We may be in a pandemic but struggle and poverty don’t stop – Paul Carberry

Here in Scotland, Action for Children delivers 87 services, providing ­support to 20,000 of the ­country’s most disadvantaged children, young people and families. Much of this work is with families who are just coping or close to breaking point.
Paul Carberry, Action for Children Director for Scotland.Paul Carberry, Action for Children Director for Scotland.
Paul Carberry, Action for Children Director for Scotland.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, these efforts have become harder as ­families worry even more about their children’s future. Many ­families are finding themselves in the ­unenviable position of having to choose between food on the table or feeding ­money into the meter to heat their home.

We welcome the Scottish Government’s decisive response and investment of an additional £350 million to families and communities most affected by the crisis. At Action for Children and, indeed, at other charities across Scotland, our staff are at the front line of the response. They do an incredible job, often under some of the most difficult circumstances, ­seeing first-hand the harshest examples of struggle and poverty as they work to keep children, young people and families safe and secure.

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In recent weeks, I have been inundated with examples of staff going that extra mile or thinking outside the box. I have been fortunate to have worked for this incredible charity for 25 years and it never fails to amaze me the efforts our staff go to support families.

That can be anything from exploring new tools to keep children and families engaged during the ­lockdown through to putting their personal lives to one side to support colleagues at other projects. I have heard about staff supporting families through virtual exercise classes, homework activities, parenting skills and providing vital emotional ­support as well as practical assistance. Many continue to visit families in their homes where there are ongoing safeguarding issues

We have also seen services deliver emergency parcels to those we ­support. These contain food and ­toiletries as well as power cards and dongles to allow young people to ­continue their work with us. They also help to tackle the isolation that will be felt by many as the shape of the vital support they had been receiving changed so dramatically.

A significant chunk of our work is providing residential support. This comes in several forms, from short breaks, formerly better known as ­respite, through to long-term ­residential care. This is some of the most intensive form of care we ­provide and it is delivered, around the clock, by dedicated teams of staff.

Unsurprisingly, the outbreak of coronavirus has put an even ­greater strain on services. But it has been inspiring to see staff from other projects volunteer to ensure that all shifts are covered. It is heartening to see this coming together to ensure that the young people ­continue to receive the same high levels of care and support while also allowing existing residential staff to take a well-earned rest.

As one manager put it to me recently: “All the staff have really stepped up to meet the challenge we face, put down their own personal things in many cases and have rolled their sleeves up. There’s a realisation that we are residential staff and that the young people come first.”

We also welcome the recent ­money from the Scottish Government’s ­Wellbeing Fund. Together with ­Barnardo’s Scotland, we were ­successful with a joint bid that will allow us to ­deliver life-changing ­support to some of the families hardest hit by this crisis.

Over the coming weeks and months, colleagues from both charities will work together to ensure that families are still being supported and young people are remaining engaged with the projects they had been working with. We are also incredibly grateful to The Celtic Foundation for donating money from their ‘Football for Good’ fund to support our work in ­communities across Scotland.

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Furthermore, since the lockdown, we have also been inundated with generosity from ordinary Scots to support our efforts during this time of crisis. All monies raised through our recently launched emergency appeal will be used by our frontline staff to support families we work with and who are in the most need.

Finally, I am incredibly grateful to all of our staff for their efforts to date. In this time of crisis, they have all stepped up to ensure the most vulnerable aren’t left behind.

I would think to take this opportunity to publicly thank them for all of their hard work and dedication towards Scotland’s young ­people.

You can donate to our Coronavirus Emergency Appeal by ­texting ‘Donate’ to 70175 to give £10.

Paul Carberry, Action for ­Children director for Scotland.



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