I am a support worker for the Making it Work project at Fife Gingerbread -supporting lone parents to overcome the barriers that prevent them finding and sustaining employment or education.
Before Covid-19, I worked within the Levenmouth community. I would visit parents at home, I was a frequent visitor at the Job Centre, The People’s Pantry and local anti- poverty groups. I met with local shops and companies securing work placement opportunities. I also ran a coffee group, an art group with my colleagues, and a tea time club that fed and provided activities for families. I was just about to begin a confidence building group before life changed.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, my role has changed in ways I never could have imagined. I used to take my work day for granted- popping into a parents home, a café or a group. Now I find ways of keeping that contact and engagement going without going out my door. Speaking of which, my work station is now the dining table that I share with my husband who is also home working. The kitchen is just a mass of laptops and various other bits and pieces. Work life is now home life.
My colleagues and I got together via Teams (company video chat) and came up with a Facebook page that we could use to help parents with activities and ideas to help during this difficult time. We came up with an informative ‘News Reel’ with ideas and signposting to other agencies. This went out twice a week and caused Karen many headaches along the way. Ian became quizmaster and set quizzes for the parents to get involved in, Cyrese took footage of the countryside and new lambs born close to her and decided on stories to be read to the kids. I took on arts and crafts and did a weekly video of me making crafts with my wee dog and sidekick Leo! Last but by no means least, Kerry took on the cooking videos and many of the parents have used the recipes and shown pictures of their success. I think this has amused the team more than the kids!
Our colleague at Citizens Advice Laura has also joined in making videos to help parents with budgeting ideas.
Being alone has been really hard for some parents as they don’t have anyone to share the load with and have been at home with their children for weeks. Trying to get any quality time on the phone to chat to parents has been difficult and many of my parents were missing the support and chat. I decided to introduce a Zoom coffee evening on a Wednesday night 8-9pm so that they could see each other again and enjoy the chatting once again. The feedback has been great and I am about to start a quiz too.
Some of the parents that had we had helped get back to work before the lockdown began found that their mood, motivation and confidence was slipping-that they felt ‘back at square one’. I decided to introduce a Self-esteem and confidence building group on Thursday evening to prevent mental health and self-esteem declining any further.
I hold these groups in the evening, allowing families to get children settled for the evening and have some time for themselves.
My work pattern has also changed hugely to accommodate the needs of the parents with either earlier starts or late finishes so I’m glad we have flexible hours. Sitting at a laptop all day is very intensive and I find that I don’t always take the breaks that I should. Normally I am in and out the office and talking to lots of people during the day and I miss that interaction. On the plus side I see my team much more regularly as we are not all darting about in various parts of Fife, so that in turn has helped with communication and team bonding. We’ve all played to our strengths at this time which has resulted in us being able to deliver a well -rounded needs led service to our parents, but as a team we’ve also learned many new skills which we’ll continue to develop (I’d never delivered Power Point through Zoom, but I have now!)
Personally, I haven’t had too many bad days during the Covid crisis, having my husband here and team mates to turn to when it’s been hard, I’m lucky that I’ve still been able to get out to walk the dog every day and have a garden to enjoy the nice weather in.
Nothing will ever replace the face to face meetings we have with our parents. The ones where we can see the body language and facial expressions that tell us that all is not well despite what they tell us. I miss those meetings and I hope we can meet our parents in the not too distant future. Until then we’ll keep making the use of the resources we have and keep supporting our families in the best way we can.
Jill Scott | Support Worker at ‘Making it Work for Lone Parents’ project (Fife Gingerbread)