Retrospective: An extraordinary year

Retrospective: An extraordinary year

As Covid restrictions progressively lift and a greater normality returns, Spurgeons Head of Practice Lorraine White reflects on how we have managed to continue providing support to children and young people during the pandemic, and the new needs that are likely to emerge in the coming months.

Since so much of our way of life and work changed in March 2020, we’ve had to prioritise meeting the needs of the children and families we work with in the safest way.

Early on, that meant focusing on the work that was most urgent, but over the year we have been able to return to the broader spectrum of our work, albeit sometimes with a degree of modification.

We developed risk assessments and very practical guidance for our staff teams to enable us to do as much as possible. But it was never going to be feasible to develop a definitive set of ‘rules’ to follow – restrictions, partner and commissioner guidelines and the needs of children and families were constantly changing.

Fortunately, the way that we work means our service managers and frontline colleagues take real responsibility for making good decisions based on the needs of the child in front of them. They have always gone the extra mile, and during the pandemic they have probably gone two!

Surveys, discussion groups and feedback from staff and families have helped us keep on top of changing needs and barriers to accessing services. And our colleagues have developed inventive, creative ways to continue to support families throughout., as the stories on the following pages illustrate.

Whilst many of our Centres stayed open, where they could do so safely, we have also worked virtually. Online conferencing has helped us ‘be there’ and also share best practice, particularly around mental health issues and domestic violence which we’ve seen much more of across all services. But online conferencing also has limits – with young carers, for example. After a day of juggling caring for a vulnerable parent, home schooling, running a home, they needed social interaction more than Zoom calls. So we dropped off pamper packs and had doorstep chats, which they really appreciated.

Other service users needed and wanted that human contact too – we met them ‘Covid-securely’ on their doorsteps, at schools, outdoors or (when restrictions permitted) in their homes.

One key challenge has been that children have been more hidden in lockdown. For example, it is far harder to assess a young child’s needs who cannot yet talk if you cannot see them in person. So we have developed ways to engage with children – using puppets on Zoom calls, offering pre-recorded activities for families, meeting children in schools when those have been open.

Our focus, as ever, has been children and young people. However, being at home so much they have been more dependent on their parents than normal. Meanwhile, parents have felt more isolated and needed our support more than ever. But being at home together has often strengthened the bonds between parents and children too.

Undoubtedly, some of what we have learned during this time we will take forward into the future. For example, Children’s Services has been looking at the needs of the child within the whole family unit and partnering with other professionals to offer much more holistic, wraparound support. It was a way we were already working, but the pandemic has enhanced that development.

As our services reopen, we’re preparing for an expected surge in children and young people presenting with pandemic-related issues that have remained hidden until now; anxiety and stress, domestic abuse, the impacts of financial hardship.

With your continued support, we’ll be ready – as always, we’ll be here for them and alongside them. To support our work and to make a donation, click here.