SPECIAL REPORT: Is North Wales facing a Covid-19 mental health timebomb?

From carers being left isolated to children being prevented from meeting their friends,  Covid-19 is causing rising levels anxiety and affecting people’s mental health.

In a series of special reports, the Steve Morgan Foundation has contacted charities in North Wales that we’ve supported through the Covid-19 Emergency Fund to get the picture on the ground.

The lack of face-to-face contact because of social distancing and growing financial pressures have pushed many vulnerable people to the brink with many charities expecting a rush on their services when the lockdown is fully lifted.

The Steve Morgan Foundation Covid-19 Emergency Fund has handed out more than £4.5m and made more than 450 awards during the critical first 12 weeks of the pandemic across Merseyside, North Wales and Cheshire.

However a breakdown reveals that 130 awards totalling £1.452m were specifically for mental health and directly helped 587,752 people.

The North Wales Music Co-operative includes Denbighshire Music Co-operative and Wrexham Music Co-operative, which were set up after funding for peripatetic music teachers was cut. 

North Wales Music Co-operative launched Totally Music with the help of a £10,500 grant from the Steve Morgan Foundation so they could take their services online during the pandemic. 

Heather Powell  is the head of service at Denbighshire Music Co-operative andWrexham Music Co-operative and said: “I have been hugely concerned about the impact of lockdown on our pupils – in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Isolation is a key concern. 

“I myself live in a rural area and my children haven’t met another child in three months so mental wellbeing is of huge concern to me for our pupils.  Some of our pupils don’t engage academically but are brilliant musicians – they have missed lessons, orchestras and the chance to mix with others and I can only imagine the impact this must have upon them.”

Flintshire-based RainbowBiz CIC is a social enterprise that works with the most marginalised members of the North Wales community.

Director Sue Oliver said: “We do acknowledge that mental health is a big concern for many moving forward. As you know, we support people who already have existing mental health issues and Covid-19 is making this much worse for them too.” 

North Wales charity Carers Outreach Service was able to continue to stay in touch with the army of unpaid carers it supports after receiving £21,000 in emergency funding from the Steve Morgan Foundation.

Chief officer Llinos Mair Roberts said according to her staff the carers they’ve engaged with were facing a range of problems.

One member of staff recalled: “I had a carer and his mental health and wellbeing was affected due to the fact that his wife has severe dementia, is unable to talk and has some other medical conditions. He had a team of six carers paid by direct payment but was down to four because of shielding. He could not find any carers to help. This was causing him worry as he was getting very tired without respite just to pop out for exercise.”

According to Carers Outreach Service a lot of the carers are confined completely to their own homes with no contact with anyone from the outside world. 

“They are finding that as tough,” explained one unnamed carer. “They also have a lot of time on their hands which in turn is leading them to overthink things. Without having the outside support they feel they are failing their dependant as they are unable to totally provide the support that they may have been getting previously.”

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