To our families, volunteers, referrers and other partners,
18 weeks ago, in response to Public Health England and Government advice, we ceased to provide home visiting support. In the first few weeks of lockdown, whilst our team worked incredibly hard to adapt services, our strategy for supporting families and volunteers was viewed as short-term. As the Country begins to explore what ‘coming out of the other side’ looks like, we have not rested on our laurels and our strategy now is to plan for all eventualities, be flexible to different situations and outcomes, and keep the needs of our children and families at the heart of our service.
We have recently completed consultation with our families, volunteers and staff, the outcome of which has helped to shape the support we provide both now, and in the future. There is absolutely no doubt that families really need home visiting support and volunteers are desperate to be offering it. However, we do not yet feel we are in a position to do this safely and effectively just yet. As such, our support will remain ‘distanced’ for the time being. Volunteers and staff have received additional training and support to enable them to offer safe and impactful telephone and video support. This has included ensuring volunteers feel confident in identifying and responding to concerns, developing trust and connection with families, maintaining confidentiality and boundaries. The staff team, in emergency situations, are also delivering essential item packages.
Staff and volunteers are now also able to meet families whilst adhering to social distancing. Around a quarter of our families are taking up this offer but we have lots of families for whom hands on, practical help is what they need so they are waiting until it’s possible for us to home visit again.
We are also now in a position to offer this support to families on our waiting list and will continue to work closely with partner services to provide a collaborative response to meeting families’ needs.
Volunteers are also receiving support and supervision via direct contact with their Coordinator as needed, our private Facebook support group, monthly virtual drop ins and regular virtual supervision. We are also delivering a virtual preparation course to 8 new volunteers.
We are recruiting volunteers across the City, with our next Preparation courses starting in September (face to face or virtually as appropriate). We’re really excited to be launching our e-learning for new volunteers too!
We cannot get away from the fact that a huge piece of what makes us so successful is missing. But I have been moved by the imagination and creativity of our staff and volunteer team, and the feedback from families and volunteers has been wonderful. One thing is for sure, we continue to be absolutely committed to ensuring every child is given the best possible start in life. Childhood can’t wait, not even now.
Shelley Roberts – Chief Executive Officer