Social services in Vitoria-Gasteiz have implemented more than 50 measures to address the consequences of the current Covid-19 health emergency.
These measures respond to five main objectives:
- to guarantee service continuity,
- to strengthen the monitoring of people and groups in the most vulnerable situations,
- to ensure the coverage of needs and the provision of support services,
- to address the emerging needs arising from the crisis,
- and, finally, to reorganise social resources to ensure the safety and protection of the people cared for and working in social services.
Objective 1: to ensure service continuity
Despite the closure of resources, contingency plans have been drafted to ensure the continuity of essential social services. People’s support has been maintained and even strengthened through telephone provision.
A system of rotation and shift work has been established in all social services, combining face-to-face work and home working, ensuring the provision of support for families already in the system and for the new needs that have been emerging.
Day Care Services for Older People. Staff continue to support people in their own homes: preparing medication, which is delivered to their families, bringing food to the homes of the most vulnerable and visiting their homes to monitor and support them with bathing.
Meals on wheels. Although canteens were closed, 110 people people continue to receive food at home.
Socio-educational centres. Though the centres were closed, staff continue to support families and children through e-mail and phone calls and by sending specifically developed materials to the families who use these services.
Objective 2: reinforce the monitoring of people and groups in the most vulnerable situations
A team continues to support people in the streets and in situations of high exclusion, while a second team supports women victims of gender violence. Women in need are being supported with coverage of their basic needs, immediate reception centre, and a protection order.
A special monitoring device for older people started on March 10 to call older people using sociocultural centres, and was extended on April 6 to people aged 70 and over who live alone and are not served by social services or telecare services. In total, 10,000 older people are beneficiaries of this service that works everyday staffed by 85 professionals from the sociocultural centres for older people. Thanks to this service, situations of need have been identified and support measures have been activated. These include home delivery for 110 people or psychological support for 23 older people where situations of anxiety had been identified.
Special socio-educational care tool for families and children. Thirty-seven educators provide support electronically and, on the phone, to address family conflicts, parenting, and help with situations of anxiety.
Objective 3: ensure coverage of needs and the provision of support services
Social services of Vitoria-Gasteiz have simplified procedures and made them flexible to act with the best possible speed and diligence.
Home help service. Help at home support is activated immediately. The necessary documentation is collected electronically and if it is not possible, the administrative process is postponed. The number of hours is being increased if it is necessary with priority given to personal care, shopping and meals delivery.
Benefits. Benefits for families have been processed in advance for 3,200 families who received almost 900,000 euros on the last payroll.
Benefits have been automatically renewed and new support is resolved and processed according to professional assessment. In addition, a basic coverage benefit is being processed on an exceptional basis for individuals or families with difficulties in meeting their basic food needs.
Objective 4: respond to emerging needs arising from the crisis
Psychological Support. An emergency support group has been activated consisting of 28 psychologists from the city council that provide individual and group support to municipal workers. Guidelines and recommendations have been developed not only for staff but also for the families they support, and citizens in general.
On the other hand, a collaboration with the regional college of psychologists has been set up to provide the general population with psychological care support.
New home support programme. In collaboration with the Red Cross, shopping, food or medicines are been delivered to homes where there are situations of vulnerability: people in situations of dependency, who live alone, or do not have any support.
A great deal of coordination is also being implemented with the other municipal departments and regional administrations: the Basque Government, the Basque Health System, the Employment and Income Guarantee System, the Education System, the Provincial Council of Álava, other municipalities.
Objective 5: reorganise social resources to guarantee the safety and protection of the staff and the people they support
Organisations managing social inclusion programmes. Since the beginning of the crisis, these organisations have been provided with the measures and recommendations established by health authorities. For instance, when the lockdown measures were introduced, adjustments were made, such as reserving spaces for possible preventive isolations.
Night centres were divided in two resources and converted in 24-hour centres, guaranteeing stay, food, laundry service, and educational support. In collaboration with the Red Cross, a new reception centre for the homeless was launched initially with 30 places, later expanded to 50.
A reorganisation of the municipal centre for social reception and winter accommodation support was carried out to avoid the concentration of people and the risk of possible infections.
Accommodation services for older people. From the beginning, the recommendations for social and health care centres issued by both the Ministry of Health and the Basque Heath Service have been followed, and procedures that are rigorously applied in nursing homes and community homes have been developed and updated.
Staff have been reinforced to decrease turnover and set up stable teams. Likewise, there has been a reinforcement of cleaning and disinfection of the centres.
As visitors are not allowed, centres have been provided with tablets and telephones so that older people can make video calls with their families and an information and communication protocol developed to inform families regularly about their relatives situation.
An end-of-life support protocol has been set up so that relatives are allowed to visit, duly protected to support the person who is in this situation.
In relation to monitored accommodation, residents care has been reinforced as staff from day care centres have been redeployed after the centres closed on 14 March. Apartments that were not occupied have been conditioned and equipped to accommodate older people in case of emergency.
Looking into the future
Social services in Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council are currently working on a contingency plan for ‘the day after’, taking into account the emerging needs and the resources that will be needed to address them, and planning the progressive reopening of services to ensure people are supported with the adequate safety measures.