Care in Mind Referrals Coordinator, Sue Bougen, shares her unique take on adapting the referrals process in lockdown.

I’m Sue and I’m the Referrals Coordinator within the Business Development Team. The referrals team receive telephone and email enquiries from commissioners and sometimes current placements, enquiring about placing young people with Care in Mind. We follow enquiries through to receipt of referral, screening, arranging face-to-face assessments and communicating outcome decisions to commissioners.

Pre-lock down, referrals activity was extremely busy so we had to put a lot of thought into just how this would work whilst we were all at home. Our first challenge was to ensure that we had all the necessary equipment so that communication channels could continue. This was swiftly sorted out by IT support, making sure we had ‘virtual’ phones on our laptops and that we could all access the network.

Next, we set up daily Business Development meetings via Teams, which means that we can discuss referral activity, agree shared actions and ensure that we are all kept up to speed in our fast-paced department. These calls have been invaluable in avoiding duplication of work, sharing the load in what has continued to be a very busy time and keeping each other’s spirits up. And of course we could see each other and have a little chat too – just like we would in the office.

Initially, I thought that we may not be in a position to progress referrals to assessment stage due to the current Government restrictions; however everyone has been brilliant in adapting to new ways of working and we have managed to continue assessing young people remotely, via Teams. This has meant that we can carry on with business as usual and play our small part in supporting the NHS by making it possible for young people to progress in their journey to independence.

There have been some challenges along the way; for example setting up virtual assessments and ensuring that the YP’s home team understand the process and have the relevant equipment. Also, during the actual assessment it can be quite difficult building rapport over a screen rather than in person. However, our amazing clinical and residential teams have adapted so well that we have had some really positive outcomes and are now progressing placement offers through to funding.

In summary, despite the difficult and challenging times we are all facing at the moment, I am very proud to be part of Care in Mind and to see the way that all the various teams have pulled together and adapted. Our procedures and processes have proved to be robust. I have spoken over Teams with colleagues who I hadn’t previously met in person which is just brilliant to put faces to names. I have spoken with commissioners and ward managers over Teams which has been invaluable for relationship building.

There have been a lot of positives that have come out of this situation and I feel confident that we are all doing our best – and actually we aren’t doing too bad at all!