Building resilience for the Eze family
The Eze family came to the UK two years ago. Mum Sade, Dad Kwame and their four children came from Germany, but are originally from Nigeria. Kwame works as a caretaker and earns a very low wage, which means the family struggles to get by.
In September 2020, while the COVID-19 pandemic was still ongoing, the family were made homeless by their local council. They were given two weeks notice to get out of the property.
How we’re helping the Eze family
Mum Sade didn’t know what to do or who to turn to. This was when she was referred to her School-Home Support (SHS) key worker Marta. She began to put in a homelessness application with the council. “This was more difficult than we anticipated,” Marta said, “because council offices were closed due to COVID-19.”
The family went to stay at a hostel on the first night of their homelessness – but were told to pack up after one night. Everything was closed due to the pandemic, and the family had nowhere to go. The children didn’t go to school that day as they had to help carry their belongings around.
Marta worked with the family to find them temporary accommodation. They are now in another London borough that is very far from the school the children attend. It takes them 90 minutes to get to school by bus. Sade didn’t want to uproot her children and go to another school when school has been the one place they feel most at home.
Alongside this, Marta has also referred the family’s case to the Southwark Law Centre – which specialise in evictions and homelessness.
The family have been helped with supermarket vouchers and food hampers to help ease the transition and cost of moving home so suddenly.
Ensuring the children could continue to learn
In their latest home, the youngest child was sharing a bed with her Mum and Dad. We used money from our Welfare Fund to purchase a bed for her. During the school closures, we also applied to the BBC Children in Need Emergency Essentials Programme to request a new laptop. Prior to that, the four children had been sharing a laptop provided by the school to complete home learning. Having an extra one made all the difference!
In December, Sade and Kwame lost a loved one in Nigeria and so flew home to attend the funeral. The children stayed with an aunt. School-Home Support key worker Marta was there to regularly check in with the children to make sure everything was ok, and that they had enough food. “The girls are normally very quiet and reserved,” Marta explains, “but when their parents were away and they saw me in the playground, they ran over and gave me a massive hug.”
How the family has changed
“When we moved to this country I did not know anyone who I could go to for support and advice,” Sade told us. “Meeting Marta at the school meant that I had someone I could go to and ask for help. She was friendly and smiley. Marta gave us the support we needed as a family to access things like online forms or other services especially when we did not understand how things in the UK worked. During lockdown, things were really difficult for us.”
Sade went on to say: “Marta has given me the confidence to ask for help when I need it and now I tell other parents to go and see her if they need help. I also try and support other parents because I know what it is like to be in a difficult situation.”
How can you help?
Over the latest lockdown our key workers have, day in, day out worked tirelessly with children struggling to learn because of: hunger, lack of space to learn, or being cold because the family cannot afford to put the heating on. The COVID-19 pandemic and the numerous lockdowns has widened the disadvantage gap for children and young people. Department for Education data suggests the attainment gap could be as much as 75% between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers once the COVID-19 crisis recedes.
What we are seeing is a crisis – a pandemic within a pandemic; of poverty increasing and children’s chances of escaping that in the future reducing. Children who are growing up in poverty deserve a fair chance to build a better life after this pandemic – and the key to doing this is through being able to learn. If you agree please consider donating here.