Paul Marshall–DeFliece works in Bradford as a Life Coach and coordinates for a company providing Occupational Health services, coaching and therapies. He works with a variety of professions and corporations and took the time to speak with Global MapAid to offer insight into the effects of the pandemic on Bradford’s communities.
Bradford became one of the first cities to go into a “Local Lockdown” having faced tight restrictions for a long time. Paul says it is really taking its toll, on people’s mental health & general wellbeing from both “Covid Fear” and the fatigue caused by constant change and uncertainty “I’m hearing the same theme over and over, the people are feeling isolated and anxious.” It isn’t going to change anytime soon, after the national lockdown Bradford remains in the most severe tier with the strong restrictions continuing.
The evidence for the pandemics effects are evident in the number of referrals for occupational health assessments and therapies for mental health issues directly related to Covid-19. For some this is due to having caught the virus and suffering from “Long Covid”, but for most it is the stress and anxiety caused by numerous factors, including death of family members, uncertainty around employment, and social isolation.
Paul has spoken with social workers who are struggling to meet the increased workload, providing services to the most vulnerable people of all age and culture groups. He notes that some “are working some days until 2am in the morning to meet caseload demands and deadlines”. It is a struggle all across the West Yorkshire region with only so many places to assign to the people in need. With social workers facing high risk environments, they are a credit to their profession, working so hard to keep providing services.
He’s heard from contacts that the police are also struggling to support vulnerable people, and with numerous officers having to isolate, they are understaffed. This is only made worse by the extra workload of dealing with and enforcing Covid-19 measures.
Showing such resolve in the face of these challenges exemplifies the quality and commitment within all of our emergency services.
The same can be said for all of the medical profession, who continue to rally to cover shifts and care for the most vulnerable sick. Some are not able to see their own families after shifts as with vulnerable family members at home, they are forced to stay in alternative accommodation, isolated from their loved ones.
All the key and frontline workers are putting in the extra mile. “From supermarket staff to Postal workers, and Bus drivers to name but a few. They’re all doing our city proud but they are all so very tired.”.
Across the world Covid-19 has left no one untouched by its effects. However, Paul commented that cultural tendencies in the Muslim and BAME communities such as multi-generational living arrangements and the fact that so many are front line & key workers has caused extended suffering.
He also noted that with high death rates, the Muslim community are struggling to keep up with the burial demands. This has led to some people not being able to be buried within 24 hours as per their beliefs. This comes even with graves being dug around the clock to get close to the number they need.
Places of worship have spent huge chunks of money to become Covid-19 safe, even with Bradford’s Mosques pioneering ‘at the door cleansing equipment’ they have had to close again. To many, these establishments are an essential part of life that has been torn from them, leaving online worship as the only option. Digital solutions don’t adequately replace these cultural institutions, and for many people, particularly the elderly and those with disabilities using technology can be a struggle.
Paul’s own church has been unable to reopen even with all the Covid protection measures in place. This hasn’t stopped them working to support the community, they have set up teams to check on members of the congregation, especially the elderly that are having to shield, to keep connected. They also have teams to assist people with Technology to ensure they can meet online and interact with the church family. Despite all of these measures, for some the loss of personal interaction and touch has been very difficult.
Schools routinely have a huge increase in staff members off sick on a long term basis with many staff isolating to the point that several heads and HR leaders believe they are at the point where they might face shut down, partial shutdown staggering the year groups on a part time basis. This will have a terribly detrimental impact on children, both educationally and physically, many whom are vulnerable rely on schools for support and free meals.
Additionally, children have lost the ‘out of school’ support and community once provided by the youth groups, activities and sports teams that have been forced to close. A Scout leader told Paul that kids are no longer able to learn practical skills outside of school and are lacking the sense of community and things to look forward to, that these activities bring.
In sum, Paul who is immersed in Bradford life, is glad that GMA has put “Bradford on the map” by highlighting it as a hot-spot, in the overall national picture for Covid-19.
In his own words:
“We are in the thick of it here, and the engine is running hot but not breaking… I respectfully ask the Queen, all of the Royal Family, the Government, the people in Whitehall, as well as the Civic Authorities, and the Super Rich, to pull together, to help Bradford, and other places in similar predicaments, that MapAid can usefully identify. This is not a time for organisational delays and endless discussions, it is the time for courage to act fast, learn where things can be done better and try again, for action-centred leadership, for humble inter-operability and intelligence, that leads to local jobs and local sustainability.”
Operations and Administration Director – Alison Wilson Associates Ltd