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The past few months have been especially difficult for vulnerable families. Parents have felt isolated, some children have missed school, and the pressure of being locked down has put relationships under strain. Our staff and volunteers have worked hard to maintain contact with our families remotely, and we are pleased to say that services are gradually getting back to normal.
Our support group for mums has resumed meeting at The Meeting House and welcomed some new mums to the group. Lockdown was particularly stressful for mums who have mental health problems and are bringing up their children alone. They felt intensely isolated and were fearful for their children’s health. Our counsellor kept in touch by Zoom and telephone, but it’s much easier now that they can meet face to face. The mums are able to chat with the counsellor, while our play leader looks after their children.
Our volunteer befrienders have done a fantastic job during the pandemic, maintaining positive relationships with their focus children and offering support and friendship when families have needed it most.
Our established volunteer befrienders have now all returned to seeing their focus children face to face in a safe and responsible way. When the weather allows these sessions take place outdoors in the local area as much as possible such as going for a walk, a bike ride or visiting the local park – and as restrictions are removed and venues reopen our volunteers are looking forward to some fun days out in the summer holidays. A new group of volunteers have also undertaken their training recently and are now being matched to local children and families who have been waiting for support.
Some dads found lockdown very tough, especially those who had to work from home, stuck in one place all the time and missing daily contact with colleagues. Our counsellor kept in touch through phone calls and text messages, and one-to-one meetings have now resumed, although group sessions probably will not restart until late summer.
The counsellor also mentors men who are approaching the end of their sentences at HMP Winchester and want help to reintegrate into family life. Face-to-face sessions with them have now resumed two mornings a week.
“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