Here is an update from our charity partners on the impact of COVID-19, their response to, how their services have adapted, and what the future holds.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award
Laura McIntosh, Head of Communications
This year The Lord Mayor’s Appeal started supporting a new charity, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
The DofE exists to help young people between the age of 14-24 volunteer in their communities, get fitter, develop new skills, and complete a challenging and adventurous expedition as part of a team.
The Lord Mayor’s Appeal’s support is designed to turbo-charge the DofE’s reach in London, with an aim of helping an extra 10,000 young people start their DofE over the period of our partnership, giving extra help to those facing disadvantage.
At the start of the COVID-19 crisis the DofE recognised the need to adapt very quickly, and created a ‘DofE With A Difference’ online hub, packed with activities young people could do safely from home. It introduced a range of temporary programme changes to give young people more flexibility to complete their DofE. And it began working closely with other leading youth organisations as part of a ‘Back Youth Alliance’ to raise awareness of the services and funding required by young people.
Funding from The Lord Mayor’s Appeal will support a DofE recovery package, made up of targeted solutions that the DofE charity will use to ensure young people can continue to access and benefit from the DofE in London this year. This includes the opportunity to offer funded participation places, and give support for vital training, kit, and staffing costs.
Early signs are really promising. Despite many challenges, the DofE has seen hundreds of adult volunteers signing up for virtual training courses to help young people stick with their DofE activities. Young people themselves have been giving back thousands of volunteering hours as part of their DofE Volunteering section. And the charity is working closely with schools and youth organisations to tackle challenges still to come – reopening schools, supporting young people’s mental health, and facing up to the realities of economic turbulence and a difficult jobs market. This includes collaborating with Onside and Place2Be through the Lord Mayor’s Appeal’s introductions.
In addition, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the DofE has also embarked on an action plan to reflect and act on issues of inclusion, and to use its platform to challenge racism in the wider world.
It’s been a challenging year and young people have been disproportionately affected, but with the Appeal’s support the DofE is really well-placed to be part of the solution.
Maddie Battersby, Marketing & Communications Manager
Samaritans is a critical service, needed now more than ever. Their volunteers are busy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and this hasn’t changed during the pandemic.
In the first fourteen weeks of lockdown, Samaritans provided emotional support 645,000 times. In June 2020, Samaritans provided emotional support over 6,000 times a day (via phone, email and letters). Through lockdown so far, one in four calls for help to Samaritans have been about coronavirus, however their volunteers suggest callers talk about it in almost all calls.
Samaritans’ dedicated volunteers are going above and beyond to continue to operate our phone service from branches.?Where some have had to step back due to self-isolation, others have stepped up to take on extra shifts.
Samaritans’ volunteers suggest there has been an increase in email contacts because callers are finding it difficult to talk on the phone in private during lockdown.
Throughout the lockdown, volunteers suggest a continued increase in first-time callers. The most common caller concerns explicitly related to Coronavirus are loneliness and/or isolation, mental health and illness, family, and finance and unemployment.
Samaritans developed coronavirus-specific online content and accelerated the development of a Samaritans Self-Help app which was launched during Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2020. This app is helping to reach groups such as those who are unable to phone while isolating with their household and those who find it difficult to talk about their feelings, as well as those who prefer to use digital tools.
Samaritans joined forces with Shout, Mind, Hospice UK and The Royal Foundation to launch Our Frontline, round-the-clock one-to-one support service for health, care, emergency and key workers.
Samaritans launched a new confidential dedicated support line service for NHS and social care workers in England. The support line is run by Samaritans and all calls are answered by trained Samaritans volunteers, who provide confidential, non-judgemental support.
The service is being run by several hundred self-isolating volunteers. Samaritans provided them with mobile phones to securely receive calls, developed a technical solution to distribute calls to this network of volunteers, and created a new service model, governance and support structures so these volunteers can be supported when answering these calls from home.
Samaritans also developed a new support model for homeworking volunteers who would normally have co-volunteers in branch to rely on for emotional support while delivering this service. This included technical solutions and due diligence to provide secure remote access to our email and other systems.
Samaritans also rolled out Samaritans Link, a critical project that has enabled us to retire our old phone system and provide greater stability to our phone services.
Samaritans is working in new collaborative ways within the charity sector to share expertise and resource for awareness campaigns and service delivery. They have joined over 50 charities calling for a new Mental Health Renewal Plan; a cross-government approach to put the nation’s mental health at the heart of the Coronavirus recovery plan.
The charity is continuing to roll out new technical capabilities for volunteers and branches to deliver online chat and develop new remote systems.
Becca Stimson, Corporate Partnerships Officer
Place2Be is a children’s mental health charity. Their teams provide mental health support in schools across the UK, supporting children, young people, families and school staff through a variety of therapeutic services including one-to-one counselling and group counselling, as well as training.
When schools closed on March 20, Place2Be transformed its services overnight – moving to a remote phone-based service in order to continue providing consistent and high-quality mental health support for children, young people and parents during lockdown. Their clinicians have undertaken over 33,000 calls since lockdown began.
Place2Be’s clinicians are supporting families with incredibly challenging circumstances – the vast majority have had at least one conversation with a parent or carer who is concerned about losing their job, and almost half with a family who are concerned about the risk of losing their home. Over a quarter have discussed a child or young person’s self-harm or thoughts of suicide with at least one family, and one in five have discussed an eating disorder with at least one family.
Place2Be has also introduced new initiatives including an interactive online course for parents in Place2Be’s partner schools, and Mental Health Champions – Foundation Programme, a 5 week online training programme available to all teachers across the UK
Place2Be provided support to some schools during the summer holidays for the very first time, to provide continuity and consistent mental health support over the summer. More recently, Place2Be’s focus has been supporting schools in preparation for the recent start of the new school year.
One of the ways in which Place2Be will be supporting schools is by increasing support for school staff.
Over the next academic year the Lord Mayor’s Appeal will fund ‘Place2Think’ sessions for 300 teachers across London.
These sessions, facilitated by a Place2Be clinician, will offer a space to reflect on practice, build the resilience of school staff and focus on the mental health needs of the children and young people in their school.
The aim is to help foster positive mental health across the whole school community.
OnSie Youth Zones
Greg Farrimond, Communications Manager
Youth Zones closed their doors to young people from March.
Young people needed support more than ever though so a new digital platform ‘Youth Zone at Home’ was created across the OnSide network. This saw youth workers producing engaging online content from challenges to exercises. This video explains more.
As well as utilising Zoom for getting together in a group, Youth Workers also engaged one to one with young people who they identified as needing support.
Youth Zones have also supported within their local communities. All three London Youth Zones have been involved with delivering food parcels and other emergency supplies such as prescriptions in line with their local councils.
Youth workers have also been able to engage with young people through distanced home visits on the doorstep.
As lockdown restrictions eased, Youth Zone staff have increased their outreach work, visiting local parks and other areas to engage with young people and have even held distanced activity sessions such as gym and dance.
Youth Zones were finally given the green light to welcome young people back into the building from July in small numbers. The Youth Zone holiday clubs have also been able to run with young people divided into small groups.
Evening sessions are also very different. Rather than their usual open offer, they have had structured sessions with young people either being directly invited or having to book to ensure that it isn’t over capacity.
 In March and May, we carried out a baseline and a follow up survey of Samaritans volunteers who have completed shifts during lockdown. Collectively, these surveys gathered just under 3,300 responses (1,919 responses to first survey and 1,341 responses to second survey)