“Initially we didn’t know how much we’d be able to help families using only telephone support, but the fact we’ve been able to lend a hand in a new way has been amazing. After hearing Stripey Stork were no longer accepting donations, I was worried you’d run out of items. But we’ve been using your service weekly since lockdown and you’ve managed to fulfil every request!”
This week, we caught up with Christine Heaton, Scheme Co-ordinator at Home-Start East Surrey, to find out how lockdown is impacting the families they support, and how Stripey Stork has been able to help.
Home-Start East Surrey is a local charity, part of Home-Start UK, which helps families through difficult times in order to give children the best possible start in life – a goal which is very much aligned with Stripey Stork. Families with at least one child under the age of 5 are matched with a trained volunteer, they support them with issues such as bereavement, illness, disability, mental health, separation and other parenting difficulties like helping them to cope with a number of young children. The support they offer is both practical and emotional – giving impartial advice on solving problems, whilst also being a shoulder to cry on with a non-judgemental ear.
Prior to lockdown, volunteers would spend 2-3 hours a week with each family in their home environment. Helping parents to grow in confidence, strengthen their relationships with their children and widen their links with the local community, such as encouraging them to join a local support group.
Lockdown has changed everything. Volunteers are now having to connect with families through weekly telephone calls. They use the calls as an opportunity to check in on them and see if they can help remotely. The team has increasingly found that more and more families are battling with the effects of lockdown. As Christine highlighted:
“These are families who were already experiencing difficulties, which is why they’ve been referred to us in the first place, but lockdown has added a whole new host of issues.”
One Mum was petrified to go outside with her pre-schooler who had health issues and put him in a new kind of danger with this virus. All of their shopping was having to be done at the corner shop, and with items like nappies and wipes costing so much more in convenience stores than supermarkets, it was putting an additional strain on already limited finances.
A scheme co-ordinator was able to make a referral to a local foodbank for grocery essentials and Stripey Stork helped by providing a good supply of nappies, arts and crafts. We also provided some summer clothes which were desperately needed due to the change in season.
“Mum didn’t want to have to ask for help, but was so grateful to receive it.”
She was also very appreciative of the ‘doorstop chat’ with Christine when the items were dropped off, after not having seen anyone for quite some time.
This help was only made possible because of the support system already in place, which identified that Mum was really struggling with navigating her way through this current crisis. We were pleased to hear that, after some extra support to help Mum deal with her anxieties around the issue, her son has now returned to nursery, possible because he is classified as vulnerable, and has settled back in nicely.
Christine was also able to tell us about a new family referred to them in March. They were already in a challenging situation having twins with autism, but lockdown meant that the number of days they attend their special needs school was dropped from five to two days. They live in temporary accommodation with no outside space and Mum had to stop working in her job as a keyworker due to PPE shortages. A referral was made to Stripey Stork for some sensory toys and appropriate puzzles to help keep them entertained whilst at home. Mum’s response was simply, “they are just perfect!”.
We keep hearing how our continued service during this time has literally been a lifeline for families like these, and listening to Christine was no exception:
“To be able to continue helping families has meant the world! Whether they need practical support because of financial difficulties, or they can’t get out the house to buy supplies from their usual supermarkets, charity shops and discount stores, it’s meant we can still be there for them at a time when they need us most. Foodbanks have been great, but they can’t help with ALL essentials families need, and it can’t be guaranteed they’ll have every nappy size in stock.”
“It’s great to see all of these community organisations adapting and working together – it’s meant we can keep our doors open to those who need us most.”
We’d like to thank Christine for taking the time to feedback to us and shining a light on the importance of our COVID-19 Appeal for the local families who need our support at this difficult time.