Posted: 16 April 2020

From climbing walls to phone calls: how our services are adapting in a crisis

Stability and routine are vital to many of the vulnerable children and young people we support. Yet the lives of many people have been turned upside down by this outbreak.

We're working hard to minimise disruption and continue supporting those who need our help. Doing so could be the difference between children sinking or swimming amid the problems and dangers they face. Kerry, one of our practitioners, tells us how her team have had to adapt.

Stories from the East

My colleagues and I work with children affected by sexual and criminal exploitation, those in care, and those struggling with substance misuse.

Coronavirus has presented new challenges for both children and our staff. How do we offer support when there are restrictions on movement and meeting people - and when some colleagues and young people are self-isolating?

Support from a distance

In normal times, we might take a child for lunch or to a climbing wall as we forge relationships with them. But in-person support is now the exception rather than the rule. Instead, we have assessed every child’s needs to decide whether it is best to connect via phone, text or an online platform like Skype.

'You're no use to me if you can't take me out.'

This has its challenges. One teenager told us ‘you’re no use to me if you can’t take me out’. We’re having to think creatively to keep young people engaged, for example, through virtual groupwork, art therapy over Facetime and Skype yoga sessions.

Only where failing to meet in person would pose a serious risk to a child do we do so. Then, we will meet outdoors and might go to the park for a walk, keeping a safe distance and observing official guidance.

Filling in for school 

Most children are not in school or college now and some vulnerable children are ineligible to attend because they do not have a social worker.  Without school, children may feel isolated and face greater risks, including using drugs or alcohol more, being exposed to domestic abuse, going missing to escape problems at home, or spending more time online and being more vulnerable to grooming and exploition

Where young people are not attending school, we are contacting them more often to try to ensure that any increased risks are assessed and managed. We are monitoring what young people are telling us and escalating concerns to social care and police to protect them.

However, we also want schools and social care to offer places to all children they know to be vulnerable. Whether they are in school or not, all vulnerable children should have access to a trusted professional who can check on their safety and well-being.   

Looking out for young people

We can all look out for young people who may be at risk and we can act if we spot signs they may be in danger, for instance, when we’re out food shopping or exercising. 

Listen to our Talking Change Covid-19 podcast

Support our emergency appeal

While the impact of this crisis will only become clear with time, it seems certain that the help of charities like ours will be more important than ever for children and families. 

Charities need help though, with our income having been slashed by closures of retail shops and cancelled fundraising events. If they don’t get the help they need, charities could fold, already stretched social care teams will be overwhelmed, and vulnerable children and adults will miss out on vital help.

Please donate to our Emergency  Appeal to help us be there for the most vulnerable young people.


By Kerry

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