Trigger warning: domestic violence; miscarriage
Mariam is an SHS Practitioner based in Bradford. She’s been keeping a diary of her work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Monday 23 March 2020
This is a really challenging time for families. Parents are having to balance children being home full-time alongside jobs, health issues, financial concerns and care for vulnerable family members. Children are also experiencing a sudden change in their lives and routines. This is inevitably going to be stressful at times. However, my current role has to be adapted to the situation. I’m there to support and guide parents during these difficult times, ensuring their basic needs are met. I’m also keeping parents up to date with the government guidance, as it keeps changing, and ensuring families are abiding by the rules. As you can appreciate, some parents are finding it difficult ensuring their children are staying inside.
A majority part of my job has been supporting families due to financial issues. I have taken on a mum and her family during the COVID-19 crisis as they are new to the area. Her partner has lost his job and is struggling to buy food. I have been providing them with food parcels and also lunches from school. I have also done some applications online to receive support for beds and carpets because the house is empty. It’s difficult to complete the application without the family’s input. I’m having to constantly go back to the family to require more information. It’s also challenging because other charities are taking longer to reply, but this is due to the current circumstances.
Schools are providing lunches to families that require them. Part of my role has been to deliver these to families that I am working with – but also families that are not on my caseload.
Monday 30 March 2020
I am supporting the majority of families at Ryecroft Primary Academy with food parcels. This is due to widespread financial issues and also because a lot of families are isolated. Other factors causing this high demand are parents experiencing anxiety and being scared to leave the house. I have one parent who calls me every day as she suffers from anxiety and is scared to do the essentials, such as shopping. My consistent support, giving her tips and techniques to manage her anxiety in this context, is reassuring her. I have been providing her with food parcels as well due to her anxiety of getting out.
Tuesday 31 March 2020
A family I support have just had a domestic violence incident. Mum was also pregnant but now is bleeding. I have offered support over the phone by asking mum to get checked and constantly ringing her to see how she is. I have had to phone the local maternity ward and get advice on mum’s behalf, who advised she is having a miscarriage and should come in. I gave this info back to mum but she said she would be okay. I visited the family’s doorstep to see if mum and child are safe. The child was living with grandparents during all this due to mum’s anxiety so thankfully he didn’t witness anything. Regular phone calls are made to mum to see how she is doing and ensuring she is well.
Wednesday 8 April 2020
I support some Year 6 children who are scared about transitioning to secondary school in September. Their parents are scared too. This has been a difficult one as it’s just phone calls to the child and parent and just being able to reassure them. With one child, I have asked him to write down his questions about what he’s worried about and what he would like support with the transition to big school. I have sent links to mum, helping her to understand the transition process so that she too can be a calming and reassuring support for her child. I have had conversations with mum about allowing the child to attend school so that I can support with the transitioning and also support with any other worries or work they may have. Mum is scared to send the child in and does have anxiety. I have written the pros for mum and allowed her to think about it and get back to me.
During these situations, it’s been important to ensure that I am conducting welfare checks on all the children I am working with. I am calling them twice a week to see how they are doing and also doing doorstep visits. During one visit to a family I could hear the parents arguing. I was not sure what to do and I couldn’t get mum’s attention. I had to call the police and have them do a welfare check as dad sounded very angry. My concern was the two children in the house who were witnessing this. Mum understood why I called the police and since then keeps me updated as to how she is.
Friday 10 April 2020
Schools are also providing food vouchers to families that are on free school meals. I have had a lot of families call me and ask to support this and explain how it works. Some parents struggled to use the vouchers so I spent time with them on the phone, explaining how it works and how they can access them.
Monday 13 April 2020
Families are struggling to explain to their children why they need to stay at home all the time. I have one family whose child keeps running out and hanging out with his friends and refusing to stay home. Mum has struggled to keep him indoors and he keeps sneaking out and is now involved in anti-social behaviour. Mum has struggled with her child and has to keep reporting him missing. Mum contacted me and I have provided her with toys and also things to keep him engaged at home – including online links, worksheets and resources. I am constantly ringing mum to see how she is doing and offering support over the phone.
Friday 17 April 2020
One of the struggles families are facing is getting their children to do homework. I have been sending families lots of links that can make work both creative and fun. I have also advised parents not to push their children as it can change the atmosphere and can cause distress both for the adult and child. I advised parents to do their best with what they can. This type of conversation has been happening on a weekly basis since the lockdown began.
Wednesday 22 April 2020
SHS central team have been coordinating a toy drive in collaboration with The Childhood Trust. Part of my job was to receive this parcel, arrange them and split them with the other practitioners and distribute them to families that would benefit.
Some families are making the best out of these times. They have done many things such as going to the park, building dens, baking, and making lots of arts and crafts.
Due to these uncertain times, professionals working with families are having to work together in unusual ways. I have been engaging with professionals via phone, email and virtual meetings. For families that have early help workers or are on Child Protection Plans, we are regularly updating and collaborating with their workers. By ensuring that welfare checks have been completed and that someone has physically seen the child, we are supporting these families in the best way that we can.
Friday 24 April 2020
Other families are having difficulties with children being at home 24/7 and dealing with their behaviour. One mum I am working with is frequently calling me to tell me about her child’s behaviour and how she can’t cope. During these phone calls, I calm her down, reassure her, and also give her tips on actions she can take to help. I also speak to the child about his behaviour and what he can do differently next time, e.g. when he is angry to go to his bedroom and listen to music, or count to 100. I have also suggested to mum that we could do a home diary. She could write the positives and negatives throughout the week and then WhatsApp it to me at the end of the week. I would then call the child and go through the book with him. Mum thought this was a good idea and we are due to start this from Wednesday.
Tuesday 27 April 2020
I have sent a ‘Young Person’s Self-Help Pack’ to a family and then phoned them so the child and I could go through it together over the phone. This particular child is under CAMHS due to attachment and anxiety. We completed the sheet where you have to write or draw positive things about you. He seemed to really enjoy this. We also completed a sheet on ‘My Anger Iceberg’ as this child does feel angry at home. This was useful as he spoke about what is making him upset with COVID-19, what he has been doing to not make himself angry, and also (importantly) focused on things that have been making him happy as well.