Social care workers in the independent sector in Wales are to be given greater support to protect their well-being during the pandemic.
The emotional support, including one-to-one counselling with the same counsellor, aims to provide easy access to well-being support for care workers who have been affected by their experiences working in the pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic social care workers have continued to provide vital care and support for people who have been among the most vulnerable.
Many have been exposed to higher levels of stress, longer working hours and higher than usual number of deaths of the people they work with.
The scheme recognises the personal impact this has had on many workers and will provide more consistent support across the sector.
It will build on well-being support already available through the Social Care Wales website, where the Covid-19 and well-being pages have been accessed the most since the pandemic started.
The Welsh Government is supporting the scheme, which is being procured and managed through Social Care Wales, with funding of up to £200,000. The scheme will be available to around 55,000 social care workers in the independent sector.
Minister for Mental Health and Well-being Eluned Morgan said:
"We understand the great strain social care workers have been under at the forefront of the battle against coronavirus, and the toll this has taken on their mental health and well-being.
"This support will help ensure consistent provision of short and longer term emotional support across the sector.
"This programme already comes on top of free access for social care workers to Silvercloud, an independent provider of mental healthcare, which offers four on-line programmes to help people with sleep, stress, and resilience.
"We would urge social care workers who could benefit from it to access this professional support, as it's important they know someone is there to care for them when they need it."
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan said:
"Social care workers play a vital role in supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and within our health service. They have been at the heart of our response to the coronavirus pandemic, however the impact of their work on their own mental health during such pressurised times cannot be underestimated.
"Additional support such as this, delivered through Social Care Wales, will provide easy-to-access and timely help and advice for our dedicated social care workers. If you're a care worker and you're struggling, we see the incredible work you're doing and please access the support that is here for you too."
Sue Evans, Chief Executive of Social Care Wales, said:
"Every day we see thousands of social care workers providing excellent services to those needing care and support, under the most challenging and stressful of situations, brought on by this awful pandemic.
"This makes it so important we support their health and well-being as much as possible. This is not only vital for the workers themselves but for those they support.
"This new employee assistance programme will be a huge boost to those working in social care, giving them the reassurance that they can access a range of services that can help them and their families through this extraordinarily difficult time. It will also mean there are consistent arrangements across Wales for those working for private and voluntary service providers."