Our virtual offer
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, subsequent lockdowns and ongoing restrictions, as an organisation we had to quickly switch to offering our services virtually.
Within ten days of the government announcing the first national lockdown in March 2020, the Alliance shared their first virtual story time session free to all families across the country.
We have since produced more than 100 video sessions aimed at parents as we know there is a barrier for many families in attending timed sessions.
These bite-sized sessions supported parents with ideas and information on their children’s learning and development which they could access at any time convenient for them.
Keeping in contact
Prior to March 2020, 88% of our work with families was face to face, through a range of individual and group programmes and sessions at both targeted and universal level.
Just 12% of our contact was through telephone contact, email or our website.
We very quickly needed a way to support both our current and new families.
We recognised that families would find the national lockdown challenging, so we took time to identify what families’ needs would be through check-in phone calls.
We asked them how they were coping, what support they needed and how we could respond to their challenges.
Expanded our home learning offer
We knew families still needed our support, so we expanded our home learning library to share with families of ideas on what to do at home to help with their child’s learning and development.
Over email, phone and zoom we contacted parents to check in and talk through home learning.
Face-to-face early years sessions, volunteer led groups, antenatal top tips and supporting parents with learning, parenting programmes, domestic abuse recovery programmes and adult training all moved to our online platforms.
We have developed robust safety procedures around our delivery, whether working digitally or in a hybrid model, to ensure children and families are always safeguarded, with staff fully trained in digital safeguarding.
This became the basis of our new Digital Offer, which we have continued to develop and expand since March 2020.
It has now become part of our core delivery pattern, which includes face to face, hybrid and online services.
One parent told us:
"Just a massive thank you. I have had a couple of really low points and have felt really supported. I know I can still contact and gain support, and have a virtual hand hold, whenever things feel a bit too tough. The care that is still shown through these sessions and the email contact I have had is really touching. It shows that it isn’t ‘just a job’."
Supporting families online
In developing the online version of our domestic abuse courses, the key challenge was to replicate the face-to-face group experience of peer support so that everyone benefited in the same way online, and it did seem to work.
One parent said:
‘Doing the group on Zoom meant that we could still see each other and even though we are not together in real life, at least we are still together in a way, and it helps us.’
We continue to provide a huge range of online resources, blogs, webinars, tips and information for families, and deliver a proportion of all our sessions, workshops and courses for parents digitally via Zoom and other platforms, and we continue to add to our online portfolio every week.
Most popular blog: Toilet Training with 1.2K views to date and growing...
Virtual Employment and Skills Support
During the pandemic, many families had about gaining employment. The Alliance worked with DWP to develop and co-deliver with the Supporting Families Employment Advisors a virtual employability programme delivered over three weeks. Here is some of the feedback shared with us by parents:
‘My outlook has definitely changed. Before doing the course, I was looking for a career change as well as starting new employment - I was lost and worried where to start. Since doing the course I have more direction and now know where I am going. I’ve contacted schools to get some relevant volunteer experience. Before the course I was so nervous, but you motivated me to take those first steps.’
‘The job’s going really well. My contract has been extended and may be extended more. I was the first person to be given higher access on the computer system. I am now a senior administrator. I have been encouraged to apply for team leader role, but I like the hours I have now. I don’t know how I did it! Well, I do know it was the Opening Doors to Employment course.’
‘I have found the course very helpful, especially doing my CV. I have never worked in the UK and my CV is in Polish, which is totally different to how they are done in the UK, so I am very pleased to get help with this.’
Skills development service
The skills development service, working in partnership with other agencies, supports parents on a pathway to employment and offers a blended model of both face-to-face and virtual support to suit family needs and enable us to engage harder to reach families.
We also work with parents in Lincolnshire to identify skills gaps and support them into learning, volunteering, work placements and employment, tracking their progress and achievements.
One parent said:
‘Thank you so much for all your support and finding the right course to start me off. Also, the continued support to find the next steps. I feel I have really achieved something now that I have completed my first course and feel more confident about the next step. I just wanted to say a big thank you for the help and support you have given me. I am now clear on what path I need to take to get myself qualified to start my own business for myself and my kids, so a big thank you.’
The Alliance works in partnership with training providers to deliver training based on the needs of families in locations suitable for them. During the pandemic, the Alliance worked in partnership with the Grow project and a local training provider ESH Consultancy, to develop and co-deliver a virtual confidence building workshop ‘Grow Your Own Confidence’.
One parent said:
‘I did find it helpful, it made me think of the ways that I’m actually being self-critical about myself and what actions I take. It has changed the way I do things, and I do tell myself that actually: “no, I can do these things”.’