This guest blog is written by the team at One-Eighty who, like many organisations working with young people, have quickly transformed their delivery methods during the coronavirus pandemic in order to continue to support young people across Oxfordshire. Thanks to Catherine Lloyd and the team for writing this blog!
It is Monday 9th March…
The news on the BBC is that there are 319 confirmed cases of Corona Virus in the UK. Italy has locked-down, other countries are shortly to follow. It’s very early on in the COVID-19 Pandemic, but at One-Eighty we realise we need to plan for a complete change in the way we support some of Oxfordshire’s most vulnerable children and young people to engage with education and there is no time to lose.
The original staff meeting agenda is ditched!
Instead the whole team focuses on what we do best: coming up with creative, effective solutions to apparently intransigent problems. We pose questions, we brainstorm answers, we split into working groups to transform those answers into practicable, child-centred ways of delivering help.
Within one week, we are ready to go!
So what were those questions and what have the answers looked like?
1.What are the risks of supporting in a new way?
Safeguarding is always uppermost in our minds so, just as we do whenever we take on any case, we worked methodically through the identification of risk, the level of harm, the likelihood of it occurring and the ways of reducing that risk.
- We risk assessed ourselves and our families and continue to do so. We are of no help to other families if we ourselves are sick or terrified.
- We risk assessed delivering online therapy and family support. We chose Zoom, partly because we can record both the audio and visual aspects of the sessions and upload those recordings to our secure site, and, like everyone else, we rapidly become experts in hosting safely, password protecting meetings, restricting ‘share screen’. Like all our risk assessments, this is a live document; it has been revised in the light of technological updates, but also for each and every young person.
- And we risk assessed face to face work. This has remained a live document, although we have only had to use it in very rare circumstances. We hope it will become more relevant in the coming weeks, as restrictions lift and we work to get young people back into school.
- Finally, a multi-agency approach is a core part of our work and, even with a greatly increased caseload, we committed to writing weekly updates on all our children and sending it to the professional network to ensure no children slip through the net.
2. Who should we support?
Despite the Government offer of school places to identified ‘vulnerable children’, we knew that for various reasons, the vast majority of those known to us would not be able to take up this offer. How could we possibly focus resources?
- It was vital that those children we were currently supporting, continued.
- It was also important that those children with whom we had recently closed did not lose all their precious progress, so we got back in touch with them
- For those for whom work was due to start, we talked with parents, carers and referrers about how best to start a new therapeutic relationship at this time in preparation for more intensive work to follow.
- And we worked closely with our partners, the Virtual Schools, schools, SEN and Social Care to identify those most likely to benefit – and somehow, when they asked ‘can you?’, we replied ‘yes’.
3. How to support effectively?
We rapidly assessed the research available on the effectiveness of online therapy. The excellent Emerging Minds Network Conference shared results which showed no significant difference in outcome for adolescents between face-to-face and online therapy and validated the usefulness of remote support for parents. We realised we could do this, and not as a second best, provided we got it right. But we also understood the importance of the concrete in a frightening virtual world.
- Within a little over two weeks, One-Eighty had created a pack for Primary and Secondary. It is a box containing 8 envelopes, each envelope contains resources for one week ranging from jokes and playlists right through to the therapeutic activities and worksheets we would normally bring to our young people.
- Each young person has a notebook of their own, a pen, physical resources needed for tasks – balloons for thumb buddies, seeds for planting, glitter for calm jars …. It was an extra-ordinary effort, but this One-Eighty Box has been the bedrock of our support. It is delivered to the doorstep.
- We know from our families how much the children and young people look forward to opening the next week’s envelope; we know from our staff how it has helped to ground the work and provide an essential common experience between therapist and child.
4. How has it been?
And so began a slightly crazy world of zoom based animal yoga with N, a 7-year-old girl with complex needs who we were told would not speak to us online, but who is now ready and waiting the second we log on. Or with T, who not surprisingly given his ADHD, charges round his living room with his Mum’s phone so eager to share the progress of his sunflowers or his latest ‘Lego’ therapy construction. Or with 14-year-old J in his Residential Children’s home, initially reluctant to come out of his room, but now thoughtfully using a CBT approach to prepare for his new school – when he is allowed to get there.
5. What next?
The crisis is not over. For many of One-Eighty’s children and young people, Phase 2 may be even harder than total lockdown. We are already thinking hard about next steps. How will we support E who has hardly left his house anyway for two years to step outside now? How can we help S feel brave enough to transition in September when he hasn’t been to school for a year and the world is frightening enough as it is? How can we work with Social Care, CAMhs and SEN to get R to return to a life where he no longer sleeps all day and stays awake, alone, all through the night? How can we extend and enrich our usual Summer Project to bridge what might be, for some, the longest ever break from education?
The process must go on.
But there again, problem-solving is what One-Eighty is good at and, like so many other fantastic charities and organisations, we’re proud of the start we’ve made. Working together, we can and will continue supporting vulnerable children to access learning.
Hear it direct from a parent:
“One-Eighty have been so versatile in a difficult situation with COVID-19 and made the transition very smooth. It hasn’t affected my young person by moving online instead of face-to-face contact. They have gone above and beyond with dropping off resources and getting a new plan implemented at the drop of a hat.”
Find out more about one-eighty and the work they do here!