Many of us will be taking our first tentative steps back into work in these first few days of 2022, and taking stock of where we are after another challenging year.
Family Action is no different.
Here, Family Action CEO David Holmes CBE takes a look at where the organisation is as we face the future together and he highlights how much we have to be thankful for.
Many of us will feel understandably weary as we emerge from a Christmas and New Year period that once again has been defined by COVID, isolation for many and disruption to our planned time with our loved ones. It’s been a challenge that I’ve felt personally as I saw my planned big family Christmas dinner for 11 turn into a much quieter dinner for four thanks to Omicron, but one that we’ve also seen play out for the services Family Action provides and the families we support.
While the past year was emotional for all of us and in so many different ways, the emotion that defined 2021 for me was pride. Pride at how our services have continued in difficult circumstances, pride at how our staff and volunteers have just kept going throughout, and pride that adversity hasn’t just been overcome but used to make our services stronger as we move into the new year.
I was especially proud when Family Action was awarded Charity of the Year at the Third Sector Awards in November 2021 as it was an award that every single person connected to Family Action could share. An award for the whole organisation that reflected how we have all worked together so well on behalf of children and families throughout another tough year.
Amazingly, over 98 per cent of Family Action’s services stayed open throughout the pandemic and many rebuilt how they work from the ground up in the face of repeated lockdowns – such as our Staffordshire Early Years Service, which delivered popular family hub cooking sessions over video conferencing software and supported parents over social media. These innovations stand us in good stead to keep adapting our service delivery as we move into 2022 and beyond, regardless of what hurdles we have to overcome.
“Over 98 per cent of Family Action’s services stayed open throughout the pandemic and many rebuilt how they work from the ground up”
I’m particularly excited to see how our National School Breakfast Programme continues to develop after launching in July last year. This Department for Education (DfE) funded programme is vitally important, providing children in more disadvantaged areas with the healthy, nutritious breakfasts they need to make the most of each school day. I would encourage you to find out more about the NSBP’s work and., if you’re a school, to consider joining the programme while we still have places available.
In many respects, this important programme runs in parallel to the work done by our Food On Our Doorstep (FOOD) clubs, which takes the focus beyond the school gates and into children’s homes by providing families with low cost, nutritious food. Although this is incredibly important as a goal in itself we’ve also been touched by the anecdotal stories of families who see their weekly visits to collect food from us as a real lifeline during a time of global isolation. It demonstrates how much more there is to the programme – as shown by the successful LifeSkills workshops run by our food programmes that offer parents and carers the chance to build their confidence, social networks and financial and employability skills during a time when they’ve never been more vital.
In some cases, our services expanded last year precisely because of the added strain families were under – this was reflected in a 200% increase to contacts made to our free FamilyLine service in the year to March 2021 alone. FamilyLine provides emotional support, guidance or simply a listening ear to any adult needing support with any aspect of family life. The service was launched just a year before the pandemic by our Royal Patron HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.
We’re just so pleased FamilyLine was there for families who might otherwise have had to face their worries alone during this difficult time.
That it could do so and will do so this year and in the years that follow is a testament to our corporate and individual supporters and to you. It’s because of your generous donations and the efforts of our volunteers that the support provided by FamilyLine, our FOOD clubs, our mentoring services – and so many of our other services – is possible.
As proud as we are of our agility and adaptability in reacting to difficult situations we’re not resting on our laurels, and we’re committed to raising awareness of family pressures so we can affect the future positively.
“As proud as we are of our agility and adaptability in reacting to difficult situations … we’re committed to raising awareness of family pressures so we can affect the future positively.”
Thanks to research we undertook with academics at Essex University and our corporate partners LV= in 2020 and 2021 we know that families have coped remarkably well with the challenges thrown at them during the pandemic, but improved services for the most vulnerable and better signposting to support are still needed.
That’s why we keep working to combat isolation and provide simple, easy to use resources supporting families throughout the year and by encouraging and helping them to spend quality time together.
We will continue to build on our services and resources over the next year and the years that follow – encouraging families to share the pressures they are facing with us so that we can help, reducing barriers to access for those needing support and innovating to ensure we’re there in any way families require. Our resources will draw on the insight and expertise of our services nationwide and will always be informed by the experiences of those that matter most – the families we work with.
If you want to help and support our work you can do so by visiting our get involved page. Alternatively, if any of the struggles mentioned above resonate with you and you need a listening ear don’t hesitate to contact FamilyLine for free support, practical information and guidance.