When Big Ben chimed in a new decade at the end of December, no one could have possibly predicted the seismic change that would impact us all only a few months later.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our day-to-day lives, how we communicate and do our jobs in ways we could never have anticipated.
With the help of Client Liaison Managers (CLMs), Michaela Morris and Susan Seddon, this article takes a look at how critical their role is at Irwin Mitchell and how they’ve had to adapt how they support clients at a time when they’re needed more than ever.
A critical piece of the puzzle
Following a traumatic injury or illness, it can be difficult to accept what's happened and understand what the future might hold. As clinical specialists, our CLMs understand how medical care and rehabilitation can make a massive difference to someone who’s suffered a serious injury or illness.
Often when people contact us they aren’t sure where to turn, trapped in a maze of services which they’re unfamiliar with and desperate for support for themselves or a loved one.
While our legal experts concentrate on getting our clients the justice they deserve, their role is to focus solely on the type of care and rehabilitation and to be there every step of the way.
Suddenly everything changed
Our clients who’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury or other types of serious injury and medical negligence could be vulnerable in the current climate.
Structure is very important to these individuals and sudden change can have a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. With the country going into lockdown and the introduction of social distancing, our CLMs have needed to be creative to find ways of caring for our clients in these most challenging of circumstances.
Here are three quick examples of how they’ve gone above and beyond to be there, just like they’ve always been:
A young female was rapidly discharged from a neuro-rehabilitation setting after suffering from a brain bleed. This was at a time when the NHS was, understandably, trying to create bed capacity. She has a blood disorder and was therefore in the high risk category. Our CLM, working remotely, helped to secure funding for the continuation of her therapy and assisted with the discharge plan. This ensured that there was support available, despite her early discharge.
Our CLMs have also been supporting individuals with benefit applications. The period of self-isolation has led to many feeling anxious about their financial situation and seeking benefits for the first time. Our team have signposted our clients to helpful resource pages and filled in the benefits forms for them if and when necessary.
Finally one of our CLMs supported a wheelchair-using single parent to three school age children, who had a limited support network. One week into the lockdown, one of her children began to show symptoms of COVID-19, which meant that the whole family had self-isolate for 14 days.
During their regular weekly call the client explained that they had run out of most essential foods and was very anxious about feeding the family. As this was in the early days and many services for the vulnerable weren’t up and running, our CLM collected shopping for their client and her family and delivered it to their door, complying with social distancing rules.
In times like these, many things change but for our CLMs, their focus remains the same, to support those who need it most and repay the trust our clients place in us.
A quick chat with our CLMs
Michaela and Susan saw their working practices change completely overnight when the lockdown was announced.
We found time in their busy schedule to have a virtual chat about the role of a CLM and how they’ve adapted.
How would you describe your role?
SS: It’s an extremely varied and interesting one, which is challenging and demanding at times, but ultimately very rewarding. I feel like I’m in a privileged position, supporting people who are extremely vulnerable while also being an advocate and a voice for my clients and their families.
MM: I support individuals and their families who live with the impact of traumatic injury, medical negligence and asbestos related diseases. As an occupational therapist by background, I help people to deal with a huge amount of change – both mental and physical.
How has your role changed since the pandemic and lockdown began?
SS: A key part of our job is being out and about visiting clients in their own homes. When the face to face client contact stopped during the lockdown it initiated a complete change in the way we would normally work.
All client contact and support is now done mainly by telephone, which means we have lost part of the ‘human touch’ element that our role provides. It’s difficult not to be able to arrange a visit to see a client, especially for those who are clearly struggling, but we work around it due to the times we are in.
It’s harder in some ways to build relationships with new clients who we haven’t met and have only spoken to over the phone, as much of our role is built on trust and the relationships we build over time, but the main thing is that they know we’re there to support them.
MM: As Susan has said, the main change has been not being able to visit people in their homes or in hospitals and adapting to home working. All that really matters is that we’re able to offer support when people are isolated and living with new pressures and difficulties as a result of the pandemic.
And Michaela, what does that support look like in these times?
MM: It depends on the client and their needs. One of my clients is a victim of assault and found that her anxiety and memories of the trauma were increased and intensified in the isolation. So I made sure she had a therapist that could do online sessions to support her.
I’ve spent a lot of time supporting families with children with additional needs who’re struggling with not being able to access therapies, groups and support for their loved ones. With many children suffering from the lack of routine, reduced social interaction and disturbed sleep, the focus is on helping parents to manage these new challenges and look after their own wellbeing.
Finally, I’ve been supporting clients who’ve lost employment and are struggling financially by helping with benefit applications and advice on housing. The husband of a client with a traumatic brain injury had been furloughed by his work and then suddenly told him he had to return.
His wife is very vulnerable to infection and needs 24-hour care, and during this time carers had stopped coming due to her risk. I helped him speak with his work and to extend the furlough period for his job so he could care for his wife. He’s now preparing for carers to return so he can return to work part time.
What are you most looking forward to when lockdown ends?
SS: Visiting my clients face-to-face, attending professional meetings and getting out and about again.
MM: The freedom of being able to visit friends and family and have a hug! I miss my work colleagues too, although I don’t miss the commute.
What makes your job so rewarding?
SS: We can make a difference to our clients and their families at a very difficult time in their lives. We have time to focus on them and provide continuity, which is difficult for professionals in health and social care to do with the restraints that they work under, especially in these unprecedented times.
MM: It’s the variety and daily challenges that come with supporting such a range of adults and children and being able to focus on their needs so they can focus on brighter days ahead.
Thanks to Susan and Michaela for finding the time to talk to us. You can find out more about
the CLM team here.
Turning Point – June 2020
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