Questions about how we are helping during the pandemic?
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The pandemic has been particularly stressful for the children and families we support. Parents have felt isolated, children have missed school and the pressure of restrictions has put relationships under strain. To protect our children families and volunteers our face to face support has once again been put on hold but we continue offering our support and friendship remotely in these unprecedented times.
Lockdown is especially stressful for mums who are isolated and have mental health problems, especially if they are living alone with their children. They get much more than a place to meet when they come to Friends of the Family.
The project leader is continuing to support them in whatever way is safe and useful. This is online, text messaging and phone calls, counselling and emergency contact.
We are planning and preparing for an immediate return to meeting face to face, running our groups and accepting referrals again, as soon as the restrictions are lifted.
All face to face contacts between our volunteer befrienders and their focus children have been suspended and we have reverted back to remote support. With the experience gained during the previous lockdowns, our volunteers are better prepared to give their support in this way and we have provided them with activities and ideas for remote sessions.
We have also spoken to all our families, explained the situation and assured them that face to face meetings will resume as soon as possible. In a survey about the support they received from us during the first period of lockdown, all of our families said their befrienders had been in regular contact with them throughout and had been able to direct them to other sources of support, and we intend to provide a similar service this time.
“Having a weekly call from somebody really helped me and my family.”
“Without my befriender I can honestly say I’d feel so much more lost. My daughter is a different child when she knows she is seeing her befriender, and although it is only for 2 hours, it is a huge relief to know I can concentrate on the other two children whilst my daughter is getting one to one too.”
‘The pandemic has had a huge impact on our work, and we’ve had to come up with creative ways to keep in touch with our families – anything from sending a funny video by WhatsApp, to show a mum that we’re thinking about her, to finding a second-hand bike so that one of our children can go for a ride with his befriender. Volunteers have made Zoom calls and sent letters, postcards and text messages to their children, and one even sourced an old laptop for her focus child so that she could practise her French whilst not at school. I’ve also spoken to parents regularly and supported some of the children who were really struggling to get back into school. It’s been a challenge but we hope we have done the best we can for each child and their family.’
Sam Hunt – 5s to 13s Befriending Manager