Annabelle and her baby were facing lockdown in complete isolation until they came to the Cardinal Hume Centre. Annabelle lives with her 16-month old boy in a small studio flat with no outdoor space. When lockdown forced her local Family Hub to stop their playgroup and parenting sessions, parents like Annabelle found themselves with nowhere to turn and with no routine. Local playgrounds and parks were shut due to Covid, and her nearest community spaces are rife with anti-social behaviour and drug-use. Annabelle was desperate for a safe space where her son could play and develop:
I was so scared of Covid and didn't want to leave the flat. I have mental health concerns, and lockdown was getting to be too much. Meanwhile, I was splitting up with my husband. It all really affected my mental health. I felt nervous, and was worried about my son's future - how all of this was going to affect his development. That's when I was referred to the Cardinal Hume Centre.
At the Centre, we are fortunate to have a large family space, meaning we were able to keep our doors open for one-to-one Family sessions during lockdown. This means that children can come to play and learn in a safe place, and parents have the opportunity to speak with staff about worries or concerns. The Centre prioritizes health and safety by only seeing one family at a time and by applying strict cleaning and distancing measures. For families who are vulnerably housed, or living in overcrowded accommodation, keeping our family play space open through the pandemic has been a lifeline. When most local support hubs, playgrounds and community spaces closed, children have been missing out on so much learning and playing. Our Family Services Manager, Gaia explains:
Throughout the crisis we have worked with partners to reach families who are struggling to cope and who are particularly isolated. By offering food, a safe space and critical advice relating to housing and income we have been able to support families face-to-face in our Family Centre. Staying open has proved really valuable and has also been important to help towards ensuring that the more vulnerable children don't fall behind with their learning. Perhaps crucially, it has helped alleviate some of the powerlessness that parents tell us they experience - the anxiety and the stress - just having somewhere they can turn to with their children for support, knowing that they are not alone."
Children and families tell us that getting the time, space and environment to play, learn and express themselves are vital to their encourage their emotional well-being, social and intellectual development. For Annabelle and her son, coming to the Centre weekly during the crisis has been crucial to reducing her anxiety, and giving her son a place to be able to develop:
I think I would have struggled more if I didn't have somewhere like this the Centre. I would have felt more lonely. The Centre made life a lot easier. Before, I was speaking to no one and wasn't seeing any people face-to-face. And now I get to speak to people! I know my son is having fun and I can relax. My son is learning something new every time he comes and he's started talking a little bit more."
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