Covid-19: London charity makes drastic adaptations to support vulnerable families

  • Riana Horner

St Vincent's Family Project (SVFP) supports young vulnerable families in South Westminster, providing a safe, inclusive community for all families, many of which experience social exclusion.

Under normal circumstances, families and their children are free to come to play, relax, learn, make friends and get a range of support and help.

Devastatingly, the Coronavirus outbreak has immediately stopped SVFP from being able to provide a safe community for families to come to. One of the charity's main aims is to reduce social-isolation, but now they have been forced to encourage families to self-isolate.

Now, with the limited activity that can still take place, the charity must consider the safety of their clients, staff and volunteers with regards to the virus, particularly if they or other family members are in vulnerable categories.

"Many of our staff don't live around South Westminster, so even if there are things they can physically still do to support our clients, such as delivering them essential items, this would increase the risk of spreading infection by making them come into work on public transport," said Andrew Varley, CEO at SVFP.

Understandably, there is an inevitable feeling of wanting to do something to help the vulnerable amongst the charity sector. SVFP has turned to social media and telephones as an avenue to keep in touch with families and provide some form of help and support.

The charity has been posting information on their Facebook and Twitter accounts offering well-being and parenting advice as well as videos on how to do arts and crafts with limited tools at home. Additionally, they are scheduling group discussions using the remote video communications tool Zoom for families to stay connected.

"Some of the support has been practical, for example how to get food if you are vulnerable and self-isolating. But a lot of it has been about just providing emotional support," Varley said.

With SVFP's more complex programmes, such as providing sophisticated therapies to primary school children, the charity has had to carefully adapt the way the programmes are delivered.

Amanda Dudley, Lead Therapist at SVFP, says it is important to take a different approach with each family.

"We know that not all vulnerable families have the means to access social media or IT, so we have written letters to children to give them some tactile reminders of things they can do to manage their stress," Amanda said.

"We aim to remain responsive and do what we can, but we are wary of sending out too much information where there is already saturation so as not to add to any existing anxiety," she added.

Andrew Varley said it is still early days and their support services may need to lessen or increase as they continue to monitor the response over the lockdown period.

"Bottom line for us is making sure we act safely and do what we can to reduce the spread of the virus. That is the most useful thing we can do. Everything else is a bonus," he said.

Tags: Coronavirus , Covid-19, COVID19, St Vincent's Family Project, SVFP, Amanda Dudley

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