Gloucestershire Funders’ Spotlight is a series aimed at raising awareness of some of the organisations we have helped to fund. Each week we speak with a representative and ask them questions about what it is that they do, what they have learned during the last few months, and how else they might be supported to ensure they can keep making a difference to lives in Gloucestershire. This week we spoke with Steph from Cirencester Opportunity Group.
Q1: What does your organisation do, where are you based and who do you work with?
We are a Specialist Family Centre offering integrated Pre-school and Nursery Early Years education, parent and child activity sessions, parent support groups and one to one guidance. We support children and their families to achieve their true potential and we work closely with other local professionals to ensure that the needs of the family are fully met. We work with children aged 0-4 (many with additional needs) and their parents and we serve the town of Cirencester and the surrounding villages.
Q2: How has your organisation and the people you work alongside been affected over the last 3 months?
We have remained open throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic and Lockdown to provide care for the children of Key workers and vulnerable children that need our support. Our Outreach Family support has also continued to provide families with access to food, information, reassurance, and ongoing professional support. Lockdown has meant that the children we support, and their families have had their ‘normal’ taken away from them. Their everyday embedded coping strategies, such as the safety of their routine with us, tailored support, that sense of belonging and their Early Years play and education, all the things that support them to learn and achieve have been disrupted. Teachers, friends, and family have all been out of their physical reach for months and this has been difficult for so many of the children to understand and cope with. Unfortunately, there have also been additional financial and mental-health pressures for the families to cope with.
Q3: Have you learned anything or been surprised by anything during this time?
The knock-on effect that families have experienced, due to vital services not being available to them during the pandemic has been a shock to us, such as Health Visitors being re-deployed to frontline NHS services. We have had to act quickly to help families cope and to support those suffering from food poverty and worsening mental health issues. We have found that whilst there seems to be valuable support for new mental health conditions, there are still long waiting lists for those individuals suffering from existing more severe mental health issues.
Thankfully, on a more positive note, we have been pleasantly surprised at how well the children have adapted to being back at our centre after many weeks at home. They are slowly getting used to the new systems we have put in place to help keep them safe and we are so very proud of them.
Q4: How will the money from Gloucestershire Funders be used by your organisation?
Gloucestershire Funders are supporting our Outreach Family work to continue to make a difference to the lives of children and their families, who need it most. We will be providing a Summer provision of activity, play and support, including a nutritious lunch for the children. The ‘Free School Meals scheme’ does not cover children within Early Years, therefore we will continue to support families by providing access to Foodbank vouchers and our own food support packages, over the summer months. Our one-to-one contact with families will also continue over the summer, to help families to cope with any challenges they will be facing and to help them to prepare to return to some kind of normality in September, something that is a daunting prospect for many families.
Q5: Are you still fundraising? How can people support your organisation?
We would welcome hearing from anyone who would like to support our work with children and families, please contact our Fundraiser Steph on firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can make a donation to support the work of our charity, by visiting our Virgin Money Giving page https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1016465 thank you very much.