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An Interview With Elaine, Operations Manager and Children In Scotland.

Hard times and hope: how one Glasgow charity is making a difference for children and families.

Responding to Call 21 of our 25 Calls campaign, 3D Drumchapel's Operations Manager Elaine Milmine on the value of charity support during the pandemic and finding positives in an era of uncertainty

These are very stressful times, with the emergence of the Covid-19 virus, lockdown and an uncertain future for many. But while this situation has driven people apart, it has also brought us together in many ways. The issues raised in Clare Simpson's contribution to the 25 Calls campaign seem even more relevant now.

Since the lockdown began, a holistic approach to continuing our support for communities and families has been valued and appreciated by everyone. The need to adapt to our new situation has led to many innovative ideas and demonstrated the part we can all play in making positive change.

3D Drumchapel is a community-based project working with families from pre-birth and up until children reach secondary school.

Until recently and before the Covid-19 crisis, many of the programmes and drop-in sessions were open to the wider family group, which may include mums, dads, step-parents, carers, grandparents, older siblings, and anyone else who is included in the family unit. Support has been offered in various ways, such as one-to-one meetings, phone calls, home visits, parent and child sessions, play sessions, peer support groups, confidence building workshops and parenting programmes.

Having to adapt to the current situation with very limiting restrictions in place has meant looking at new and innovative ways for us to continue to offer support to our families - and to each other.

The volume of ideas and suggestions that has emerged from the staff team, our volunteers, and the wider circle of friends and family, has been amazing. Social media and technology can be controversial in how they are used and potentially abused. But the past couple of weeks have shown how invaluable networks can be in keeping us connected. For us this is not just with the parents, but the whole family.

At a time when family relationships are crucial, as people are forced to spend time together with those they share a home with, instead of dwelling on the possible negatives, 3D has taken the opportunity to promote positive interactions, where families can spend quality time together. We have kept in touch with our families through regular phone calls, which have in some way allowed for building better and more meaningful relationships. Children can join in and come on and say ‘hello’ to the staff too.

We are also keeping in touch through Facebook and suggesting daily tasks that families can do together, reading daily bedtime stories with familiar faces from the team, facilitating online play sessions where families can join in and interact, including our Friday night family disco, and sharing lots of information and advice. Some of our regular groups and volunteers have set up their own group chats to support one another, and we have made use of video chats to get together face to face.

Our regular Mums’ Night went ahead as a virtual games night, bringing the usual connection and laughter. We are even planning to offer Magic Shows and Italian lessons from a couple of our volunteers.

As well as being there to offer emotional support, practical help has been provided for families in need of food and provisions. We could not have done this, however, without the wider network in the Drumchapel area.

For the past six years, 3D Drumchapel has hosted quarterly meetings of the Drumchapel Early Years Network, where local organisations can get together to share ideas and good practice, and strengthen ties with others in the community, with the aim of making Drumchapel the best place to grow up.

There are some excellent resources available and many volunteers who are on hand to help with shopping trips for families self-isolating or who are having difficulty getting out. There is also access to assistance for any electrical, plumbing or other emergencies. There is a really good sense of community spirit.

As well as putting our families in touch with this support in the community, we have managed to acquire provisions and make up food parcels, baby packs, and we are looking at sourcing some activity and craft packs to support our families with their needs.

Unfortunately as lockdown continues, more people are being affected, with businesses at risk and families having to deal with unemployment or a reduction in income. This means that services offering support and advice are in bigger demand than ever as the situation worsens. Covid-19 has shown us that in times of crisis, we can look at the positives, using the opportunity to make the most of it and spending more time with our loved ones and focus on these relationships.

‘Family’ means different things to different people and the relationships within this unit are extremely important. We can also be thankful to those in the wider community that have demonstrated kindness and offers of help and support.

However, the downside of this it that the coming months will continue to be difficult for everyone, and the fallout in the longer term is uncertain in terms of the impact on the economy, poverty, mental health and wellbeing, and consequently on our families. It is important to remember the crucial role that charities will play in working together with statutory services to support these families, and acknowledge that continuing to fund invaluable services such as 3D Drumchapel must be a priority.

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