Gateshead Housing and Care Manager on Queen’s Birthday Honours List for response to Coronavirus

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Posted 10 October 2020

Joanne Swan, a Gateshead Housing and Care Manager for Housing 21, has appeared on Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020.

Joanne, who works at Extra Care scheme, Fountain Court on Armstrong Street, has been awarded a British Empire Medal for her contribution to the Coronavirus response.

The Queen’s Birthday Honours List, released annually since the mid-19th century, recognises the achievements of extraordinary people from the UK and across the Commonwealth. In June this year, the Queen agreed to defer the publication of the Birthday Honours 2020 List in order to respect the circumstances at that time and to provide an early and first opportunity to recognise some of those involved in the response to Coronavirus.

The list revealed on Saturday 10 October includes those originally nominated for the Birthday round, alongside around 450 others, including Joanne Swan, who have been put forward specifically for their contribution to the Coronavirus response, and as exemplars of the wide range and exceptional community and front-line service given across the country in recent months.

Joanne, who is described as ‘extraordinarily humble’ by her colleagues at Housing 21, leads an on-site team which provides care to older people in their own apartments. In April this year, Fountain Court saw 11 out of its 40 residents test positive for COVID-19. Joanne’s tenacity ensured that her Care Workers were tested for COVID-19 at the time of the outbreak to further protect residents at Fountain Court and the local community. A total of nine Care Workers tested positive at the same time, restricting them from supporting some of Gateshead’s most vulnerable people to the virus.

In the most challenging time of her career, Joanne, with guidance from Public Health England, took the decision to completely lockdown the scheme.

Joanne’s role as Housing and Care Manager means she is not often involved in the day-to-day delivery of care to those living at Fountain Court. Despite this, she arranged to stay at the scheme for 14 nights to limit the transmission of the virus to the rest of the community in Gateshead. She slept on an airbed on her office floor for 14 nights, while asking two groups of Care Workers to stay for no more than seven.

Over the two-week period, Joanne delivered care and coordinated her team to ensure all residents were supported in their homes without any disruption to normal day-to-day delivery. She worked extremely hard to lead her team in a crisis, making sure everybody felt safe, while also putting herself at risk.

Joanne went two weeks without seeing her husband and three children, one of whom was vulnerable after having a liver transplant and another who was as young as 11 years old. During these two weeks, she also selflessly spent her birthday in lockdown at Fountain Court to ensure residents received the care they needed and that staff still had high quality leadership and support in an extremely difficult time.

Joanne ensured the older people living at Fountain Court continued to take part in activities and even turned her talents to hairstyling for one resident whose spirits needed lifting. In addition to this, Joanne also took over the on-site restaurant after the external provider furloughed its staff. Everyone was provided with meals, which had added importance due to the challenges in residents getting to the shops.

Since April, Joanne ensured her team took antibody tests and organised fundraising for a party at the scheme for residents when social distancing rules are relaxed and a holiday for residents next year, which she will volunteer her time to join.

The extraordinary lengths and sacrifice she made to protect and save the lives of others did not go unnoticed by the Main Honours Committee, the Prime Minister and the Queen. She will be presented with her British Empire Medal by the Lord-Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear at a local ceremony and also invited to attend a Royal Garden Party when social distancing rules are relaxed.

Joanne said: “Getting this award is amazing and I will be sharing it with my whole team. My staff and I moved in to the scheme to stop the spread of the virus and to save lives and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

“At times it was scary but I kept the moral up by having barbeques and taking the food around to the residents. I also celebrated my birthday during my stay which was fun to say the least waking up to balloons and banners all around the communal lounge.

“At first it was only meant to be a week that we lived in for but that changed to two weeks as we could see how well it was working and I stayed for the full two weeks, while two groups of Care Workers did no more than seven. I felt I had a duty of care to the residents and the staff. I just wanted everyone to know that I was here to support them during a difficult time. I can honestly say I am so proud to work for Housing 21 and I have an amazing team behind me.”

Claire Charlton, Head of Extra Care at Housing 21 said: “The news is just unreal and makes me so proud. I am still laughing because Joanne thought it was a hoax when she was contacted on behalf of the Prime Minister about appearing on the list!

“I remember her starting work at the scheme around seven years ago as a Senior Care Worker and to see how she has developed and what she achieved as a true humble leader this year is just amazing. She is undoubtedly one of the strongest women I know who always works with great integrity. She sets the right example and does the right thing without exception and without a second thought.

“It will take every fibre of her being not to say that she ‘was just doing her job’. I hope this award will help her realise that what she does for our residents and the community is far more than that."

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