When taking a “snow day” just isn’t an option – how Norfolk’s carers beat the weather

Carer Sue Hewitt visiting Norwich pensioner Helen Parker in her home. Photo: Steve Adams Carer Sue Hewitt visiting Norwich pensioner Helen Parker in her home. Photo: Steve Adams

Saturday, January 19, 2013
12:45 PM

When the bad weather sets in in Norfolk, taking a “snow day” is not an option for the county’s carers.

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Carer Sue Hewitt visiting Norwich pensioner Helen Parker in her home. Photo: Steve AdamsCarer Sue Hewitt visiting Norwich pensioner Helen Parker in her home. Photo: Steve Adams

For Sue Hewitt, home support worker for the Norfolk County Council-run Norfolk First Support service, dangerous roads and traffic jams simply mean abandoning her car and walking to the homes of the vulnerable people she needs to visit.

She said: “I would do everything in my power to make sure that person sees a carer. They really need them.

“Sometimes we are the only people they see. Even if they have family, they might not be venturing out because of the snow.”

Among her appointments yesterday was to see 86-year-old Helen Parker who lives in the Norwich area. Four weeks after a knee operation, she has daily visits from Norfolk First Support to help her make the bed, wash her hair and do any other jobs that she might find a struggle while she recovers.

Although fiercely independent, she said knowing she can rely on the carers to visit has been reassuring.

“They’ve been charming, responsible and never refused to do anything I’ve asked,” she said.

“I’ve been absolutely delighted – not only because of their responsible way of coming. There’s been no hesitation.”

Both the county council carers and those in the independent sector, like Norwich-based Westminster Home Care, have contingency plans in for when the snow sets in.

For Norfolk First Support, it means changing carers’ schedules so they can walk to appointments in easy reach of their homes, finding out if those people living with family members can cope without a visit on a particular day, and sending carers out in pairs in rural areas. Helen Stokes, Norfolk First Support manager for Norwich, said: “We’re here to support both our service users and their carers. Our priority is people who need medication, people who can’t transport themselves, people with dementia, people on their own and people who can’t get their own food and drink.”

Jo Ardry, manager of Westminster Home Care, added: “We won’t leave anybody without care. It’s not a problem. We are ready for it.”

Do you have a story about someone who has gone the extra mile to help others during the snowy weather? Call reporter Victoria Leggett on 01603 772468 or email victoria.leggett@archant.co.uk

16 comments

  • Head Teachers are always saying that they can't risk their colleagues lives by opening a school and thus put the teacher's lives in danger by travelling, well why are teachers lives more valuable than the hospital workers. shop workers etc, their behaviour is completly unbelievabl, teaching has always been the best paid part time job in the country

    Report this comment

    blister

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

  • If teaching is that much of a cushy number and so well paid, why aren't people queuing up to do it? I see the effort and commitment that the teachers put in at my child's school and never cease to be amazed at how they do it, especially when they are also constantly being criticised on numerous fronts in the press etc and have to contend with stroppy or disinterested parents. They also seem to be expected to solve the social problems of pupils which have in fact been created by wider society. It doesn't seem terribly appealing or cushy to me!

    Report this comment

    Row71

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

  • "Teacher". Good job you dont work in the real worl, where closing down a company or not turning up at a drop of a hat is the norm for you lot. As for "safety of the kids", is this the same lot who are out playing in the snow, or throwing snowballs at passing cars and people who are going about their daily business and cannot take time off. Never mind though, it's only public money, you are being paid from. "Useless, pathetic teachers" still stands.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

  • @Teacher Was it your school that was closed when others in the same postcode was open? Apparently, non-school staff don't understand. Then, please would you mind explaining how difficult it to cordon off icy playgrounds, to minimise the risk of accidents and grit pathways to provide safer passage for children into the school building, when other headteachers and their staff managed it. Perhaps heads of high schools might like to login to answer this question: why were some high schools closed apparently because of safety concerns, yet pupils were still asked to attend to sit exams? Either school sites were considered safe or they weren't.

    Report this comment

    Musto_Fan

    Saturday, January 19, 2013

  • My wife is working 12 hour nights as a District Nurse and non of her patients has been missed. And since GP's are all tucked up nice and warm at home thank goodness for her and the rest of her teams. As for teachers and schools, well not much more to add except if the school site isn't ice free then keep the kids inside. Thank goodness teachers chose that profession and not the health service, power workers, police or firemen!

    Report this comment

    smithrob

    Saturday, January 19, 2013

  • Perhaps Archant andor Norfolk County Council should make this article compulsory reading for the useless, pathetic teachers

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Saturday, January 19, 2013

  • I am not a teacher nor do I work in a school but I think that some of the views being expressed about them on these forums quite frankly beggars belief. I am a working parent who has been affected on a couple of days by the closures, however I have managed. we should remember that Teachers are not childminders, although some parents seem to think otherwise. People need to stop and think about the realities of opening a school site, with 1000+ pupils if the ice on the site is difficult to clear and keep clear. how on earth do you keep it safe for the children to move around the site to get to classes? There are bound to be slips and trips resulting in a few broken bones which would be even more problematic to deal with and then everyone would be questioning why the school had opened. As for the issue about closing except for exams, it seems fairly obvious to me that managing a small number of students to attend just to do their exams is far easier to manage. I'm not sure what dispensations there are for students who are unable to get to an exam, but I suspect its not much so they really do have to get there. Comparisons with hospitals where some staff have stayed overnight because of the conditions, are irrelevant. Hospitals, fire service, ambulance etc are essential services so of course you can't leave patients etc unattended and the staff do a fantastic job to overcome the conditions and carry on. However, , I dont think schools fall into this category and I for one would not be happy for my child to potentially end up having to spend a night at school because the school had endeavoured to open and then conditions became such that they couldn't get home again, at least hospitals and fire stations have facilities for this, schools do not! Fewer non-essential personnel on the roads would make it easier for essential services to get around. Perhaps those of you who clearly have a distorted view of teachers and schools should take some time to get to know your local school and volunteer to clear the snow and help them keep open. Most schools are keen to have links with their local community and have visitors talk to the pupils etc. perhaps you could go into a history lesson and talk about how it was in your day when there was lots of snow! But I suspect you'd rather just carp from the sidelines.

    Report this comment

    Row71

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

  • Newsflash: life goes on and I take off my hat to the carers who can. If using the car in this weather is not an option, dress in warm clothing, put on a pair of water repellent boots and walk. A member of Archant staff recently reported walking into the city centre from Spixworth, which is what many of us remember in our childhoods when we had to keep going as normal despite the bad weather; we just got on with it! Some apparently can't get their kids to school, yet will happily walk further to go sledging!

    Report this comment

    Musto_Fan

    Saturday, January 19, 2013

  • N- I completely agree with you. The school would be held to account if there had been any accidents involving children or staff. When the school was open on Tuesday my class safely enjoyed the snow under adult supervision, but as it got heavier we became concerned about getting home (quite rightly, it took me 3 12 hours to make a 20 minute journey) and concerned about the amount of ice there would be the next day (again quite rightly). Sorry if it inconveniences parents, but as N states we are NOT childminders. As a school we simply cannot risk a child seriously hurting themselves by simply walking to or around school when this could have been avoided. We do not wrap our children in cotton wool and except that accidents will always happen, but when the whole site becomes dangerous it just not worth it to take that risk, regardless of what happened 'in your day'. No, MustoFan, my school was not the only one in it's cluster to close. In fact, we opened on Tuesday when really we should have closed early then too. Some High Schools chose to allow pupils in to sit exams because presumably they would not need to move around the site as much as in a normal school day and there would be a smaller volume of people around, thus minimising the risk. I would also like to add that we have to complete health and safety risk assessments for anything that could be potentially risky, including short trips, using tools and cooking. This is not an individual schools decision, we are bound by law to do this. Obviously a risk assessment regarding heavy snow, slippery floors inside, ice outside and dangerous roads and pavements is not going to look great for children aged 4 to 11 is it! All being well, I should be back in to school on Monday, when I plan to make the most of the snow while it lasts- making and evaluating ice sculptures, developing our own science experiments, creative writing about the snow and snow related maths activities. That is, of course, if it doesn't snow another foot tonight!!

    Report this comment

    Teacher

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

  • V, your comments seem to be way off the mark and I'd love to see what facts there are to back them up.I know someone who quit their job in industry to take up teacher training and they have neither a degree or any other links in the profession to give them a 'shoe-in'. what they did say was that it has really opened their eyes to what teachers are up against on a daily basis. They certainly weren't expecting it to be easy but they said the reality is underestimated, however they love the work and seeing what the children can achieve makes it really rewarding.

    Report this comment

    Row71

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

  • Thank God for the snow! Well done and thanks to everyone going above and beyond to get on with it but....another story about it? Is there any real news out there or has it all stopped like the Traffic did in Norwich when it snows?

    Report this comment

    City Boy

    Saturday, January 19, 2013

  • "N". Perhaps it's because their union operates an illegal closed shop where you have to have a degree before you can go on a teacher training course, or you are a relative of an existing teacher that allows you to get a job a lot easier. That's why a lot of people dont become teachers.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

  • @Teacher I understand the health and safety issues, however, still remain not entirely convinced, especially when it was reported in the EDP last week that all but one schools in Dereham closed, which was and remains subject to the very same health and safety rules as the school at which you teach. How is it that headteachers of schools in one postcode alone were so divided and inconsistent in their decision-making last Thursday? PS did you mean "accept"? ("... except that accidents...") and "its"? ("... not the only one in it's cluster..."). The children might have missed out on up to 80 per cent of their education last week because of the risks posed by slipping over on ice, yet some of them were more than happy to be subjected to such risks if it meant they could instead go sledging and have snowball fights, etc.

    Report this comment

    Musto_Fan

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

  • Thanks for the corrections Mustofan- speed typing never was my strong point ;) Schools make their decisions based on their own circumstances. This differs from place to place but also within a particular area, for example due to particularly tricky entrances or a school being located on a hill etc. Sheringham did very well to stay open- perhaps this was because the majority of staff live within safe walking distance and the entrance to the school is flat and wide (and I guess easier to clear?). Obviously staying open where at all possible is preferable, even if parents then have the option whether or not to send their child to school. I should think this will be the route we will go down on Monday. I'm sure lots of children enjoyed playing in the snow at home under far higher child:adult ratios and with the parents say so. As I said in my previous post, my guys will be out in the snow for some time on Monday, with two adults and with clear rules (but no snowball fights unfortunately!). Snow is less of a problem generally, ice is the real issue here. We will have a bit to catch up on, but it's all manageable.

    Report this comment

    Teacher

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

  • "useless, pathetic teachers"- Lovely sentiment, V! Please understand that schools have to ensure that the children are safe at all times. Regardless of travel conditions for staff, my school site was just not safe for the children to be there. Yes, many of the children are in walking distance, but the combination of pavements like ice rinks and narrow lanes is potentially lethal. Likewise our caretaker tried her hardest to make the site safe, but the scale of the ice and snow was too much. We would never forgive ourselves if someone had an accident because we felt pressurised to stay open by people who, frankly, don't understand.

    Report this comment

    Teacher

    Saturday, January 19, 2013

  • People don't understand ?? Pardon. We didn't close schools in the 60's when it snowed..we had parties out clearing the snow Kids and all. My ex wife is a teacher and is held back by stupid health and safety ..er.. excuses.. danger is part of life and kids today are wrapped up in cotton wool. It is just an excuse for another day off by the PC brigade !!...sorry teacher.

    Report this comment

    musicman

    Saturday, January 19, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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