CHILDREN’S charity Barnardo’s is launching two new services to support vulnerable families who are struggling to cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

See, Hear, Respond will work with families across Wales, offering practical and therapeutic support including counselling seven days a week. The aim is to help those facing a wide range of challenges, from anxiety, loneliness and isolation to children struggling with a return to school and parents worried about relationship breakdowns or poverty.

The second will be a UK-wide helpline, the first of its kind specifically for children from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities who are among those who have been most badly affected. Both services launched this week are being funded through the National Emergencies Trust, which was set up by the Charity Commission to respond to domestic emergencies.

The funds supporting the Barnardo’s helplines will be drawn from £20 million pledged to the NET Coronavirus Appeal by the Covid-19 Support Fund, established by the insurance and long-term savings industry. The UK helpline will receive £900,000 while £600,000 will support the See, Hear, Respond services for families in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland until the end of May next year. It follows the success of See, Hear, Respond in England where it was launched during the summer and funded by the Department for Education.

More than 7,300 children and young people have already been supported in England, where Barnardo’s has worked in partnership with a number of other organisations. The main concerns have been child mental health, returning to school and loneliness and isolation.

The See, Hear, Respond digital hub has had more than 127,000 visits from people accessing advice. The national helpline for Black, Asian and minority ethnic children will tackle the particularly complex issues facing those communities where people are four times as likely to die from Covid-19 than in white communities.

Therapeutic support will also be offered where needed. Gerald Oppenheim, Deputy Chair, National Emergencies Trust, said: “This pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on family life, from bereavement through to financial challenges. Helplines offer a real lifeline for children and young people who often can’t access support through other routes, so we’re very pleased to be able to support Barnardo’s vital services during this difficult time.” Sarah Crawley, Director of Barnardo’s Cymru, said the services would identify and support “hidden” children, young people and families who were not currently receiving the help they needed. She said: “Our most vulnerable communities are facing serious challenges to their mental health and wellbeing alongside their physical health. Those challenges include anxiety, isolation, family breakdown and financial worries as more families fall into poverty. “While we hear much in the news about the number of virus cases and local lockdowns, there is another side to this pandemic, a hidden side of families who are facing real struggles and who without help could suffer lasting damage.

“These new services will provide the help they need to overcome their challenges and prevent problems escalating to crisis levels. We will be providing a mix of signposting support and advice alongside online or telephone therapeutic support including counselling.”

The aim is to improve families’ resilience and emotional and mental wellbeing, strengthen relationships and help them with any necessary lifestyle changes. Families will be signposted to specialist or statutory services if there are significant mental health or safeguarding concerns. They will be able to self-refer online or through a telephone helpline available from noon until 7pm, Monday to Friday, or be referred by professionals.

Barnardo’s will work closely with schools and colleges, local authorities, healthcare professionals and other vital services involved in protecting children to identify families in need of support. A microsite (barnardos.org.uk/see-hear-respond-net) will include an inquiry form and hold a wealth of self-help information and links to local services which support families with issues such as emotional wellbeing, bereavement, domestic abuse and financial worries. Barnardo’s believes the issues families face include anxieties about living with lockdown and other restrictions, returning to school, relationships, feelings of isolation, money problems and supporting children with disabilities and other vulnerabilities.

Yvonne Braun, ABI Executive Lead, Covid-19 Support Fund said: “The ambition of the insurance and long-term savings industry in establishing the Covid-19 Support Fund was to get help to those who need it most, especially children and families living in poverty. Barnardo’s work is vital in this area and it’s fantastic to see that our donation to the National Emergencies Trust is being used to support this.”

The service will respond to every referral so no child gets missed. There are three main aspects of delivery:

• Immediate sign-posting of children, young people and families to statutory services and specialist support where there are significant mental health or safeguarding concerns.

• Provision of advice and guidance for parents, carers or family members worried about their child or their own concerns. The service will provide information on and signposting to relevant national or local services to enable them to access relevant support.

• A direct therapeutic trauma-informed, intervention; children, young people or families will be offered sessions at a frequency that suits, virtually with a therapeutic worker with a key adult in the child/young person’s life enabled to support them.

Families in Wales can now contact See, Hear, Respond on 0800 157 7015 or visit https://www.barnardos.org.uk/see-hear-respond-net The helpline for children from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds is 0800 151 2605 or visit https://helpline.barnardos.org.uk

Barnardo’s joins NET’s other new national partners: Age UK, the Heads Together coalition, and Shelter (also supported by the funds pledged by by the COVID-19 Support Fund) as well as the LGBT+ Consortium, disability support network, DPO COVID-19 Coalition, Refuge, the refugee and asylum seekers support consortium led by Refugee Council, and Cruse Bereavement Care. Since March, the NET’s Coronavirus Appeal has raised £93million, allocated £87million and provided more than 9,000 grants to grassroots charities and groups UK-wide that are tackling urgent needs. From 1st September, the Appeal stopped actively raising new funds, however the public can still make donations through the website: www.nationalemergenciestrust.org.uk. 

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