Vulnerable suffer further isolation during pandemic

No. 5 in a series of articles reporting on the responses of Caritas member organisations to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Catholic charities supporting people with existing healthcare issues such as HIV and AIDs have warned of the challenge that coronavirus poses to their physical and mental wellbeing.

Catholics for AIDS Prevention and Support (CAPS) said it was seeing an increased demand for its services and for pastoral care after thirty per cent of its membership was told to self-isolate for three months. Dr Vincent Manning, chair of CAPS, said that a higher incidence of co-morbid conditions, as well as higher levels of poverty, mental illness and social marginalisation, add to the vulnerability of the CAPS community.

‘They are familiar with social, spiritual and psychological “isolation” because of HIV stigma,’ he said, but ‘the present conditions exaggerate this isolation in all its forms and we are detecting high levels of serious stress amongst several members whom we would not usually consider to be “psychologically fragil”‘.

Brentwood Catholic Children’s Society has also warned of the impact of the lockdown on children with special health needs. Director Bernadette Fisher said staff and therapists have received training in the use of videoconferencing to connect regularly with children, their families and schools. ‘Many of the families we work with have complex histories; the effects of being thrown together for prolonged periods in social isolation without the welcome distraction of school routines, regular meals, the companionship of peers and support of external agencies, means that many children and their carers are struggling, and their emotional health and wellbeing is suffering as a consequence. At this time of unprecedented disruption to our charity’s fundraising calendar, never have donations from our community been more vital,’ she said.

The charities’ warning came as Cardinal Vincent Nichols led the Catholic community in prayer for healthcare workers and carers in the first in a series of livestreamed Masses for frontline medics and those who are sick.

“We thank them for their courage and generosity of heart which sustains their efforts. We salute their great commitment to their patients whom they serve so unselfishly,” he said.

“We pray also for those whose families include people with special and demanding needs, that within the confines of their homes this same courageous and generous spirit will be strengthened and sustained. We pray for those who are suffering with the effects of this dreadful virus, for those who have died and for their grieving families and friends.”

“Frontline workers among the sick stand in a great and noble tradition. That tradition bears the hallmark of the Christian faith. Its characteristics of self-sacrifice and courage and its commitment to caring for all, especially for the poorest, sprang forth from the determination to follow the teachings of Christ who said that he is to be found, and served, especially in the poorest, the most needy and those least able to help themselves,” the Cardinal said.

This post is adapted from an article by Ellen Teague, first published in ‘The Tablet’ in association with CSAN.