Zoe Sharam is a social worker and lives in Chudleigh, Devon with her two teenage sons. She supplemented her income by having lodgers until recently. She also has an adult son who lives close by with his partner. She has shared care of her children with her ex husband. Zoe used to be on the travellers scene, and although she is not a traveller now, she has a camper van that she spends a lot of the summer in, camping and going to festivals. Zoe started working at a local hospital with elderly patients as agency staff shortly before the pandemic came to the UK.
‘I’m a hermit in the winter, I couldn’t give a fuck if I don’t see anyone for months. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about those people, but I hunker up. But by springtime I’m like “YES! Let’s go out! Let’s visit friends!” Go to parties or festivals or camping, or do something that feeds the soul. So now obviously, I have Veronica (my van) sat there, and I would normally just be going out… or going to the beach…. the weather has been amazing.
The whole social distancing is so weird. Do I look at people? Some people handle it differently to others, some people are really paranoid, I’m somewhere in the middle. I respect the rules and stuff like that. Some people love social distancing, my son does, he doesn’t take his hood down, sitting in his room is literally his life. But, we’re changed. I miss human interaction I guess. And in terms of being suspicious of everybody, that is just weird.
At the start of lock down I was working as a social worker at a hospital, it was like a 60 mile round trip. There are three wards there, I was mainly working with the elderly, getting them out of hospital, getting them home, setting up care packages, mental capacity acts, that kind of thing. I was there for three months, after about two weeks covid hit the wards, so there was a lot to get used to quickly. All of the social workers got moved out of the hospitals, so they had one social worker to cover all three wards. The hospital was dead by the way. It was really weird and quiet.
I got dropped, being an agency worker and expendable, blah blah blah. Fine, I didn’t feel good about this because it meant I had to apply for Universal Credit. But they gave me an advance which means I can pay my rent for the next month; I have to pay it back of course. But it leaves me in a precarious situation obviously. My agency work has stopped; just another fucking thing.
All the elderly were being moved from hospitals to home or care homes so we weren’t needed. In some ways I swerved it, in terms of your moral compass. I don’t know what was going on, and that is the weird thing.
We work in a multi-agency team, physiotherapist, occupational therapists, district nurses, the whole shebang. When all of this started kicking off there was a lack of PPE for a start, everyone knows that. And when I was speaking to Gina today, the admin lady for the hospital, she said everything is just on a day to day basis, everything is constantly changing. She’s like “I hope to speak to you soon”. When I went back there to drop off the work laptop they said there wasn’t even enough work for the permanent staff. They emptied out all of the hospitals, they were dead.
I’m with a couple of agencies but there are just no social work jobs at all. I loved working at the hospital, I worked there before, years ago. They dropped me like a stone, but I kind of got where they were coming from, what are you going to do?
So, I have looked at other options like fostering, which I’ve always wanted to do anyway, me and my ex partner John used to speak about it. I’ve had a couple of video calls today with the social worker at Action for Children. My last lodger moved out to care for his ex’s dad, and obviously the lodger thing is ongoing and needs sorting out. You have got to make the place work, and I’m not moving the kids. We have had enough of that shit.
The Universal credit won’t be enough, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I don’t actually mind the fact that I am locked down as such, apart from the fact I would usually be out in Veronica, we won’t be dancing in a field any time soon. But that part of it isn’t an issue, I’m quite content in my own world, in my own little house, growing stuff. I gave 45 tomato plants away. I’m making sure the boys are alright. So I guess it’s the little things, going out in my garden, talking to my plants every morning, I wake the boys up with a cup of tea, well, it’s more like the afternoon. We’ve rinsed box sets.
We are rotating them staying with their Dad, but the room is too small for them now, they are not like babies, they are young men, so they take it in turns and go separately. So it has been difficult dealing with that, not being all together. That was their decision, not mine. It’s a big change to the routine.
John is more on the case with the home ed than I am. We got a free laptop from school. Them missing their friends is the hardest thing, and that structure and routine. I think having your peers around you is important for them. I would hate it if they were younger, like toddlers. But we’re coping alright.
The media…oh god…. I don’t watch the news, I can’t cope. And feeling sorry for Boris? What? Are you having a stroke? No! If we are talking about moral standards here, it’s like fuck off. Boris is a fucking twat.
You go into this mode when you’re locking your own head down a bit, to cope, to process. You stay away from people online a bit to cope. This is quite intense. I want to see my friends, I want to dance in a field to music. That has always been my therapy every year, we always look forward to it, it’s our release, to go and dance and be silly and forget about everything. The toughest thing is having nothing to look forward to. But there will be fields. There will be dancing’.
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