The Early Help system was set up by Birmingham Children’s Partnership as part of their COVID-19 response. Ten Early Help teams — one in each of Birmingham’s ten ‘localities’ — co-ordinate help for families and children across Birmingham. Gateway Family Services co-ordinates the Early Help response in Edgbaston.
Since then, Early Help Edgbaston has directly supported over 340 families, providing them with emergency food and financial support, and connecting them to Edgbaston’s local services.
“Tanya” (not her real name) was one of the first people to access support.
In May 2020, Tanya* was given the number for Early Help Edgbaston by a member of staff at her children’s school, who felt the family needed extra support. When she called, she told Gateway’s Early Help Co-ordinator Marc that she had left her partner due to domestic abuse, and that she and her five children were now living in a hostel.
After listening to Tanya’s concerns, Marc began to connect her to local services which could support the family. First, he contacted The Active Wellbeing Society to start getting regular food parcels delivered to them. He also referred Tanya to the Karis Neighbour Scheme, which runs a baby bank. The charity provided Tanya with nappies, baby clothes and wipes to help her care for her two youngest children.
Toiletries, clothes, mobile data… and a place to live
A week later, Marc called Tanya again to see what other help she needed, and she explained she was finding it difficult to afford some essentials. As well as toiletries and children’s clothes, she also needed mobile data so that she could contact friends, family and other support from home during the lockdown.
So Marc contacted the The Active Wellbeing Society again and arranged for the family to receive some clothes from their ‘Wear and Share’ project. He also put together an application for a small amount of money from the Birmingham Children’s Partnership Resilience Fund, which Tanya could put towards data.
With some of her anxieties now reduced, Tanya was able to focus on finding a more permanent housing solution. With the help of her Social Worker and Birmingham’s Housing teams, the family were able to move into semi-permanent accommodation within a couple of months.
A happier Christmas
Although the family was now living in a different area, Tanya’s Social Worker and the Early Help Co-ordinator for that locality stayed in touch with the Early Help Edgbaston team to keep them updated.
In December Marc learned that, although the family was doing better, it was unlikely that Tanya would be able to afford Christmas dinner or any presents for the children. He therefore arranged for Tanya to be included in Gateway’s Christmas Campaign – a series of events to support families over the holidays.With support from Tesco, who donated food, and a toy drive co-ordinated by InUnity and Birmingham Forward Steps, Early Help Edgbaston was able to give Tanya and her family a Christmas hamper, which included a Christmas dinner, a board game and some toys for the children. When Tanya saw how much was in the hamper she seemed shocked and very grateful.
The Early Help Edgbaston team was able to support Tanya’s family through a crisis by connecting her to local services and giving her specific, practical help. Now, with fewer worries about their basic essentials, she is able to start building a new life for herself and her children.
*Tanya’s name has been changed
If you are a family in need of support, or an organisation helping families during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Early Help Edgbaston pages on our website, call Early Help Edgbaston on 0121 456 7821 or email email@example.com to talk to our team.