Despite their buildings being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, enterprising staff from ‘Better’ children’s centres in South and East Greenwich have pulled out all the stops to continue supporting local families, by creating a comprehensive online and telephone-based service.
The dedicated team has created a virtual call centre, with staff working from home and telephoning regular users of the children’s centres on a daily or weekly basis: to check on their welfare, offer emotional and practical support and ‘sign post’ to other useful agencies.
It has also moved as many of its services as possible online via its Facebook pages – delivering remote activities for children such as speech and language skills, storytelling, and physical exercises - while parents are supported with advice on parenting skills, online cooking demonstrations and personal wellbeing coaching. All the activities are delivered by children’s centre personnel ensuring that families see and are able to engage with familiar faces and staff that they know well.
The 10 children’s centres are located in areas of higher deprivation and normally support over 7,000 children and their families each year, providing help with child development, school readiness and parenting skills. Through their vital work the centres reach 85 per cent of children aged five years or under, who are deemed vulnerable and are perhaps living in with domestic violence, parental mental health issues or have child protection orders.
Government guidelines on social distancing and coronavirus meant we were unable to keep our physical children’s centres open. However, we felt it was crucial that we stayed in contact with our families and offered them as much support as possible, albeit remotely.
Our staff have been remarkable, many rapidly learning new IT and social media broadcasting skills, while thinking of innovative ways in which to provide a comprehensive range of activities and support for children and their carers.
Better is a charitable social enterprise, and our ethos is based around ‘giving back’ to the local community. The feedback we’ve received for the sessions we are now offering online has been heart-warming and spurs us on to do more. In the first couple of weeks our online videos have received more than 3,000 views.
To access the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s Better Children’s Centres Facebook activities visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1057633154420242/
Lisa Walsh is strategic lead at Better Children’s Centres within Greenwich RLBC