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Report out: Our response to the COVID-19 challenge

27 August 2020

Our Chief Executive, David Holmes, CBE and Chair of Trustees, Mary Fulton introduce a report on our response to the changes and challenges posed by COVID-19.

This time last year we were in the middle of our 150th Anniversary celebrations. Who could have known how different the world we work in would be this year? Family Action’s long history has taught us how to manage and adapt in periods of crisis and change – the charity has survived two World Wars and several long periods of economic depression as well as lots of ups and downs in our own fortunes over the years. What has always been constant though about Family Action has been our ability to evolve, innovate and deliver high quality support for the families that need it most.

One core aim unites everything that Family Action does – we provide practical, emotional and financial support so that people can overcome their challenges and look forward to the future with more confidence. COVID-19 has brought unprecedented challenges for everyone – we have all had to adapt to lockdown and Family Action has needed to find new ways of supporting the people who rely on us so much. Since lockdown began in March we have been providing a broad range of support; from useful resources and information for those who just need a little encouragement, to working intensively with the most vulnerable families – families who are going without the basics, like somewhere safe and warm to live and food for their children.

Our response has been based on several key principles:

  • Recognising that we had to stay open – we could not help anyone if our services were closed.
  • Understanding that we could still remain open even if many of our workplaces were closed and then being highly creative in finding ways to deliver our services virtually and to innovate at pace.
  • Aligning our response to the pandemic at all times with our values – mutual respect, excellence, can do, people focused.
  • Continuing to deliver services to families as far as humanly possible, adapting constantly to ensure safety and to meet changing needs.
  • In all cases taking into account the safety and welfare of staff and volunteers, reassuring them and avoiding causing additional worry.
  • Only furloughing staff as a last resort – considering other support they could be offering within the service or wider organisation if their usual role was not able to be delivered.
  • Seizing opportunities to do more where we could.

We were able to react quickly to COVID-19, changing delivery and how our staff work, as a result of our investment in recent years in modernising how we work. One of our strategic objectives is to be agile and responsive so that we can look ahead and maximise opportunities. As a result, we already had in place the technology and systems to enable our staff to deliver and record their work remotely in an efficient and safe way. We are also a highly flexible organisation and many of our staff and volunteers were already accustomed to working from home (though not as often as we have had to do lately!). Our staff and volunteers have risen superbly to the challenge, creating many new ideas for working with families in this extraordinary time.

We understand that returning to supporting families in the way we used to will take time, and we are also keen to take the learning and benefits from this period forward, rather than rushing back to doing exactly as before. We would like to thank those who have funded or otherwise supported our work during COVID-19. That generosity has enabled us to adapt our existing delivery significantly and to develop new services to meet escalating needs.

We would also like to thank our staff and volunteers for everything they have done.

We hope this report will demonstrate to you the breadth, depth and impact of what we have achieved so far and that it will inspire you to support us to continue this vital work.

Read in full Family Action: Our response to the challenges of COVID-19.

David Holmes, CBE and Mary Fulton

Family Action Chief Executive and Chair of Trustees