“These families are just scraping the rent together. With lockdown in place they have very limited options – charity shops and discount stores are all closed and they have no spare money. Anything I can do to help is a huge weight off their minds.”
This week, we caught up with Victoria Kelsall, a Home School Liaison worker who is part of the Dorking Schools Partnership to find out how lockdown is impacting the families they support, and how Stripey Stork has been able to help.
Victoria works between two different primary schools; her role is to support the children and families with a wide variety of issues – children’s behaviour, night terrors, feeding, family bereavements or separation, as well as ADHD and autism. She explains how the parents and school working together is key to children thriving at school, but there can be a number of barriers. Parents may have other pressing concerns – many families are living hand to mouth each month.
Prior to lockdown, parents could visit Victoria at school and she knows how beneficial it can be to be able to have a good chat.
Since lockdown started, Victoria, along with the Head and the school’s safeguarding leads, have been calling their vulnerable families once a week to check in on them. She tells us that for these families the COVID-19 crisis has made things incredibly difficult. Many of the families she supports were already struggling financially, working minimum wage jobs. Lockdown means that many have had their income cut or lost their jobs and are experiencing high levels of anxiety – financial concerns, worries about the virus and the demands of homeschooling are taking a toll on their mental health.
Victoria and the team are listening to their concerns, giving advice on how to create healthy routines during lockdown, and providing support and reassurance about homeschooling.
Victoria explains how beneficial it is to be able to access the essential items that Stripey Stork provides:
“When I give advice, often parents can’t take it in because they are struggling with day to day practicalities. By offering assistance with essential items through Stripey Stork, they are more likely to take advice on board, both because I have proven to be someone who genuinely wants to help and also because they have more headspace to think clearly.”
One of the families Victoria supports is a single mum who has a two bedroom flat without a garden. She is waiting to be re-housed, but for the foreseeable future she and the children – the youngest a 2 year old who naturally wants to explore and the oldest a 12 year old who is homeschooling – are all living together in this small space.
Victoria contacted Stripey Stork, and we were happy to provide some much-needed summer clothes for the children, along with age appropriate activity bags too. Victoria tells us how this made all the difference in the world and really “brightened their days up”.
Victoria told us about one of the families that she supports who are shielding with four children. Dad’s work has stopped as a result of COVID-19. Mum has underlying health issues which means she is extremely anxious about the virus. Ten weeks of complete isolation, combined with the financial worries and demands of homeschooling, is tough. The children needed some summer clothes and when Victoria got in touch with Stripey Stork we were only too happy to help, providing clothes as well as supplies to help with homeschooling and keep the kids entertained.
Victoria describes Stripey Stork as a “lifeline”:
“Stripey Stork is always top of my list when I have a family who needs help… and the benefit to my role is immense. If Stripey Stork wasn’t there, I would have to apply for individual grants on behalf of each family – filling in lots of paperwork and waiting a long time for decisions, and not every application would be successful.”
She concludes with how important it is that she is still able to support the families during lockdown:
“There were a couple of families who were very reluctant to engage with the school before, but thanks to Stripey Stork I’ve been able to help with things that they need. If I can stay part of their lives, then this is a very positive thing to come out of all of this. Getting parents on board and working together to support the child’s education is the way to break the cycle.”
We’d like to thank Victoria 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.