Not your usual guests: How one hotel has opened its doors to support the Covid-19 response
Redeployed council employees at the Mercure
The Mercure Hotel in Wigan is usually home to guests travelling for business or pleasure, but in recent weeks it has played a crucial role in Wigan’s response to Covid-19, providing a lifeline to many vulnerable residents.
Wigan was one of the first local authorities in the country to set up temporary additional accommodation to house homeless and vulnerable residents following the outbreak of Covid-19.
In March, staff from Wigan Council’s adult social care team, supported by deployed staff and partners, moved in to turn the 88-bedroom hotel on the outskirts of Wigan town centre, into a safe haven for those in need. Three floors are now occupied by homeless residents and two floors by the rest and recuperation team and residents who are returning home from hospital or in need of respite.
Working closely with the council’s reablement team, that supports patients to return home from hospital safely, and local homecare agencies, residents are being cared for day and night thanks to a team of redeployed staff who have changed their working patterns to provide 24/7 care. Technology is playing a key role in connecting residents with loved ones and staff, with iPads in each of the hotel rooms and emergency buzzers to alert staff to any issues.
Currently there are 46 homeless or rough sleepers staying at the hotel giving agencies the opportunity to work together to help give residents access to support services during their stay, including local homeless charity, The Brick and addiction support through We Are With You. Local GP practices and commissioned Public Health services are also on hand to provide health support.
David Gray, service manager for crisis intervention and prevention at Wigan Council, explains: “All residents have a bespoke plan to ensure appropriate support, which includes creative skills, basic skills and life skills. These are offered by team members, often through redeployed staff using their skills and assets in a different way. This approach aims to ensure that individuals have greater skills and knowledge that will be beneficial when leaving the hotel.”
The hotel provides three meals a day to guests and an activity coordinator makes sure there is plenty to keep everyone occupied and engaged with a packed daily itinerary including bingo, cinema night, gardening and crafts. Thanks to leisure partner, Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles, there’s also a temporary gym, giving guests the opportunity to get active. So far, 30 of the hotel guests have been inducted and are using the facilities on a regular basis.
Teams of staff from the council, leisure service, and other partners are based together delivering support to those who need it. To date, five members of Wigan Council staff have been deployed to support those at the hotel, previously these staff were working in customer services or Public Health, and now they’re teaching basic skills, running creative skills programmes, and delivering activities such as woodwork, gardening and boxercise.
Councillor Keith Cunliffe, deputy leader and cabinet member for adult social care at Wigan Council, praised staff, commenting: “It’s fantastic to see staff from across different organisations come together to support our most vulnerable residents and to embrace this challenge with such enthusiasm and positivity.
“When we launched The Deal in 2013 it signified a critical turning point for us as a local authority in terms of how we were going to operate and work with our residents and staff to ensure our residents best interests are at the heart of every decision. Through The Deal, we have created a community that puts people and place first and this project really embodies what the approach is all about.”
While many hotels have closed their doors and furloughed staff, the Mercure decided to stay open and support the local Covid-19 response. Working with manager, Nick Jackman, the council’s adult social care team moved teams into the hotel and residents from week commencing 16th March.
David Gray, added: “Delivering this approach has been such an exciting challenge. To see the enthusiasm and commitment of colleagues working together in support of our partnership effort with rough sleepers and homeless individuals has been inspiring. We’ve seen passionate colleagues from council and leisure services wanting to be redeployed to support this work, staff at the Mercure working with residents, and also local community groups and charities volunteering time and donating items to support our approach. It has been a truly amazing response by individuals, organisations and communities working differently and creatively in partnership to deliver this approach.”
Posted on Wednesday 6th May 2020