Lockdown and its ongoing aftermath have meant that many charities have experienced massive change – both in terms of funding and the way in which they can support those in need. It is also true that many have seen the numbers in need of that support rise dramatically too. This has certainly been the case for the Brentwood Catholic Children’s Society (bccs). A children’s mental health charity with over 35 years’ experience supporting the emotional health and well-being of children and young people across the Diocese, it aims to make a positive difference to young lives.
The charity relies entirely on the generosity of ordinary people to provide support for those recovering from traumatic experiences or dealing with emerging mental health difficulties. It uses proactive listening, one to one counselling and therapeutic practice to help shape the futures of our children and young people irrespective of background or religion.
Bernadette Fisher, Director of bccs (right), explains its mission: “By promoting self-resilience, greater self-awareness, and relationship building we aim to empower more positive life choices and help navigate children and young people through difficult and often challenging times.”
This is part of a joined-up approach which includes providing professional training and supervision to teaching staff and specialist support to parents. This enables the charity to respond to the needs of the child while also understanding those needs from the home and school perspective.
The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented situation and Bernadette recognizes that it is difficult to gauge the full impact it is having on children and young people: “What we do know is that it has brought many new and unexpected challenges to children’s mental health and wellbeing. Many more children are experiencing increased anxiety and the disruption to their regular routine is proving difficult for many who are feeling bored, lonely, or confused.”
The charity had to react quickly as lockdown was imposed. With face-to-face consultations no longer possible, children and families had to be prepared for the change in support and reassured that this support would continue albeit in a different form.
From a practical point of view, this meant purchasing Zoom licences, training the team to use this new video platform and introducing it as an appropriate means of communication to children, young people, families, staff and schools. The bccs professional team working in schools began to get used to a new way of working: regular telephone check-ins, weekly Zoom sessions and emailed resources soon became the norm. It became immediately evident to the team that support for parents would become central to their work too as these parents struggled with the challenges of home schooling and home working whilst trying to contain their children’s anxieties: “We offered consultation and support to parents and in doing so provided a sounding board for feelings of stress, inadequacy and worries about how these feelings would affect their child.”
And school staff, faced with the challenges of teaching vulnerable children and those of keyworkers in the pandemic, were also in need. In response to this, bccs offered reflective discussions, supervision and professional counselling to help staff cope with the challenges of working in the school setting. In order to help with transitioning children back to full-time school in September, their provision in schools was specifically designed to allow pupils, parents and teachers to process feelings of trauma, bereavement and anxiety.
During lockdown the charity delivered over 500 sessions to children and over 50 sessions to school staff.
The suspension of the fundraising calendar meant that the marketing and fundraising team had to work creatively to offer different ways of raising funds through on-line challenges and virtual events. Early in lockdown, it became apparent that donations from the bccs community would be vital to ensure the continuation of their work and that keeping in touch through social media channels would be key in achieving this.
The most difficult decision to be made by the Board of Trustees during this time was the closure of the charity shop in Highams Park where the charity’s amazing volunteers have worked for the last 25 years. The shop had become a social ‘hub’ for many and had raised much-needed funds over the years.
Last year the charity launched its Take a Minute Appeal, in the hope of raising additional funds to support its work. Suddenly, with arrival of the pandemic and the cancellation of all fundraising events, this appeal took on a completely new sense of urgency. Staff and trustees of Brentwood Catholic Children’s Society had to face a new reality: a potential loss in event-led fundraising alone of around £50,000 and an inevitable increase in the number of children, young people and families who would require their specialist services. Every donation to the Take A Minute Appeal will help improve outcomes for children and families in the Brentwood Diocese.
If you would like to find out more about the work of bccs, please visit its website at www.bccs.org.uk where you can make a donation, dedicate an angel on its virtual Tree of Angels, buy Christmas cards or join in the Annual Prize Draw.
You can also get updates on the charity’s work on Twitter and Instagram at bccs_charity on Facebook at bccscharity.
If you are worried about a child or would like to contact bccs about anything you have read here, please email [email protected]