Resilience in action: Hommie helps families find hope during the pandemic

Family Support and Outreach Manager Hommie at work

As Coin Street’s Family Support and Outreach Manager for the past 14 years, Hommie explains how the sudden shift to remote working was hard.

We had to adapt to new ways of working at a time when my team experienced unprecedented challenges. Overnight we went from working face to face to trying to reach families using new channels like WhatsApp, Zoom and YouTube.

For our Family Support and Outreach Coordinator, Hayley, it was an easier transition as she was working with parents on a one-to-one basis.

I supported her work through our regular catch-ups and dealt with any safeguarding concerns. Hayley stayed connected with families using WhatsApp, Zoom calls and home visits throughout offering much needed support and advice.

For our early years team, Claudia and Xiao, it was harder going. They connected with families who had attended sessions at our neighbourhood centre, through WhatsApp calls and in Zoom sessions, like storytelling and messy play.

The sessions were popular with families and the team enjoyed them a lot. In fact, our early years team helped other local family and children’s centres run similar virtual sessions and led on developing a YouTube channel for Southwark families.

virtual storytelling sessions

We did a lot of outreach work in our community, connecting with local health visitors and services to ensure we reached families registered on our system.

Our early years team called families to check in and offer support like food bank referrals or early years dietary support. Many parents were reluctant to use these services, so our team followed up with ‘doorstep’ visits to homes providing activity packs parents could enjoy with their children and encouraging parents to use services to help connect them back to life.

When we went out into the community, we saw how families relished any support offered.

During the pandemic we struggled. We were tired, working in constantly changing circumstances and with many deadlines to meet. While many other staff members were furloughed our work became more overwhelming, yet somehow, we continued to support families the best we could.

Luckily, we had support from David Hopkins, Director of Community, who kept us going no matter what was thrown at us.

We developed a plan and a better working relationship with Southwark Council so that they were able to see where our team was and where we aimed to be. This helped take some of the pressure we were under off, and helped my team feel more able to meet our commitments.

I sit on the allocations panel for Borough, Bankside and Walworth so I look at cases in the area with a team of social workers to see how our team can work with local families. Once a case is allocated to us, we have 10 days before we start working with a family and a month to carry out an initial assessment.

It takes a lot to get families who have been through the system to trust us and engage in the support we offer. Often our work is as much about supporting parents’ wellbeing as supporting children.

My team really stepped up to support local families.

As a manager, during lockdown  I could easily work from home, but I think it’s important to get out into the community and meet the parents and families that come to our sessions so that they feel comfortable talking to me.

I enjoy listening to their needs as this lets me know what services they want. This helps us to create the right programmes and offer the best support.

I listened to parents changing needs during the pandemic and we began outdoor sessions to meet the needs of young parents, fathers and many others. I’m happy to be back at work as we start running in-person sessions.

parents outdoors

Since the restrictions have eased it is wonderful to see families coming back to our neighbourhood centre. We are working with parents who have given birth during lockdown, people who have experienced domestic violence and mental health issues.

To work in my team, you need to have a passion for this work as it can be very hard going at times and it’s easy to fall prey to mental health issues.

We supported families throughout the pandemic because the team had the mental strength needed to do the work.

During the pandemic, I have learnt the importance of resilience. Losing members of my team as the organisation went through change management and redundancies wasn’t easy.

It was difficult for me as I was the one who led on this process in my team. Our team is now ready for new challenges and we look forward to continuing our work to support families in our neighbourhood.

Would you like to make a donation to Coin Street?
If you like the work that we’re doing and would like to kindly donate to Coin Street Centre Trust, you can do so through our Virgin Money Giving page here. We are grateful for your support, as it helps us continue the work we do in your community.