Because of the Covid-19 crisis, Birmingham Children’s Partnership has accelerated their plans for “Early Help”, a new model of connected services and communities to help families across the city.
It means that families and children who need emergency help during the crisis can get it in a timely way, from a network that includes schools, health services, the local authority, and voluntary and community organisations.
In the Edgbaston area, the Early Help response is being co-ordinated by Gateway. Programme Co-ordinator Marc has been seconded to lead the project, and is already working closely with schools and children’s centres in the area to provide support for dozens of families.
We have found that even those families who were previously doing well are starting to struggle now, due to the impact the crisis is having on income and health, but the Early Help scheme is designed to make sure schools and children’s centres can refer families in and get them the help they need as soon as possible.
Here, Marc tells us about a family he supported a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fairly typical example of how the scheme works and how the joined-up model is providing urgent essential support.
Food for a family in crisis
By Marc Baggott
On Wednesday 6th May I had a call from Sarah*, a Designated Safeguarding Lead at a local secondary school, with concerns about a family.
She explained that two of the teenagers she works with are currently living in temporary accommodation with their dad after being made homeless. Their dad Jason* is a single parent and, although he usually works, he had been off sick for three weeks with Covid-19. Because he holds a zero-hours contract, hadn’t been paid for his time off sick, so they had no money coming in.
Sarah had contacted Edgbaston Early Help because she could see Jason was struggling, and was worried the family was low on food.
After speaking to Sarah, I phoned Jason to find out more and we talked in depth about the support he needed. His main concern was their lack of food, but he also highlighted that they were unable to do any cooking at the hotel – although there are some shared cooking facilities, they are dirty, and utensils and equipment go missing.
The first thing I did was to contact St Germain’s Church in Edgbaston, which offers freshly prepared hot dinners on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It meant that Jason and his children wouldn’t go hungry that evening.
The following day, after some more research, I referred Jason to the Four Dwellings Foodbank; usually it opens on Fridays but because of the bank holiday it was open a day early that week. Jason would be able to visit the foodbank himself that day and pick up food for the whole family.
The lack of cooking facilities at their accommodation was still an issue, though. Even if Jason had food, there was no guarantee they would be able to prepare a meal. So I made an application to the COVID-19 resilience fund for £75, through BVSC, and helped him find a microwave and some tupperware storage containers within his price range.
That afternoon, I received a call from Jason thanking me for all the support he had received. He said that the support really helped him when he was struggling, and that the food and microwave meant that his children could now cook snacks and a lunch when they needed it. He sounded over the moon.
I asked if there was anything else they need, but Jason said they were OK now they had food. I have told him I’ll be back in touch in a few weeks’ time to see how the family are getting on and to check they have access to the things they need.
*Sarah and Jason’s names have been changed.