Business as usual for us has long involved adapting to and accommodating the increasing and changing demand for the support we provide to families while seeking out the financial underpinning necessary to ensure there is no drop in the quality of that support.
The complexity and levels of expertise necessary to continue with excellent service is compounded when the most important element of securing parental and family trust in us –the personal relationship and bond formed between our volunteer case worker and the family they support – is made impossible because of the restrictions imposed during the pandemic. But thanks to the dedication and professionalism of our staff and volunteers we have provided a level of service and of emotional support – if temporarily but necessarily different in form – that has proved invaluable to the 147 families who relied on us in the year March 2020 to March 2021. See some of our Family Experiences which describe how Home-Start Leeds helped families to overcome difficulties during the pandemic, including enforced lack of personal contact.
Notwithstanding the challenges, we were able to maintain our important connections with many who are already isolated and/or facing significant difficulties and to have been able to provide families with the resources they need to stay connected.
The majority of one-to-one support has moved to regular phone or video calls although face to face support on the doorstep if not in the home continued to be provided to the most vulnerable families following careful risk assessment.
On the positive side, some of the changes to our working practices – particularly in relation to how we can use technology to underpin some of what we do – have improved the way we do things and will remain after we can return to business as usual.
The imagination and creativity we brought to bear on adapting the support we provided to families in need was reflected in our ability to maintain our programme for recruiting and training online additional volunteer case workers to meet the increasing demand for our services – demand made more acute because of the well – publicised social strains imposed during the pandemic.
Thanks to the financial support we received from generous donors and funders, including this year’s John Lewis and Waitrose Christmas “Give a Little Love” campaign – which selected Home-Start UK as one of the charities it supported – we were able to provide gifts to gifts to over 45 families, including 75 sacks of toys. We followed this up at Easter when we put together some lovely Easter baskets for 61 families to enjoy over the Easter holidays.
Families who need support can continue to connect with us and we have remained open to new requests for support through partners and colleagues in health and social care, education and community services, as well as from families directly.