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COVID-19 Update from Father Hudsons Care

Workers support vulnerable families throughout lockdown

Family Support

When schools closed and social restrictions came into force, Family Support Workers had to be creative in how they continued to meet the needs of those children and families they work with.

The past few months have seen them change their way of working greatly, while offering extra support to children, young people, families and schools. Working in partnership with schools, they planned, prepared and delivered support to most vulnerable families, including some not on their existing caseload.

Face-to-face contact ordinarily forms the cornerstone of their working practice – it is crucial in gauging how children are feeling, in building up trusting relationships and, often, in assisting families in accessing services that they needed to be physically present for. However, during the lockdown the support workers and families have found themselves working more closely than ever.

One family support worker, said: “It might be more difficult logistically, completing activities and connecting in the same way as we do when face-to-face, but, in many ways, I have never felt so connected with my families. Families with working parents who have struggled to keep in contact, I am now able to speak to on a regular basis and have had very poignant conversations with, sparking change that may not have happened otherwise.”

Family Support Workers are working with children mostly by phone and are having lots of positive. Some children also found it harder to engage in conversations over the phone in the beginning, but this has improved as time went on. They are also using WhatsApp and video calls to provide activity sessions. Children have looked forward to their sessions and are engaging extremely well. The young people they work with have preferred texts and messaging as opposed to video calls and are responding well to the new way of working.

“By contacting families in such a way that we are able to drop right into their daily lives and hold sessions together, we can deal with issues there and then and improve communication and relationships. It has helped create a sense that we’re all in this together.”

Parents also have appreciated the contact. One said, “It's so nice to be able to have a conversation with another adult whilst social contact is limited. My husband is out from dawn until dusk 5-6 times a week as he is a key worker. Sometimes I can go for days only exchanging conversations with the kids. Knowing that there’s someone at the end of the phone that I can talk to if I'm feeling stressed and a bit overwhelmed, given that normal life for many people is far from normal at the moment, is a great comfort for me and such a difficult time. My son looks forward to his weekly chats, it's a chance for him to connect with a tiny piece of normality which had been a regular thing during his normal week before all of this upheaval began and to still be able to have that has been amazing.”

Support and advocacy on housing and welfare benefits has continued. There has been an increase in completing grant applications for goods at home. Advice to parents has included activities for children, promoting life skills and structuring the day – completing schoolwork and internet safety have been regular themes. The most important advice to parents has been to have fun and make the time at home as enjoyable as possible.

Service manager, Rita Nag, said, “Being in lockdown has not deterred family support workers from carrying on with the vital service they are providing and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children. They have truly been the bridge between school and home. For schools, they have been a critical support service even more so under lockdown when engagement from schools and other services ceased. In particular, family support workers have been able to maintain regular contact with vulnerable children and families on their caseload and those with safeguarding concerns.”

Where safeguarding concerns have arisen, family support workers have found ways of engaging with children differently. During this period, one safeguarding concern was identified and passed onto Local authority social services. Meetings with schools and social services agencies for vulnerable children are continuing online.

Home visits to vulnerable children and others have been taking place at the doorstep and in the garden, adhering to the social distancing measures.

“I currently get to be in contact with all of my families every week via phone or messages which I wouldn’t usually get to do, although the real face to face work has been limited. I enjoy the relationships I build with families and children and have really missed these – particularly with the students who will now be leaving in Year 11 that I won’t be seeing any more. I have been out to visit some families from a distance, and this has been nice although social distancing measures feel very out of the ordinary.”

As well as continuing their casework, Family Support Workers have taken on extra duties to support the people they work with. One has been supporting with cover in a school that was staying open for children of keyworkers. One has provided internet safety sessions, working with parents and children on how to keep safe online as their need to be online increased. Workers have sent out positive messages on postcards to children who have been thrilled to receive something addressed to them.

Support workers have delivered food to families on Pupil Premium, and all workers have delivered activity packs. While out shopping for themselves, workers have picked up essential food items for those isolating or single parents with children who are struggling. They have also picked up medication.

Rita said, “I am extremely proud of the inexhaustible dedication of the family support workers. They keep going even more so when things are tough for others.”

The schools have valued their support immensely at a time when it was needed most. They have responded to the needs of the school to undertake additional support and go into school to support children’s wellbeing.

Head teachers have said:

“Once again, I can't tell you how grateful I am for all you do. We really wouldn't have managed to support our needy families without you.”

“Just wanted to thank you so much for your hard work, help and support over the past two weeks in particular. It is an extremely difficult time, especially for our children and their families and the lengths that you have gone to ensure that they are fed, have enough money to pay bills and support with finances is incredible.”

“You all deserve these words of thanks and if you could hear, I am applauding you all.”

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