The past year has undoubtably thrown a number of new hurdles into the pathway for practitioners supporting children and families during the pandemic. After 12 months of adapting delivery, with guidance from the NSPCC’s ‘COVID-19: what we have learnt about helping children and families’, we thought that we should taking the time to reflect and evaluate on what we have learnt (and are continuing to learn!) so far:
Whilst connections made in-person (prior to the lockdown) have had the opportunity to develop and deepen over the past year through online interactions, we found establishing new relationships (exclusively through digital delivery) more challenging. Nevertheless, we did discover that building the foundations of that relationship online, before meeting in person when restrictions allowed, allowed us to work upon a pre-existing foundation of understanding and trust.
It is important to note that not all families or children have access to either suitable electronic devices, or to a Wi-Fi connection. In particular, teachers have had to take this into consideration when planning lesson delivery and adapt accordingly. It has also meant that we too have had to adapt. For our meetings we have had to use a wide variety of approaches; conducting meetings via teams or via phone and through a mix of in-person/virtual attendees meetings.
Maintaining privacy and confidentiality
It is paramount that privacy and confidentiality are retained when practitioners are working from home. However, there are evident obstacles in maintaining privacy when working around family routines such as home-schooling children from a shared laptop or sharing a home-working space with a partner or roommate. There have also been adaptations made to home visiting so that we can safely work with families whilst ensuring we keep ourselves as safe as possible – masks, visors, hand sanitiser, open windows and social distancing have all become part of an adapted routine.
Following on from the previous point, balancing and differentiating between work and home life can therefore be challenging when working from home, particularly for those caring for children. It is therefore essential to ensure that there is both support and flexibility in the workplace. As a team we have all been balancing life and work, checking in with each other and making sure we are all okay has been paramount to successfully allowing us to continue to support families. Time spent away from the desk, reading; dog walking and DIY’ing has given us all the time to breathe, regroup and return to the task in hand.
Considering emotional impact
There is no denying the significant emotional impact that the pandemic has had on adults and children’s mental and physical wellbeing – according to figures from the Office of National Statistic, ‘the number of adults experiencing some form of depression in Great Britain has doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic’ (The Pharmaceutical Journal, August 2020). With a rise in job losses and death rates, these statistics are hardly surprising, and it is paramount to consider the impact that these additional pressures have placed on vulnerable families, and the safeguarding adjustments that need to be put in place. As a team we are all aware of these additional pressures and are adjusting the way we work with families accordingly to ensure that the children return to school successfully and parents get the support they need when this is required.