BlackRock Volunteers in Hackney: creating a safe and happy space to play

News article from February 12, 2016

6Many of the families that School-Home Support (SHS) help are struggling with unsuitable housing situations. In Hackney, one such family was feeling very overwhelmed. The dad had lost his job and was having to travel two hours each way to his new one, in addition to working long hours. The mum was busy caring for their son, David, aged eight, who has autism and needs lots of attention. Despite their best efforts their house had become really run-down and their front garden had been overtaken by weeds and debris. It had taken a long time for Collette, the SHS practitioner, to gain the family’s trust enough for them to allow her to make a home visit, as they were so embarrassed.

It was easy for Collette, to gain the family’s trust because of her warm and friendly disposition.  Despite the embarrassment, the mum agreed to a home visit, saying that ‘I know you will understand’.

When Collette did visit she found that David did not have a proper bedroom – the furniture was falling apart and there was a large hole in the ceiling. The room was overcrowded and chaotic. This was affecting him really badly. He was becoming increasingly withdrawn and unhappy. He couldn’t even invite friends round as there was nowhere suitable for them to play or study together.

When a group of volunteers from BlackRock said they wanted some hands-on, meaningful volunteering experience with School-Home Support, it felt like the perfect opportunity to give this family the support they so desperately needed.

First, a home visit was carried out with Collette to assess the housing situation and to better understand their needs. Together with the family, it was decided that the focus should be on de-cluttering, cleaning, tidying and decorating David’s bedroom and tackling the front garden – areas that would make an immediate and practical difference.

The volunteers from BlackRock went above and beyond to help find materials and items that would provide extra special touches for the family. They learnt that David loves superheroes and power rangers, and brought toys with them for him to play with, as he didn’t have any.

1On the day itself, the weather did not hold up. The volunteers battled the rain and the mud to create a beautiful front garden that the family could be proud of. They planted flowers that will blossom in the spring and summer months, so that the garden would always have vibrant colours. In the bedroom, broken beds and wardrobe were disassembled and new furniture was built, clutter was cleared and a child’s bedroom started to slowly emerge. Finishing touches were put in place – twinkling lights in the garden, a multi-sensory lamp, brightly coloured cushions and throws in David’s bedroom.  It wasn’t easy. The work was physical and very challenging for all, but at the same time it felt really worthwhile.

David’s mum has described David as already becoming increasingly confident. She explained how David used to fight with his dad for the TV remote control as there was little else for him to do, but now he spends much more time in his bedroom, reading and playing with his toys. She says, “He loves being in his room playing and laughing and enjoying his day. Thank you so so so so much!”

8Adam, one of the volunteers, said that “The day was very hard work but at the same time highly enjoyable and extremely worthwhile. It was very rewarding to see the tangible difference we made, and in particular the look on the little boy’s face as he saw his new bedroom. SHS is a fantastic charity doing great and much needed work, and I hope that we at BlackRock can continue to partner with them in the future.”

We are very grateful to all the volunteers who took part for their kindness and hard work.



School-Home Support practitioners offer a combination of specialist support and emotional and practical advice to vulnerable children and young people, working with them and their families to help overcome the barriers that get in the way of their learning. They establish trusting relationships to help resolve the complex issues which can lead to poor school attendance, bad behaviour and low attainment. .

We are very grateful to BlackRock for our supporting us to train our practitioners, ensuring that they are able to provide the best possible help to these families.

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