, 57, said his team's focus has been on ensuring they are prepared for what they may face during the crisis.

"As my mum says, being a senior social worker is my 'proper job'," he said.

"It really has been all hands to the pump over the last four weeks. A big part of our work is providing domiciliary care to folk in the community, and we are responsible for community beds.

"We have been trying to ensure we have as much capacity as possible, to make sure that the Trust has enough bed capacity to be able to support our acute hospitals.

"It has been busy but we seem to be at a point now where we are ready. We are prepared and are now waiting to see what is going to happen next."

'We've stood up to the task'

David Jeffrey
Jeffrey signed a contract extension at Ballymena in March

Jeffrey admitted that the crisis has placed pressure on him and his colleagues, but he said he has been extremely proud of how his team has responded to the challenge.

"The direction was very clear, that Covid-19 was going to have a big impact and that we needed to be ready for the people that we work with," the former Linfield captain and manager continued.

"But everyone has stood up to the task and applied ourselves in the faithful way that we always do. It's very much been a big team effort.

"I'm blessed with the social workers I have and indeed we are part of a bigger, integrated team. Everyone has supported each other and, to be honest, it has brought us all closer together.

"The lead that I have given is that we have to take care of ourselves, because if we do not do that then we cannot take care of other people. The people we work with are our family, and we seek to do our best for them every day."

Jeffrey, who signed a contract extension at Ballymena in March, was also keen to reinforce the 'stay at home' message to the public.

"If we are going to defeat Covid-19 - and we will defeat it - then we have to be individually and collectively accountable for how we behave," he said.

"I would continue to ask people to stay at home. Don't be going out unless it is absolutely necessary. This is very real and people have to understand that."

'I miss my players but football comes second'

David Jeffrey
Jeffrey recently signed a contract extension at Ballymena

While keen to stress that the return of football is very much of secondary importance to tackling the coronavirus crisis, Jeffrey did admit to missing the game.

His team are currently 10th in the Irish Premiership table but are in the Irish Cup semi-finals, though Jeffrey warned that it may be difficult to fully conclude the current season.

"I obviously miss my players, my staff and the supporters, and everything that goes along with football, but we have tried to keep a focus for when football does resume," he added.

"In principle, we would love to be able to finish the season - of that there is no doubt - but football has to very much come second compared to what is better for the wider community.

"We have to look after each other and, until we get to a point where we can play in an environment that is safe for the supporters and everyone involved, then we just have to accept the situation.

"At some stage there maybe needs to be a decision made that we can't continue with this season. There is no immediate rush, but the longer that players are away from football then the longer it will take to prepare them to come back."

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