Emergency Response to lockdown

12th June 2020

When the early talks of a lockdown were underway, Pam Whittingham was already thinking about how to gather community volunteers. She called her local councillor, Cllr Jeremy Pursehouse, in Warlingham and set up a meeting in order to have a few people over to make a plan.

“He said, ‘I’ll bring a couple of people with me’ and twelve people turned up!” The meeting, which took place in her sitting room, formed the committee that now functions as the Coronavirus Aid in Chelsham, Farleigh, Warlingham (CACFW). Right then they came up with a plan to organise volunteers to deliver shopping and prescriptions to hundreds of residents in the community who would have to shield-in.

At the same time in Brockham a similar conversation was taking place. Members of Brockham Emergency Response Team (BERT), an organisation that came together in 2013 during severe floods, held an urgent meeting at the pub.

Craig Scott, a trustee at BERT says, “We knew that we needed a volunteer force, but we didn’t know what services to deliver yet. So that evening, one of the trustees designed a leaflet. Within 24-30 hours, we were leafleting thousands in the village and that has resulted in a volunteer force of about 188 people.”

It was only a few days on when it became clear to each organisation they were going to need to somehow get urgent supplies to residents.

The volunteers at BERT anticipated that at least a third of Brockham would require delivery services or foodbank support over the coming months. Similarly, CACFW anticipated needing to organise delivery and prescription delivery to 1000 vulnerable residents.

Reaching so many people this quickly meant both groups had to endure their growing pains whilst also providing community support. There was simply no time to waste.

Craig continues, “The first two weeks in lockdown were probably amongst the most intense two weeks of my life because we were getting huge numbers of requests for prescriptions, particularly. But we didn’t have the systems or procedures in place just yet. So we were doing ‘the doing’ as well as trying to set things up!”

The Community Foundation for Surrey awarded grants quickly to these organisations, ensuring they could manage through the intense spike in demand and juggle all the unknowns.

Twelve weeks on, both organisations are now working like “well-oiled machines” and they are observing how their community’s needs are shifting. Initially the issue was the scarcity of produce and medication, but now CACFW and BERT are seeing the effects of months of furloughed workers. Samantha Rider, Volunteer Fundraiser at BERT says, “We’ve got a lot of people losing their jobs.” Grant adds, “For every person dropping off [from food aid support], of which there aren’t many, there are still a number coming on. We’ve gone from 90 to 160 [supported households]. Looking at the next three to six months, I think that trend will continue to go up and up because there isn’t a solution over the next six months for financial hardship. You know, it’s only going to get worse for more people.”

The Community Foundation for Surrey is aware that the effects of this virus will be long lasting and far reaching. It is crucial that we stay vigilant in our support for community groups; organisations like CACFW and BERT have been important eyes and ears on the frontline. But as Samantha outlines, it’s imperative that we continue to support charities and community groups that go beyond the doorstep services of CACFW and BERT:

“I think one of the biggest challenges that we haven’t met is the terrible loneliness of the very elderly in our village. We’ve got people who are 90 and recently bereaved who are dealing with that. So we can get food to them, we can get prescriptions to them, but they’re locked in their houses without knowing when that’s going to end. With so little social contact. It’s tough.”

Even though the last few months have been some of the most challenging for these groups, the volunteers are still smiling; as Pam from CACFW declared, “I’ve really enjoyed meeting all these people, not just volunteers, but talking to the residents. It’s just been absolutely delightful. I just don’t know what I’m going to do at the end of it all. I’m going to be bereft!”

Families with young children

4th June 2020

We have to date awarded £54,620 to support families with young children from our Coronavirus Response Funding.

Last year there were an estimated 38,130 children in Surrey living in households with at least one of the ‘toxic trio’ (alcohol/substance misuse, domestic abuse, mental health problems).[1]

The term ‘toxic-trio’ refers to:

  • Alcohol/substance misuse
    Children in households where an adult has a drug or alcohol dependence
  • Domestic abuse
    Children in households where an adult has experienced violence or abuse from a partner in the last year
  • Mental health problems
    Children in households where an adult has a clinically diagnosable mental health condition

These have been shown to put children at notably greater risk of immediate harm as well as having a detrimental impact on their later life outcomes.

In Surrey, it is estimated that 8,820 children live in households where a parent is suffering alcohol/drug dependency, 13,590 children live in households where a parent is suffering domestic abuse and 26,730 children live in households where a parent is suffering from a severe mental health problem(s).

There are over 90,000 lone parent households in Surrey.

August 2020

Children and Young People

Young people have been severely impacted by lockdown restrictions and many daily activities have been unavailable during this time. School closures have led to many young people learning from home with altered daily routines, less contact with friends and cancelled exams. Many young people have struggled to learn online and stay focused whilst feeling isolated and unable to engage in their normal avenues of support. Leisure activities that matter to young people have seen a slower ease of lockdown restrictions, with youth clubs, sports clubs, church groups, parks, skate parks and leisure facilities being some of the last facilities to reopen. Whilst the need to control the virus has understandably led to the closure of such facilities it has limited the recreational choices for young people during a time of unease, stress and anxiety. That said, in general, young people have also been able to react quickly to the ever-changing world and virtual communications that many older people have struggled to comprehend.

The crisis will most affect those young people who are already vulnerable and disadvantaged”.

For young people who have complex home lives, Covid-19 has brought extra difficulties as they have no respite from family tensions, and these tensions themselves have been amplified by the restrictions and pressures, both social and financial brought about by Covid19. Some young people have seen much needed face to face mental health support appointments and contact with other supportive adults cancelled or changed and have needed to engage virtually. This has added potential barriers to openness, honesty and trust; all of which have needed to be overcome to allow full engagement with the young person involved.

“The abrupt closure of schools has brought about increased stresses upon children, particularly amongst year 6 students who have missed out on opportunities to say goodbye to teachers and classmates, and also not taken SATs, along with missing transition preparations and visits to prospective secondary schools. Covid-19 is likely to heighten the impact of the transition these pupils face, and lead to many Year 6 children feeling anxious and apprehensive about the here-and-now, in addition to their next chapter.” (see https://mcrmetropolis.uk/transition-years-and-the-lockdown/ for more details).

Laurence Guinness, chief executive of the Childhood Trust, advised ‘that children with special educational needs are…particularly hard-hit. For those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), for example, the loss of extra tuition and their set routines has been “catastrophic”. Some parents said their children’s development had already slipped back by as much as a year.’ (bbc.co.uk ‘Coronavirus: Children ‘developing post-traumatic stress’ from pandemic’).

June 2020

What we are hearing:

Many charities are reporting to us that there has been a significant increase in demand from families with young children with need for items such as medication, nappies, baby bottles and equipment, baby milk, and toddler food being particularly sought after.

Stripey Stork is a Surrey-based organisation that distributes much-needed baby products to families with young children. They advised us:

“Last week one of our referral partners had to advise a family, down to their last few nappies, that they should use tea towels and sellotape as nappies. Fortunately, we were able to supply nappies to this family, but we know there are many families in a similar predicament. These families could not afford to stockpile; they are living hand to mouth. Stripey Stork believes that every baby deserves the same start in life, and therefore we want to continue to supply toiletries and baby necessities for local families in need.

In addition, we are aware of the many families with very few resources to entertain and educate their children who are now home full time. Therefore, we are also supplying activity packs for children.”

We are now preparing bulk crisis packages for referral partners to reduce unnecessary travel and ensure our partners have all the supplies they need.”

“As prisons look to release pregnant women we have also been contacted by a charity supporting pregnant women in prison looking for the basics these ladies will need to care for their babies.

We anticipate that the demand for our crisis packages will only increase over the next two months.”

Home-Start East Surrey also anticipate that referral rates will be high when the country enters the recovery phase of the pandemic:

“We are aware that there has sadly been an increase in reports of incidents of domestic abuse and we believe a steady increase in requests for support will be made.

Overall Covid-19 is having a profound impact on all the communities we work with, the majority of which are in areas that are already significantly socially deprived.  We expect the numerous disadvantages experienced by many of the children we see to be increased or worsened (e.g. their inability to access key stages of their education impacting their life chances in the longer term; the impact of post-natal depression upon the babies of mothers suffering with this; financial hardship impacting upon the physical and emotional health of children).

We believe that we will need to offer more and more varied support over the next 6 to 12 months as the impact of isolation and lack of access to support due to social distancing continue”.

Home-Start East Surrey are planning a number of projects to help their families get through the challenges of the next few months.

Below are the grants we have awarded locally to support families with young children.

CharityProject DescriptionAmount Awarded
Change of SceneCore costs for a charity supporting disadvantaged young people to receiving training and education
Home-Start East Surrey
A contribution to core costs for charity supporting disadvantaged families with young children during the Coronavirus pandemic£5,000
Home-Start Elmbridge
Funding for a specialist Family Support Worker to help struggling families with parenting and mental health support amid the Coronavirus pandemic and lock-down£5,000
Home-Start Guildford
Funding toward the essential running costs of an organisation, based in Guildford, that offer a home-visiting support service for targeted families with at least one child aged 6 or under, during the Covid-19 pandemic
Home-Start Runnymede and Woking
A contribution to core costs to a charity supporting disadvantaged families during the Coronavirus pandemic£5,000
Home-Start Spelthorne
Contribution to salary costs to enable help and support to be given to families with children under 5 via remote methods during the Covid-19 crisis
Home-Start Surrey Heath
Funding toward the essential running costs of an organisation, based in Surrey Heath, that supports families with a child aged 5 or under, that are struggling to cope, during the Covid-19 pandemic
Home-Start Waverley
A contribution to core costs for a charity supporting families with young children facing wide-ranging difficulties during the Coronavirus pandemic
Oasis Childcare Centre (Oasis)
Funding toward the essential running costs of an organisation, based in Elmbridge, that offers budgeting support to families that have low incomes, during the COVID-19 pademic£5,000
Funding toward bulk buying of essential items, for an organisation based in Elmbridge, to enable families in poverty to have food, baby items and entertainment, during the COVID-19 pandemic
St Johns School, Holmwoods, Dorking
Funding to support disadvantaged families during the Coronavirus pandemic
Stripey Stork
Funding toward emergency baby supplies for a charity, based in Reigate and Banstead, that offers support for families in poverty, during the COVID-19 pandemic



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Home-Start – providing hope to local families

19th May 2020

Home start

Home-Start is a network of trained volunteers and expert supporters working together, all over the UK, to help families with young children through challenging times. These families can often face issues such as post-natal depression, physical health problems, bereavement and isolation. Home-Start ordinarily provides training home-visiting volunteers to spend two hours a week with a family, supporting them in what they need.

During the pandemic and lockdown these families were hit especially hard; many expressed their worry about being able to feed their children or didn’t know how to manage whilst keeping them indoors all day.

In Surrey, Home-Start Runnymede and Woking and Home-Start Spelthorne were two of the organisations that received funding so they could continue to help families tackle these issues. The grants ensured that they could operate remotely, keep volunteers and families connected and provide essential supplies to families with young children.

Prior to the coronavirus, Home-Start Runnymede and Woking supported 130 families. This meant that their 45 volunteers, each of whom are carefully matched with a family, would spend a few hours a week helping them with the day-to-day. These tasks can be as hectic as getting small children to medical appointments, as challenging as emotional support or as simple as enabling a few moments of peace for parents.

Since lockdown their rate of new referrals has been disconcertingly low.

Home-Start Runnymede and Woking is anticipating a “huge influx” of referrals once we are able to come out of lockdown. There will be an intense period of catching up after months of isolation.

Sarah Beasley, Scheme Manager says, “Once children are back in school and nursery, and once health visitors are having more contact with families, I think we’ll see a lot of fallout from the lockdown. A lot of mental health issues and the effects of real abject poverty. It’ll be all the stuff that would normally come through that just hasn’t [because of lockdown], but also the added issues from lockdown itself will then feed through.”

The lockdown itself has provided its own stress. A young mum from Spelthorne says, “Having three children at home in lockdown, with no money has been quite hard. My husband is a key worker, so he’s been sent away to work. Without Hilary [Home-Start volunteer] and Home-Start phoning it would have been really difficult.”

Grants from our Coronavirus Response Fund have ensured that these crucial services didn’t get interrupted, but they also ensured that young children, who now had to spend more time at home and more time inside, had resources to thrive.

With their grant Home-Start Runnymede and Woking put together resource packs to deliver to families. These included colouring pencils, books and games. Sarah continues, “We’ve had really, really good feedback from the stuff that we have been taking around for families. Parents saying how the children have absolutely loved the games and the resources that we’ve provided. And comments that the parents themselves have finally had five minutes of peace to just get on with something in the house.”

Families with particular pressures such as poor mental health, illness and low wages are the ones who are especially struggling during this crisis. It is important that we continue to grow The Coronavirus Response Fund so we can ensure that they have the resources they need when the influx of referrals hits in the coming months.