Alongside in a year of restrictions - Annual Report
What a year it’s been, starting with everybody homebound in a National Lockdown. As an organisation we have always sought to offer what we have, as much support as we can, to as many of our children and families as possible, within the limitations faced such as personnel and financial resources. This year has added the new limitation of lockdowns and ever changing restrictions and some of volunteer team have needed to officially shield. However team have risen to the challenge, working flexibly, going the extra mile and have offered a significant amount of support coming alongside our families this year.
Those who directly benefited from support this year included 117 people; 46 parents /carers and 71 children, through a team of twenty-two volunteers of which seven were shielding and unable to volunteer this year, resuming in April 2021 after vaccination.
Lockdown support: Food and Phone calls
Initially team responded to the national lock by regularly phoning all our parents and carers, helping to reduce isolation, to be a safe listening ear for anxieties to be expressed and practical needs to be responded to. Living with HIV can mean a compromised immune system, and many were significantly anxious about their additional health vulnerability along with financial pressure and concern over access to food.
Following an emergency appeal, raising £1630 we were able to offer emergency food and shopping support for those shielding, unable to get to shops or shop online, and for those affected by financial hardship and strain caused by job loss, furlough and having children at home without school meals.
92% of our families are eligible for free school meals.
60% Worry about having enough food in school holidays
50% Are worried about finances and have debt impacting finances
28% Experienced job loss, being furloughed, or reduced work hours impacting family finances
From March – September 2020 our small team did 146 shops and food deliveries, supporting 20 of our families who needed food support during Corona Virus Lockdown. It has been a privilege to support families in this way, and much appreciated by the families. Food support was also provided for the second national lockdown January – March 2021 on a reduced level providing 20 deliveries.:
“Thank you so much for all the support throughout the difficult times, it made a big difference”
Outings and regular visits were suspended during full lockdown from March 2020-July 2020 and again from January – March 2021 and even as restrictions started to lift we couldn’t resume our usual model for outings groups of 10-15 children plus volunteers, due to six people rule.
In the summer holidays we started taking children out again, offering local outdoor mini outings in venues such as sports in local parks, in group sizes of up to 6 people. We prioritised active outings, where children had spent lockdown indoors, and prioritised organising outings that promoted children and volunteer friendships to maximise support and continuity. We were able to offer 75% of our 4-11’s a mini outing in Summer and October school holidays and 30% of our teenagers. Activities were local and outdoors such as paddleboarding, kayaking, tennis, parks and adventure golf with a priority on being active.
Christmas in a box:
In place of our usual annual family celebration at Christmas we set ourselves the challenge of increasing family well-being at Christmas by delivering ‘Christmas in a Box’ to 36 families. We partnered with Localgiving covid-19 match funding campaign, to help raise the funds through our donors. See the blog post for a full write up.
“Ah thank you so much for our Christmas box, everything was in there that we needed for a special Christmas. The food, presents for the children and decorations for us to make something of Christmas. We had a quiet, peaceful Christmas. Thank you for everything.”
We continue to accept new referrals, for families living in any of the East London Boroughs, this year we received 2 new referrals in summer 2020, both have joined the outings programme and benefited from food support and emotional support at a difficult time.
We are very grateful that income from our regular donors remained unchanged by covid-19, and we ran 2 successful giving campaigns in April and November through Localgiving to enable us to provide emergency food support and Christmas in a Box. Trustees approved some additional spending on food support, from our core funds, for a temporary period during National Lockdowns and shielding, recognising and responding to the unique pressures faced by our families this year.
We appreciate the support of all the churches, individual donors and grant trusts who give to make the work with families possible. We are grateful for the provision of ongoing and grant funding from the MacDonald Family Trust, Yapp Charitable Trust, Mercury Phoenix Foundation, Magic Little Grants award for active outings and match funding grant from DCMS in partnership with Localgiving Covid-19 appeal.
This year our income met our expenditure, and expenditure was reduced this year due to not being able to run our full programme of outings across the year. Looking forward, we plan to use any surplus reserves to contribute towards funding needed to enable us to employ a new member of the team, to increase our capacity in the year ahead. We continue to seek to secure additional funding to enable us to sustain an increased staffing level.
As always a big thank you to all the many wonderful people who contribute to the life of Alongside You, our amazing volunteers, generous finance partners, people who pray for our work and the wonderful children and families who are a joy to serve.