As part of our involvement in #GivingTuesdayNow, we wanted to spotlight local charities and community groups during these uncertain times caused by COVID-19. We wanted to highlight the fantastic things they are doing and let you know how you can help them right now.
In the third blog of our spotlight series, we caught up with Stella Renwick, Charity Development Manager at Home-Start South Leicestershire. Stella explains more about the services they provide to families within the Harborough District and talks about how funding is a major challenge for charities, especially smaller ones, due to the increased competition of applications and lack of fundraising donations from the community.
1. Tell us a bit more about your charity.
“We help families with very young children, mainly under 5 years, who are struggling for a wide range of reasons, but a lot of help is given around mental health, especially Post Natal Illness, with the challenges of parenting on a low income, and to those without family support networks around locally to help out on those really difficult days.
Our help is open to those living in Harborough District in South Leicestershire, coordinated by a small staff team of 7, and supported by our large team of close to 40 volunteers without whom we’d struggle to help the 100 or more families a year that come to us for help.”
2. Are you still providing all of your services? Have you had to adapt any?
“It’s been a real challenge to adapt our service to the COVID-19 restrictions but we’ve managed to continue to offer support to all the families we’d previously been supporting, as well as opening up to new families affected by the situation.
We’ve changed to telephone and text support mostly, both from the Coordinators and the volunteers, with Whatsapp groups and virtual sessions trialled in some cases, and have created a wealth of information and activity ideas which have been shared through our Facebook page, with staff creating videos of story, song and activity ideas to share with families from our YouTube channel. Because the children recognise the staff in the videos has all the more impact for them. We’ve had great responses from families tuning in.”
3. What have been the main challenges from the impact of COVID-19?
“Firstly shifting from a very office based way of working to staff working from home was challenging, especially as we were not at all set up for this and did not have enough IT equipment or infrastructure to do this smoothly. Keeping in touch with each other as a team using Zoom has been invaluable, as feeling isolated when helping others in difficulty can be emotionally draining without enough colleague support.
The other key challenges relate to the impact of the crisis on already vulnerable families. Many of the families we help were already struggling at home with young children, trying to maintain healthy routines, and manage their mental health needs, and many with extremely tight budgets. With schools and nurseries closed for many, and older children at home as well as pre-schoolers, it’s absolutely overwhelming for some. On top of that if the parents’ relationship was not the best before lock down, the strains of being on top of each other day after day can cause cracks to appear, and this is affecting the children.”
4. Are you currently fundraising or holding virtual events/activities?
“We’re a very small team, and don’t have anyone dedicated to fundraising only, so we haven’t had the capacity to develop anything creative with regards to fundraising. What we have been doing is lots of applications to funding, including emergency funding, to fill the hole in our finances this year. We know we’ll lose income from the various fundraising donations we often get from the community, whether bake sales or sponsored runs, so we’re trying to replace this by launching our own emergency appeal through our Local Giving donations platform so people can donate on-line, or subscribe as a regular supporter. We also signed up to the 2.6 Challenge which replaced the Marathon recently.”
5. Do you have any tips for charities who are struggling with the pressures of COVID-19?
“For smaller charities it’s particularly hard, as there’s so much competition for funding, and for people’s attention to appeals. Smaller charities just don’t have the size of teams or range of expertise of the larger ones so there is only so much they can do. I’d say do what you can within the limits of your capacity and technology, but don’t kick yourselves too hard for not being able to give as much support as you would normally or you would like to, and remember that small, local charities are some of the most responsive and flexible ones, and are able to get to local people faster than anyone else can, even if their reach and style of engagement is more limited.”
6. How can the public help you right now?
“Spread the word about the importance of local charities responding to local needs, and especially about Home-Start South Leicestershire responding to local families in difficult circumstances who are really hard hit by this crisis. They can show support through their own direct donations, or by inspiring others to sponsor them for creative lock-down fundraising activities. It doesn’t matter how small the donations, it all really adds up. Donations can be made through www.localgiving.org/appeal/hsslcovid19 or go to our website and follow the Donate link.”
About BHIB Charities Insurance
BHIB Charities Insurance specialise in providing tailored cover for community groups, clubs, societies, voluntary organisations and hobby or special interest groups. We offer more than just insurance and we are passionate about supporting local communities.