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Summer days, but changed services for families

Sarah De Rees from the Orkney Islands’ Home-Start team updates on the impact of Phase 3 and the continuing resilience of families in the face of the pandemic

The hot, bright sun is shining down on the beach; its light painting the ocean with streaks of blue and green and the glistening of what looks like millions of diamonds. The car thermometer reads 19 degrees Celsius but without the usual breeze it feels like 22.

There is a sandcastle which looks like a well-constructed fort, little footprints in the golden sand and children splashing in the water and carefully admiring a lion’s mane jellyfish while avoiding getting stung.

Days like this are some of the best Orkney summer days. It feels wonderful and quite normal, until you recognise a friend, walk over and suddenly remember social distancing… Instead of the hug, we do an awkward little upper body dance, as if our brains know but our bodies have not quite grown accustomed to this untactile way of greeting yet.

Since writing my first blog piece, Scotland has experienced the gradual changes of our route out of lockdown. We are in Phase 3 now, which means we can meet a limited number of friends in groups while maintaining a two-meter social distance, travel unlimited for any purpose and even go on holiday. Young children can play with their friends without inhibitions and enjoy sleepovers again too, making things feel that little bit more normal again.

The bonus of it being the summer holidays has certainly been a relief to school-age children and their parents. Being able to go into a friend’s house is a huge thing for a child and has allowed those children who have felt some anxiety about the constantly changing rules to feel more relaxed.

For some of our Home-Start families, things have been more difficult despite the relaxation on lockdown restrictions and this phase has been the toughest yet. Families join us for several reasons but essentially because our volunteers’ practical help with the children or at home is a welcome support, or our Group Support sessions provide a safe place to socialise in a small group.

Due to the relaxed social distancing guidelines, some parents have begun to feel more isolated and found life more difficult because as an organisation we are not able to provide the practical face – to – face support yet. As a service we follow the Scottish government and the relevant health and social care guidelines, so we tread with caution; for now we continue to provide telephone support or video calls, which is fine but does not always meet families’ needs.

With a number of grants available we have been able to support families financially when needed and were delighted when we were chosen as the charity of choice by one of the younger members of the community: seven-year-old dog loving Rianne wrote a fantastic book called ‘Mayhem at Mike’s’ to raise funds for Home-Start Orkney. She is a talented young author with a big heart and raised a whopping £800!

Currently we are looking at how and when to resume face-to-face support and we continue to work towards a way of providing our services which meet the needs of all our families. With the various complexities of life in a pandemic, they have shown a resilience and positivity which can only be admired.

They are all wonderful and we very much look forward to seeing our lovely Home-Start families again.


About the author

Sarah De Rees works for Home-Start Orkney

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