An update for our supporters, 7 April 2020
While schools remain open for “vulnerable” and keyworkers’ children, the numbers actually going into school are very low. The majority of children we support do not meet the government criteria that would allow them to attend school along with the children of keyworkers at this time. Of course, public safety is paramount and challenging decisions must be taken. Nevertheless, these children remain extremely vulnerable. In these unprecedented times, families face new major challenges and children will be at a further disadvantage without SHS support.
Our practitioners are making sure children are safe, fed and accessing their education. They are keyworkers providing a vital service to those who need it – but we need your help too.
Key issues SHS families face include:
- Access to food: food banks are vital to many families we support. As the lockdown continues, SHS Practitioners will be keeping a close eye on families’ access to food and will provide help where it’s needed. We welcome the interventions made by companies, such as ASDA’s £5m donation to the Trussell Trust and FairShare.
- Access to education: many of the children we support don’t have a computer or wifi at home, so cannot access their schools’ online learning. Laptops and data are desperately needed so that disadvantaged children don’t fall further behind their peers.
- Increased stress: the economic impact of lockdown is affecting the employment status of many of the families we support, causing new challenges and anxiety.
- Poor housing: the school day offers respite for children and parents living in cramped and unsafe conditions. Many families we support live in overcrowded rooms, with no outside space, sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities, in housing that is in disrepair.
- Risk of abuse: poor conditions can also lead to an increased risk of domestic violence within families, which is further exacerbated by alcohol misuse at this time of high-stress.
- Increased poverty: families heating homes all day is leading to increased fuel poverty and children entitled to free school meals will now need to be fed at home.
How we’re responding right now:
SHS staff are keyworkers. Many are working remotely, continuing to support children and families under the current restrictions. Home visits are being reserved for cases where there is concern about a child’s safety and other emergency type situations.
Support is being provided by phone. SHS Practitioners are regularly keeping in touch with families and working with school staff to ensure children can continue learning. At this point in time we do not expect schools to be open until the new academic year. SHS Practitioners are part of a whole-school response to the current crisis and we’re now looking ahead to prepare families for September. We’ll keep you posted.
During the period of prolonged school closures, our key priorities are:
- Regularly checking in with families and children where there are serious concerns about a child’s wellbeing, including weekly or daily phone calls to children and families.
- Supporting parents’ anxiety and stress linked to the virus and increased poverty.
- Support to wider school communities. As more families fall into poverty and parents’ anxiety about children’s welfare increases, schools are calling on SHS Practitioners to offer support to families who previously would not have needed our help.
- Signposting families to online resources/activities to help families provide constructive activities for children.
- SHS Practitioners are being as creative and resourceful as ever! We all understand that keeping morale up and helping create a sense of community is vital.
- We are working hard to identify how we can get IT equipment to children in their family homes and are talking to partners about how they can help meet this need.
How you can help: donate to SHS
The current situation and postponement of events are having a real and immediate impact on our vital fundraising for this year. A one-off donation to SHS at this time will be hugely appreciated and will help steer us through this unprecedented and challenging time, ensuring our vital support to families can continue.
Thank you for all your support!
If you’ve got ideas or want to share examples of what’s happening in your street or community please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org