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  • Debbie Thrower

Spotlight on care home ministry as our network tune in for help and advice

Updated: Nov 17


There was a high turnout for our latest themed workshop – today we focused on care home ministry. First, we sketched out the big picture. There are 17,600 care homes in the UK. The majority are owned by a single care provider – 80% of them in fact. Care homes are ‘home’ to almost half a million people – that’s 490,000 care home residents, with an even higher number in the workforce as a whole – 696,000 in total.


Joining us online for our workshop on care home ministry were around 50 people – representing one in four of the Anna Chaplaincy network. There were Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends from all over the country, a few of whom are also employed in the care sector in addition to their chaplaincy roles.


These individuals gave a unique perspective on the challenges of the pandemic, describing residents denied visits from family and friends as well as chaplains and other pastoral visitors, plus staff exhaustion and some burned out.


Julia Burton-Jones, Anna Chaplaincy Church Lead, painted a graphic picture of the devastation Covid-19 has caused:

  • discharge of patients from hospital to care homes without testing.

  • leading to 19,000 residents dying from Covid between 2 March and 12 June 2020.

  • a further 39,000 residents dying with the virus between 10 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

  • GPs reluctant to visit homes.

  • homes not prioritised in the supply of PPE.

All this made worse by vacancies in the care sector generally, despite a growing need, as these figures show:

  • 105,000 vacancies in social care.

  • growing life expectancy means 490,000 extra jobs are needed by 2035.

Some of our network have resumed their ministry in care homes but others described their frustration at still not being allowed back in. Being told the staff are keeping residents safe, one Anna Chaplain who still cannot visit residents was moved to ask, feelingly, ‘safe for what?’


Care home manager in Malvern, Julie Barraclough (Mowbray Nursing Home), who spoke warmly of the Anna Chaplain who visits her residents, said: ‘We must put residents needs first. There is no justifiable reason to deny residents their spiritual needs. [Arranging an Anna Chaplaincy visit] is no different from calling a GP when residents are unwell.’

Despite the challenges at present, there were glimmers of hope, and even some optimism, as Anna Chaplains, Anna Friends and those coordinating their work on the ground, spoke of improved relationships with care staff as a result of keeping in touch throughout the pandemic.


We heard examples of Anna Chaplains going the extra mile to phone one resident after another and conduct an individual church service on the phone for each one, thanks to staff cooperating and moving from room to room to allow residents to speak on a mobile phone to the chaplain.


Others, so conscious of the psychological impact of spending long periods alone, were recording services on CDs and sending them in, and we heard how staff were finding some residents watching them over and over again. Or they were filming services and posting them on YouTube.


Yet more told of making up goodie bags for care workers to thank them and keep up morale. Quite a few were also baking cakes for staff and residents with volunteers delivering baked goods, again, to keep up spirits and remind care homes they were not forgotten.


We heard the story of one Anna Chaplain refused entry on the grounds that ‘entertainment’ was not yet allowed to restart. She decided to compose a letter explaining why spiritual care and worship opportunities were not ‘entertainment’. To her delight, senior managers consulted and came to the conclusion she was right, and she has been allowed to return after all!


Another network member who coordinates pastoral care in several homes described how she’d drawn up a ‘protocol’ for her volunteers and how they would work during Covid restrictions. Once one home had agreed to allow the volunteers back in, others followed suit and now she and her teams are back in the majority of places, though still not all. She’s now sharing that protocol with the network.


Manager Julie Barraclough advised chaplains to cite Care Quality Commission, CQC, guidelines and to persevere. She has subsequently sent this link regarding ‘culturally appropriate care’. Such guidance should encourage people to continue seeking access where it is currently denied.


The two and a half hour workshop this morning was well received with chaplains saying afterwards:


Thank you and well done for a really good morning – how encouraging to see so many different people tuning in, and having a chance to share together.


A really wonderful session, thank you.


Thank you so much for this morning’s care home information session. It was very interesting and helpful to hear how many people are continuing in their care home ministries. Thank you for all the planning and work put into this session.





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