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12 June 2020
By Specialist Employment Service

Volunteering for the NHS and Embracing Creativity During Covid-19

As we are all aware by now, the spread of Covid-19 has made huge changes to our everyday lives, with many of us being forced to adapt the way we operate - both at work and in our personal lives. For a number of our adult jobseekers this has posed an even bigger challenge, as their work routine is something that has been finely tuned over a long period with us and their employer. There have been some inevitable challenges along the way, however we have been blown away by the way our clients has responded to the crisis.

We are proud to share that one of our amazing clients has not only been making huge strides in her career, but also has been using her spare time to bring the local community together in support of our NHS Heroes. You can find out more from Pippa herself below.

Case Study

My name is Pippa, I am 42 years old and a client of the Specialist Employment Service. In February 2020, I accepted redundancy from a job that I was finding extremely challenging to fulfil due to how the organisation functioned and me being autistic. Having worked in pharmacy as a registered technician since the age of 19, I now felt bewildered and lost. Prior to the redundancy, I had been off sick for six months and lost my confidence, feeling stupid and useless. I did not believe I would ever work again as I felt that no one would want to employ me.

The redundancy happened just before Covid-19 lockdown commenced and despite how I felt, I was conscious of holding a professional registration and felt that I should be doing something to help the NHS. Having started discussions with a Deputy Chief Pharmacist who I had worked with for 12 years previously, she persuaded me to apply to volunteer in the pharmacy at Maidstone Hospital. Having completed the recruitment process, I was left sitting at home waiting and I knew that Covid-19 being all over the news would soon start to play on my mind and cause me anxiety. Instead, I had to find a way of helping using another skill which I could do immediately.

‘Sheppey - Creating Rainbows’ Goes Nationwide

Reading about initiatives started in other countries, I realised it was possible for me to use my creativity to help parents keep children busy, and to know that there would be brightness after Covid-19 was gone. Already a Facebook user, I set up 'Sheppey - Creating Rainbows' what started as a local group. I advertised the group in others places which I knew had high levels of followers and slowly the community began to grow. With family and friends following the group, it soon began to spread beyond the local community, so I adjusted it to ensure that everyone felt welcome and we became Sheppey - Creating Rainbows Nationwide.

Each day I would spend my day scouring the internet for activities, colouring pages and physical things which parents could get children to do while unable to leave the home and having no school. Within a few days the page settled with around 500 followers, regular positive comments and thanks from parents who were using the activities to keep their children busy. The community sent in photographs of their children’s work, and shared ideas of their own.

As children went out for walks they spotted other rainbows and reported back in. The idea grew from pictures to chalk colouring walls and paths to modelling and moulding, knitting and crochet work. So much work was being put into the rainbows that I decided there should be a competition which I asked for volunteers to be the judges for.

Kent Online newspaper approached me and wrote an article about the group and advertised it so that more members could join if they wished.

Starting my Volunteer Placement at Maidstone Hospital

After a couple of weeks my clearance came through and I started work at the hospital. I made the group aware but continued to post articles and activities as and when I could, which everyone was understanding about. My voluntary role at the hospital turned into full time volunteering at the hospital pharmacy, back filling positions in the distribution area specifically where the team had been hardest hit for staff shortages due to shielding. I would complete ward and department checks to ensure that medication stocks were available to treat patients at all times, sign in medication deliveries from suppliers, stock check shelves, ensure monthly expired items were removed and disposed of appropriately, complete delivery rounds to ensure medicines arrived regularly to the wards and various other tasks.

The department was warm and welcoming to me and after six weeks I was encouraged to apply for a short-term vacancy to cover someone’s maternity leave. Having applied, I was interviewed and successfully offered the position which I am pleased to say I have accepted.

The hospital world is quite turbulent still due to Covid-19 and so I do have tough days with my anxiety but the department have been supportive. I was particularly encouraged when Occupational Health sent me a copy of my report and attached a document to give to my manager which details how they can best work with a staff member who is autistic. My autistic characteristics are not prominent every day, but it is encouraging that the organisation understand autism and anxiety and that they welcome staff to their department despite their challenges.

Find out about volunteering for the NHS here