Tag Archive for: Online Learning

Smarter Ball for CHSW

Smarter Ball for Children’s Hospice South West raises £4,000

The Smarter Ball in aid of Children’s Hospice South West (CHSW) saw over 100 guests, come together on Friday 23 September 2022 at Teignmouth Golf Club to raise funds for the charity.

The event was organised by local businesses Safe-guarding.co and Smarter Accounting with the support of partners – Future Media, Tank Sherman and Angela Consulting (Marketing).  Hosted by compare and comedian, Tank Sherman, the black-tie fundraising event welcomed over 100 guests, including tables from businesses including Scott Richards Solicitors, Orestone Wealth Management, Howard Mortgages and Pride Fitness.

Offering a glitzy evening of fundraising and entertainment, guests at the Smarter Ball enjoyed an exclusive live performance from Shelley Smith (X-factor contestant) followed by a Future Media DJ on the decks.  The charity auction included prizes from Laura Wall, Gidleigh Park, Kenton Vinyard, Devon Sea Safari, Teignmouth and Dawlish Warren Golf Clubs. Prizes also included memorabilia from Exclusive Memorabilia – a John Travolta signed Greece poster, Liverpool FC “Boot Room” signed photo, and Darren Clarke signed photo.

The event raised over £4,000 from ticket sales, donations and the evening auction for Children’s Hospice South West, which is enough to pay for 250 hours of vital care. 

Henrietta Olsson, Area Fundraiser for the CHSW, said: “The Smarter Ball was a great, fun event and we’re thankful to everyone who attended or donated a prize for the auction to help raise funds for our charity.”
The funds raised at the Smarter Ball will support the provision of hospice care for children and young people with life-limiting conditions and their whole family. Respite and short breaks, emergency care, palliative care and end of life care at three children’s hospices; Little Bridge House in Devon, Charlton Farm in Somerset and Little Harbour in Cornwall.

Additional funds were also raised on the evening in aid of an Automated External Defibrillator or AED, a lightweight, battery-operated, portable device used to help people having sudden cardiac arrest for public use at Pride Fitness Gym in Dawlish.

If you would like any help of advice with your safeguarding training of consultancy, please email [email protected] 

About Us:

For more information on resources to develop knowledge of safeguarding please contact us.

We offer consultancy, video conferencing, interactive training and blended learning on a wide range of safeguarding topics.  To find out more about the services and training courses delivered please visit our services >>  or contact us >>

Looking Forward to 2023

Looking Forward to 2023 & Having the Confidence to Fly

As I reflect on another memorable year of business and look forward to an exciting 2023, I’m amazed that only 10 years ago, I was pensioned out of the police due to events I had been exposed to which affected my mental health. 

I absolutely loved my old job, I had wanted to be a police officer since primary school.  Leaving the police after 24 years of service was such a big wrench for me, I was left feeling worthless and embarrassed.  

After taking around a year off from work to recharge my batteries, I looked at the skill set that I had built as an experienced police detective.  During my police career I was (and still am!) extremely passionate about safeguarding children and adults at risk of harm, and felt that I still had more to offer to help safeguard children and the most vulnerable in society.  I therefore decided to take the big step of setting up both my own safeguarding business called Safe-guarding.co and work with others in a joint company called Safeguarding Associates for Excellence (SAFE).

During the pandemic I decided I wanted to help other businesses, and charities in particular, who may be struggling, and so I began volunteering to deliver safeguarding training to the Children’s Hospice South West (CHSW) through Safe-guarding.co.  As well as delivering blended learning training workshops, one of my highlights of 2022 was organising a successful fundraising Charity Ball event for CHSW.  I also volunteer to help to raise awareness of ICON – a charity working to raise awareness and prevent shaken baby syndrome.  I’ve particularly enjoyed this charity work and I’m looking forward to delivering more training courses and support in 2023 for CHSW.

The reality of working within a joint company can mean working long hours with very little time off.  And so, with the help of an amazing business/ marketing consultant Angela J. Rimmer MSc FCIM 🗯 (Angela Consulting), who boosted my confidence immensely, I built the confidence to branch out on my own.  From January 2023 I am building on my next business chapter which I am delighted to share with my colleagues and connections.  I have recently resigned as a director for SAFE to concentrate on developing my own company Safe-guarding.co.

In 2022, I’ve been very proud to have developed many more new excellent working relationships with local, regional and national businesses predominantly in the healthcare and education sectors, but also professional services too.  I’m very excited to be working with these clients in 2023 on some great projects!

On the topic of referrals, I was delighted to be nominated recently for the category of Best Supporting Act in the prestigious South West Women in Business Awards.  When I discovered my nomination, my first thought was – “why me when there are so many more deserving people”?, not thinking for one minute I would get to the final and actually win in my category overall. 

The Awards event was spectacular and I met some wonderful, inspirational business women. I’m very grateful for Trish Caller (Genius PR/ Events) who decided on the winners of my category. This was such a humbling experience. I was really thrilled that my police career and work in safeguarding since then, after the diagnosis of post-Traumatic Stress Disorder had been recognised.  I was also really honoured that a few women came to speak directly to me during the Awards about their experiences of overcoming adversity – all truly amazing people. I’m looking forward meeting more inspirational people via my new South West Women in Business network in 2023.

My work with Ange hasn’t all been about work!  She joined me to celebrate and share in my success at the South West Women’s Awards where I hope you can see a little bit of fun was had on the evening.  A big thank you to Ange (who I would absolutely recommend if you find yourself in need of marketing!) and, of course, my lovely husband who has been by biggest supporter by far!

No alt text provided for this image
Credit:TC Photography

This year, I’m very grateful for all of the positive feedback I’ve received and thank you for sharing your training/ workshop/ consultancy/ conference experiences with me.  It’s been a pleasure to work with my clients, and I value your ongoing support. I’m very much looking forward to 2023 and continuing my safeguarding mission.  I hope that you have a happy holiday season, and want to wish you a Merry Christmas and good health for the New Year.

If you would like any help of advice with your safeguarding training of consultancy, please email [email protected] 

About Us:

For more information on resources to develop knowledge of safeguarding please contact us.

We offer consultancy, video conferencing, interactive training and blended learning on a wide range of safeguarding topics.  To find out more about the services and training courses delivered please visit our services >>  or contact us >>

Workplace Wellbeing & Safeguarding Supervision

With every safeguarding course I deliver, I always talk about the importance of looking after ourselves and work colleagues and I pose the question “who has safeguarding supervision in place in their organisation?”.  Sadly, the majority of course attendees confuse this with workload supervision or don’t have any formal structure in place.

When I joined the police in 1990 there was a lack of awareness of the importance of looking after the wellbeing of officers working within a safeguarding role, it is encouraging to read and hear that things are changing within the service I loved.

Even now the date the 7th of February 2002 is etched on my brain when my partner- a serving Police Officer- died aged 47 years of a heart attack whilst on duty working away from home. My partner and I were working with a large team investigating non-recent child abuse. Many of the team members were working all of the country, some worked alone, some travelled abroad to investigate and take statements from victims and survivors relating to their abuse as a child. Living out of a suitcase was commonplace for a couple of years for some of the team members. I know from frequent conversations with my partner that he would take advantage of the hotel fried breakfast every day and every evening whilst working away would end up in a bar, he also used to smoke.

Whilst no blame can be attributed to the cause of my partners’ heart attack and death, The British Heart Foundation recently published the following information about how stress could be linked to heart and circulatory disease:

Feeling stressed all the time could raise your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a new study.  The research, which is published in The Lancet, which has received widespread media coverage, claims to show for the first time how stress could be linked to heart and circulatory disease in humans. 

Constant stress has been linked to higher activity in an area of the brain linked to processing emotions, and an increased likelihood of developing heart and circulatory disease.

The researchers, from Harvard University, suggested stress could be as important a risk factor as smoking or high blood pressure.

Emily Reeve, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The link between stress and increased risk of developing heart disease has previously focused on the lifestyle habits people take up when they feel stressed such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and overeating. Exploring the brain’s management of stress and discovering why it increases the risk of heart disease will allow us to develop new ways of managing chronic psychological stress. This could lead to ensuring that patients who are at risk are routinely screened and that their stress is managed effectively”.

Read more here >> 

Safeguarding supervision would have definitely been an invaluable resource during the time of my Police team work.  This would have provided staff with the opportunity to talk about the safeguarding investigations, and also know that this was their opportunity to talk about how they were coping with investigating traumatic events in people lives.

What is Safeguarding Supervision?

‘Supervision is an accountable process which supports, assures and develops the knowledge, skills and values of an individual, group or team. The purpose is to improve the quality of their work to achieve agreed objectives and outcomes’ (Providing effective supervision CWDC/Skills for Care 2007).

Safeguarding supervision is complementary to, but separate from, managerial supervision.

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 states:

‘Effective professional supervision can play a critical role in ensuring a clear focus on a child’s welfare. Supervision should support professionals to reflect critically on the impact of their decisions on the child and their family’.

Effective supervision can help to:

  • Promote and develop competence and skill in safeguarding practice
  • Maintain a focus on the child
  • Avoid the potential for ‘drift’/delay
  • Provide an opportunity for exploring professional difference and challenging fixed views
  • Review the evidence-base for agreed actions and decisions
  • Address the emotional impact of the work

What is Workplace Wellbeing?

When organisations do a good job of their workplace wellbeing strategy, people are more likely to perform better, build more positive relationships, cope with their workload and work more creatively.

There are so many benefits to looking after your people, but CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing at Work survey identified the top three benefits that organisations see when increasing their focus on workplace wellbeing:

  • Better employee morale and engagement
  • A healthier and more inclusive culture
  • Lower sickness absence

Managing My Workplace Wellbeing

I have certainly learnt the importance of managing stress and what is important in my life.  Fitting in exercise is very hard when we are tired and stressed but with the help of my locally owned fitness centre called Pride Fitness and a superb fitness instructor called Lucy Andrews I am motivated to stay as fit as possible. 

Working out in a group has mental, physical and emotional benefits that include the reduction of overall stress.  I enjoy attending group exercise with Rachael Malone aerobics.

Playing the game of golf provides a fun, challenging and social activity that takes place in beautiful and serene natural environments, also for great for stress relief.

Professor Jenny Roe, environmental psychologist and Director of the Center for Design & Health, University of Virginia, said:

“Golf is one way of capturing a regular ‘dose’ of green space to boost your psychological wellbeing as well as your physical health.  There’s a huge wealth of evidence, using robust, scientific methods, to show the benefits of ‘green exercise’ – exercise in the natural outdoors – as compared to, say, exercise in the gym or indoors.”

A number of studies have demonstrated how spending time in natural environments produces a wide range of physical and mental benefits, including lowering heart rates, blood pressure and inflammation, as well as reducing cortisol (the “stress hormone”) levels.

I am so proud to have recently donated funds to Pride Fitness gym to purchase an onsite AED defibrillator. This has been installed outside so that can also be accessed by local people, to cut the risk of the loss of a life in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest.

AED at Pride Fitness in Devon

About Safe-guarding.co:

For more information on resources to develop knowledge of safeguarding please contact us.

We offer consultancy, video conferencing, interactive training and blended learning on a wide range of safeguarding topics.  To find out more about the services and training courses delivered please visit our services >>  or contact us >>

Babies Cry – You Can Cope

During this challenging time stress levels at home may be increased. Unfortunately, recent studies suggest an increase in Non-Accidental Head Injuries in babies during the Covid Pandemic. 

ICON is a programme that provides information about infant crying and how to cope.

Babies who cry for long periods of time can evoke a range of emotions from worry, stress, anxiety, and frustration.  Research suggests that some people struggle with a baby crying for long periods of time which can lead to people losing control, when a babies crying becomes too much to handle.

  • Did you know that a baby can cry for up to 5/6 hours for no reason?
  • The peak time of crying is 6/8 weeks old
  • The peak time of the prevalence of abusive head trauma is 6/8 weeks of age,
  • SO, what can we do to help?

ICON is an evidence-based programme following years of research and study into the prevention of abusive head trauma (AHT). The ICON founder is Dr Suzanne Smith PhD.  ICON is an intervention programme rolled out through community services to raise awareness and provide coping mechanisms for parents and caregivers.

The message for the ICON project is “I can Cope”.

I – Infant crying is normal

C – Comforting methods can help

O – Its okay to walk away

N – Never, ever shake a baby

Non-Accidental Head Injuries can cause serious harm leading to long term health conditions such as partial or total blindness, developmental delays, learning disability, Cerebral Palsy or death to a child.

It isn’t just parents who get frustrated at a baby’s cry, think very carefully about who you ask to look after your baby. Please share the ICON message with anyone who may look after your baby and check that caregivers understand about how to cope with crying before you decide to leave your baby with them.  You can talk to your Midwife or Health Visitor about all aspects of crying and safe sleeping.

For help and resources for parents and professionals contact the ICON project:

https://iconcope.org/parentsadvice/

CRY-SIS National Help Line: 08451 228669 Lines open 7 days a week, 9am-10pm Remember – if you are concerned that your baby may be unwell, contact your GP or NHS 111 (go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111- the service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). In an emergency, ring 999.

Website: iconcope.org Facebook: ICONCOPE Twitter: ICON_COPE

About Safe-guarding.co:

For more information on resources to develop knowledge of safeguarding please contact us.

We offer video conferencing, interactive training and blended learning on a wide range of Safeguarding topics.  To find out more about the services and training courses delivered please visit our services >>  or contact us >>

Recording Safeguarding

Recognising and responding to abuse is important. Acting on safeguarding concerns is vital. But did you know, how you or your organisation records concerns is also vital too? 

When you do safeguarding well, you reduce the risk of harm and abuse for you, your team and all the children and adults you work with.

Wherever you work, as part of your duty of care, you should learn to recognise the signs and indicators of harm, abuse and neglect. Signs and indicators are not always obvious or clear. However, the more that staff know about possible warning signs, the more likely they are to recognise abuse and take action.

Communication is essential. 

Organisation leaders must work hard to make sure everyone feels respected and safe so they are able to speak up.  All staff and volunteers in your organisation are expected to respond and record  to safeguarding concerns, disclosures or allegations, however minor they may seem.  If you have any safeguarding concerns, at all you should respond, record them, and report them to the appropriate person, authority, or organisation. 

The way that you or your organisation document and keep safeguarding records can make all the difference.  Leaders need to develop procedures for everyone to follow.  A clear safeguarding policy – accessible to everyone – can help.  This can define the procedures for reporting, and ensure that they’re communicated and integrated across your organisation. That way, you can let all staff know their responsibilities in recognising, reporting and recording safeguarding issues.

Good safeguarding recording practice is essential, using secure systems to ensure duty of care, confidentiality and respect. 

It is also important that you record the right kind of information in an impartial way.  Record what you see and not what you feel.  Remember to use the correct questioning technique if clarification of the concern is required– known as TEDTell me, Explain to me, Describe to me, or when, where, what, how, who, why?  A person’s demeanour, wellbeing and/or pattern of behaviour can give a tell-tale signs of abuse.

What to do next depends on the type of harm, level of risk and whether you are talking with a child or an adult. 

Here are some general principles in responding to a safeguarding concern:

  • Always make sure the person speaking up feels they’re being listened to and supported
  • Don’t promise to keep information confidential between you and them. Refer to and follow your organisation’s policy and procedures to make sure information is only shared with people who need and have the right to know
  • Ask for consent to share the information – if they refuse and you are still worried that they or someone else is at risk of significant harm, you cannot wait for this consent. You must share this information to the person responsible for safeguarding in your organisation
  • Tell the designated safeguarding lead about any concerns so they can decide what the next steps are
  • When you’ve been told something is wrong, don’t go straight to the person that’s been reported. Instead, tell the designated safeguarding lead
  • Write a clear record of what you have been told, seen, or heard

You could create a safeguarding checklist guide  to ensure that you receive all the information you need for accurate and useful reporting.  Get your free safeguarding checklist download here >>

About Safe-guarding.co:

For more information on resources to develop knowledge of safeguarding please contact us.

We offer video conferencing, interactive training and blended learning on a wide range of Safeguarding topics.  To find out more about the services and training courses delivered please visit our services >>  or contact us >>

Safeguarding Golf & Beyond

Everyone should be able to enjoy sport in a safe environment BUT many clubs only deal with safeguarding when a disaster happens. 

This is too little too late.  “It wouldn’t happen to us” and “That isn’t applicable to OUR membership” is a dangerous attitude to have.

We only need to glance at the news nowadays to see some aspect of safeguarding that has failed in sport – gymnastics and football have both hit the big headlines recently.

Safeguarding Children in the UK is defined as the action taken to promote the welfare of children and protect them from abuse and maltreatment , Safeguarding Adults is defined as protecting adults rights to live safely free from abuse and neglect.

All sports clubs should offer regular safeguarding training to their staff, volunteers and coaches and there are a wide range of options to suit different roles. 

England Golf recommend that coaches, and everyone else who has significant contact with children, attend a Safeguarding & Protecting Children (SPC) and a Time to Listen (TTL) workshop.  At safe-guarding.co we offer a wide variety of online workshops for volunteers such as Trustees and non-exec Directors.

From April 2021 it was a requirement for all golf clubs to hold the SafeGolf accreditation www.safegolf.org  SafeGolf is a partnership of UK golf bodies committed to promoting a safe and positive environment for all those participating, working and volunteering in the sport of golf. It’s designed to show that your club meets high standards to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people.

About Safe-guarding.co:

For more information on resources to develop knowledge of safeguarding please contact us.

We offer video conferencing, interactive training and blended learning on a wide range of Safeguarding topics.  To find out more about the services and training courses delivered please visit our services >>  or contact us >>

Managing Young Peoples’ Mental Health & Bereavement

The UK Trauma Council have released free traumatic bereavement resources, (supported by the Anna Freud centre) including animations to help those supporting pupils and students, alongside other resources for those working in a clinical setting. In addition, The Anna Freud Centre early years team have produced a booklet to help those working with young children and families who have been bereaved. 

Check out the bereavement resources below >

Traumatically bereaved children and young people experience significant distress and difficulties, over and above a more typical grief. Traumatic bereavement can be easily missed or misunderstood by parents, teachers and even bereavement practitioners, meaning that children’s difficulties are not recognised.

These resources will give school staff and practitioners the knowledge and tools they need to identify, help and support children and young people experiencing a traumatic bereavement.

About Safe-guarding.co:

For more information on resources to develop knowledge of safeguarding please contact us.

We offer video conferencing, interactive training and blended learning on a wide range of Safeguarding topics.  To find out more about the services and training courses delivered please visit our services >>  or contact us >>

Starting College

Starting College

In order to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to start college during the pandemic, we invited a young person to comment on her first-hand experiences and recommendations.  

Starting college is scary for the majority of people, most likely because people are naturally afraid of change. Imagine moving out of your family home for the first time, living in a completely new city with new people, doing a complicated course with no face-to-face teaching – during what should have been one of the most sociable times of your life. That was the reality for thousands of university students across the country and also my reality when I started college this year.  According to the Raising Children website, it is ‘extremely common’ for teenagers move to new areas and start new places of education. Couple that with facing the grief of losing both parents at the same time and you can appreciate that starting college for me was a big deal. 

I moved to Devon from Manchester on the 23rd March 2020, the beginning of lockdown. The coronavirus made beginning my new chapter really difficult. I was unable to explore my new region and the city my college is in. I remember thinking about my first day feeling sick to my stomach. Anxiety overwhelmed my body, so I’d try to keep it at the back of my mind.

I was scared of being judged. I knew I’d be so different to everyone else as I had a northern accent, different fashion and a completely different lifestyle. I would tell myself to stop getting stressed out because it was months before I started at college. Dealing with grief at the same time made the situation a lot harder, I had so many thoughts about different things at the same time. I would write in my journal most days which really helped me acknowledge my emotions regarding college.

I began to prepare myself for my first week. I’d complete booklets that the college and released for my year. I wanted to have the best start possible. I figured that if I had some knowledge of the subjects I was picking for A-level, then I would avoid the awkwardness of not knowing an answer in the first week. During high school, I wasn’t as motivated as I’d have liked to have been and there were multiple times that I would miss homework. Starting a new college, in a way, was a chance to change myself for the better. Having optional work to do over the first lockdown was the best way I could create a great first impression.

I began to stop thinking of all the negatives of starting college, although the anxiety never went away. Due to the coronavirus, I was unable to make new, local friends through the first couple of months, I knew that starting college would enable me to make friends, so I started to look forward to going. I was desperate to make new friendships with new people so when we were able to go out, I could.

Summer passed quickly as it always does. I had done a lot during the summer holidays: I had settled into one house then moved to a new house with my new family, seen some family friends, finished an online English essay writing course to name just a few. Keeping myself busy was great in some respects as I was completely distracted from thinking about my first day at college. On the 21st of August, it was enrolment day. I headed up to the college with my auntie, I was super nervous. It was starting to feel real, after being out of a routine for so long I was worried about getting myself back into learning mode.

Towards the end of August I began shopping for some new clothes for college. I still had the excitement feeling but the nerves were beginning to creep up on me again. I was about a week away from being surrounded by hundreds of new people in an unfamiliar area. I would stress about not making any friends and being labelled ‘a weirdo’, I was desperate to have a circle of friends down here to go out with. I also didn’t want to over think things.

Although, I knew that the new college was bound to have people who didn’t live in the area there like me, but I still felt lonely, in a sense. I thought that everyone would be able to make new friends easily, but I wouldn’t.  I have a strong northern accent and when I moved to Devon, local people found it hard to understand me. I had heard the term ‘grockel’ which people from Devon used to describe people who were not born down here. I didn’t want to be treated any differently from anyone because I was from Manchester.

I started on 4th September 2020. I was very surprised that I made friends instantly.   I connected with people easily on social media and met up with them at lunch. It was great. People did pick up my accent instantly (no surprise there though), but my friends loved my accent and so did a couple of my tutors. Having a different accent to everyone else does have some pros. For example, one of the areas we study in English Language is region, so I know how to identify a northerner straight away!

Dealing with grief at the same time made it feel ten times harder. I was dealing with so much all at once and it began to get on top of me. My brain was working at 1000 miles per hour thinking of so many situations that probably were not going to happen. As much as I wanted to make friends, I did not want people to be friends with me because they felt sorry for me. I wanted people to like me because of my personality.

Coming out of the second lockdown, I have told my tutors about my grief and a handful of my new close friends.  I’m looking forward to being brave enough to talk to my other friends in a natural way.  I’m hoping that I can get to know people and vice versa, then my story will naturally come out.

Thankfully, I settled into college straight away. I was so anxious before I started but I think that is because no one talks about what it is like to move schools or college, especially in a new location that you don’t know very well. It’s completely normal to worry about change but try not to overthink it and don’t let it overwhelm you.

5 things I wish I’d have known before I started college:

1 Everyone is actually in the same boat as you – going through the same nervous feelings at the same time in the same way. You are surrounded by people just like you.

2 Listen to your body – acknowledge and respect your feelings, try to talk about them. Remember it’s ok to be nervous/ anxious, accept those feelings and try to process them.

3 College has many more students that high schools normally do, it’s easy to make friends if you are brave and start a conversation.

4 Teachers are there to support you, if you ever have a problem, reach out.

5 You usually have lots of free time – you need to use it wisely e.g. do prep work.

Thank you again to this brave young lady for sharing how bereavement, moving home, and school, compounded with the restrictions of the current Covid-19 pandemic has affected her life.

What better way for professionals to understand the causes of anxiety and depression in children and teenagers by asking them to tell us how we can improve.

An excellent resource produced by the Anna Freud Centre is a downloadable toolkit for schools: Five Steps to Mental Health and Wellbeing, which is an evidence based framework so that you can decide your own approach to mental health and wellbeing in five simple steps.  The framework is developed by mental health experts and teachers, for teachers available here >

About Safe-guarding.co:

For more information on how to support schools/ colleges and resources to develop staff knowledge of safeguarding in learning environments, please contact us.

With the ongoing concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) we have changed the way we work to ensure that we continue to deliver high quality safeguarding training courses.  Our ethos of “Doing the Right things to Do things Right” is being achieved via our distance learning courses and we offer video conferencing, interactive training and blended learning on a wide range of Safeguarding topics.  To find out more about the services and training courses delivered please visit our services >>  or contact us >>

Teen in Lockdown

Understanding the Impact of Lockdown on the Mental Health of a Bereaved Teen

In order to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be a bereaved teen in lockdown, we invited a young person to comment on her first-hand experiences and recommendations.  

This Children’s Mental Health Week, the impact of lockdown is the topic of everyone’s conversation.  This blog is about the impact of the three lockdowns on our society and, specifically how it affects bereaved teenagers like me.

According to statistics published by the NHS digital (Nov 2020), young women are now the worst affected by mental health issues with a quarter of those aged 17 to 22 likely to have a mental disorder.

I am 17 years old, I have lost both parents, and I cannot even begin to describe how much the pandemic has completely changed my life and experiences. On March 23rd, England was placed into its first national lockdown. I think it was a massive shock to everyone as we had very little understanding of how serious this virus was at the time.  That day my brother and I also relocated 250 miles away from our hometown to live with relatives.

At the time I was a year 11 pupil preparing to sit my GCSEs. I had been working hard to achieve the best grades I could get. I was already anxious about the exams so, to hear that I might not be sitting them was confusing. I had been working very hard since year 9 (when I started the GCSE courses) so to be unsure as to whether I was actually going to sit the exam, or not, made me extremely nervous. The decision was taken out of my hands and on the Monday, that was it. The country was locked down and I was living in a new house, town and county without sitting my final GCSE exams, and with no prom on the horizon.

The first week in lockdown one was not so hard, although we were housebound. It had not really sunk in that we weren’t allowed to go anywhere. I had a gorgeous view to look at, three dogs and loads of food. I think about it now and I realise that was so lucky to have all the things I did back then. Not everyone had the same surroundings as me. I think it took time for the reality of my situation to sink in and lockdown soon became hard for everyone. I was well out my comfort zone. Not going out and seeing my friends everyday felt so weird, almost as if I were grounded.

Teenagers want to socialise, go out, have parties and all this was stopped suddenly and unexpectedly. We thrive and learn from our interactions and we want to make the most out of our lives whist we are still really young.  A lot of teenagers began to struggle without seeing their close friends and family. This caused a huge increase in the use of technology and social media platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. Some people became obsessed. As the younger members of society have started to become addicted to social media, mental health has begun to deteriorate for some. The Social Dilemma Netflix documentary shows this clearly.

During the first lockdown, I realise now that I felt alone, isolated and confused about my emotions. I specifically remember having dark thoughts because of this. It was definitely difficult living in an unfamiliar area and with relatives whom I didn’t yet know well. It was tough facing a lot of emotional challenges at the same time. I found it useful having social media to stay in contact with my friends from back home, but I was still pretty closed off by my state of mind. Regarding schoolwork, I had nothing to do every day as I wasn’t being set work by my school. effectively, I left school early with an extended summer break. I felt lost without a purpose. I managed to turn this around and instead, I used my time to research different colleges and subjects to prepare for my A levels.

Thankfully, during the first lockdown, I also sought help. By working with a private professional counsellor and my family, I found that my emotional well-being began to gradually improve. Self-care such as regular exercise helped me. Our new family had long walks together on the beach and we all met in the garden for badminton tournaments almost every day in the summer.

During lockdown one, in the UK, teen suicides rose from 8.1% to 9.2% from March to May according to the BBC. Even though this statistic seems like a small increase, the numbers went up by 1.1% in just 8 weeks showing a rapid rise. The total increase of all suicides in the UK in 2020 is estimated to be 1.9% but the true impact of lockdowns on young suicide is still to be determined.

In November, England was placed into a second lockdown. However, it was not as strict as the first lockdown because students sand pupils were still allowed to attend school and college. It did not really affect me that much because I was still able to attend my new college. I was happy to make see my new friends on a daily basis and although, the lockdown did cancel many of my birthday plans, I still made the most out of my 17th birthday.

Currently we are in lockdown three. At the moment we have the same rules as we did in the first lockdown meaning that we must attend online lessons instead of going to school and college. As much as I would love to be going into college, I am enjoying the extra hour in bed and I feel as though the lessons are more interactive. I often find myself getting involved in more conversations with my classes online than I would do in person.

At college I was being offered bereavement support once a week from a local charity.  I think that schools and colleges provide a great environment to support discussions about mental health. Unfortunately, due to lockdown, the support that the charity was offering has been suspended leaving me with no grief support at all. I have found out that this is because they do not have the insurance to offer support via the phone or online. Considering the virus has been spreading across the UK since March, I’d have thought the charity would have sorted out their provision for another lockdown.  It seems like they have let their service users down at a time when the services are needed the most, which is upsetting. 

I think that more mental health support should be provided for more pupils in more schools and colleges, rather than less during times of lockdown.  Luckily, some charities such as Young Minds are still available during lockdown and some private counsellors are giving free sessions for those in need it, whether it be for grief, mental health or divorce.

Luckily, my family are able to afford private counselling but that isn’t the case for all families. Currently there are thousands of people suffering with grief, trying to cope in abusive households and mental illnesses such as depression. It is important that all young people have access to mental health support.

Looking back, I realise how fortunate I was to have an amazing, supportive family guiding me through the three lockdowns. As a teenager, I think I sometimes forget that adults are also facing the same situation as us, they were also unable to see their family and friends, they also feel low from time to time.

The biggest lesson I have learned is to become more self-aware and appreciate what you have, there is always someone somewhere in a worse situation than you. It is a difficult time for everyone, and I think that we need to look to the future and have positive thoughts to get us through the pandemic. It is also important to chat through any tricky issues that you might be managing alone before they become too much of an emotional burden and overwhelm you, so I would encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out and talk to someone. 

Safe-guarding.co is very grateful to this young person for bravely sharing experiences and recommendations for this blog.

Children’s Mental Health Week is taking place on 1-7 February 2021. This year’s theme is Express Yourself. Visit: https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/ to find out more.

Other resources:

Childline

Samaritans

The Children’s Society 

KIDS 

Action for Children 

About Safe-guarding.co:

For more information on how to support schools/ colleges and resources to develop staff knowledge of safeguarding in learning environments, please contact us.

With the ongoing concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) we have changed the way we work to ensure that we continue to deliver high quality safeguarding training courses.  Our ethos of “Doing the Right things to Do things Right” is being achieved via our distance learning courses and we offer video conferencing, interactive training and blended learning on a wide range of Safeguarding topics.  To find out more about the services and training courses delivered please visit our services >>  or contact us >>

Supporting Young Carers

In order to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be young carer, we invited a young person to comment on her first-hand experiences and recommendations.  Under the Children and Families Act 2014, a young carer is defined as:-

A person under 18 who provides, or intends to provide, care for another person. The concept of ‘care’ includes practical or emotional support, and ‘another person’ means anyone within the same family, be they adult or child’.

Roughly two weeks ago- a year after my dad passed away- I discovered that I was a young carer who had cared for my dad for 5 years. At the time I had no idea.

When my mum passed away, I began helping my family with daily household tasks such as making dinner, hoovering, washing and cleaning, and looking after my younger brother. My dad left for work early in the morning and came home late at night. I remember that I felt so much pressure to have the dinner cooked and the kitchen tidy for when he came home. I was about 15 years old at the time.

At the same time as doing physical tasks, I would try and offer my brother additional support to deal with his emotions – he sometimes hated me for always wanting to talk to him about mum and our situation but I process my emotions by talking.

After two years of being a young carer, it began to feel like normal. I never once questioned it or thought that it was something that I should not be doing. Yet even though I was keeping the house clean and tidy, my  bedroom (my personal space) was a right state. It was totally disgusting and I didn’t know why.

My daily routine consisted of: waking up ten minutes before I had to leave the house to go to school, being at school, collecting my brother from school, doing the tasks my dad had asked me to do whilst he was at work and then making us all dinner every other day. 

Without even realising, I was a young carer. 

I would spend about an hour a day on daily household tasks. They were ‘my tasks’.  I remember finding doing all the different tasks quite difficult. I sometimes ended up not doing my homework.  I actually ended up on homework report at school.  I didn’t really have a social life.  I also had a severe lack of sleep every night. I was always so distracted, whether it was in school or at home, so I’d never be fully focused on what I was meant to be doing at the time.

However, when my dad began to get more ill, I started to do more to try to help him. My dad deteriorated quickly in 2018, when I was 14 nearly 15, which was frightening for me to witness. For example, he was unable to carry his own cup of tea.  He would occasionally throw up in the sink and attempt to clean it himself, which didn’t work. The hardest thing was that he did not want to accept the fact that he was sick and beginning to become weak so he would try to do things for himself, but he simply could not. I remember feeling helpless – which was extremely hard.

I felt a huge responsibility – like I had to do things, or else.  I realise now that I had a choice, but did not realise it at the time.

Looking back, my brother and I were so lucky to have the help from my dad’s partner for 2 years. She would come to our house most days (stay overnight sometimes) and would help us with the washing and cleaning of our house. She made my dad so happy which was a great emotional support to him. Of course, when she went home to her daughter, I took on the main carer role again, so it felt like I was only providing half the help that I had been giving previously.

On most days I would still cook our tea and our lunch and do the odd bit of tidying (yes – still forgetting about having to tidy my own bedroom). It was so much better having the help of my family to look after him, like I did.

I am amazingly proud of the effort I put in to helping my dad, but it is not something that every child should feel that they must do.

Children are already under so much pressure from having their GCSEs and attending school that it is so important to ensure that they have the time to socialise with their friends and generally care for themselves. I think more support should be offered to children who take on the role of being a young carer because it is difficult, and it is heart breaking. Friends often do not understand the responsibilities you have being a carer and question why you have less time than them to socialise.

Nowadays, I also understand the importance of making other people aware of what a young carer is. I was a young carer for about four years, and I had no clue what one was until just two weeks ago, when I was asked to write this blog about my experiences. I think it is an issue that schools should learn about and teach children about.

In the UK, there are estimated to be around 700,000 young carers according to the BBC. This number is significantly high and there needs to be an increase in the amount of support for these children. Young carers need to know that there is support available for them.

Only those who are or have been a young carer can understand the challenge and responsibility that is placed on them. To be one shows signs of bravery and courage. I hope that some day there are more charities and types of support that can be offered to those who have had the same experiences as I have.

Looking back, I would have benefited from discussing my feelings about caring for my dad with my friends, extended family and/or teachers at school. It may have helped with the pressure and stress at the time.

These days, I am proud of myself and my journey so far. I am still processing my feelings, but It has been an amazing experience to reflect on everything I have gone through. I am no longer a young carer, but I know that will always be dedicated to my family, especially my brother.

Safe-guarding.co is very grateful to this young person for bravely sharing experiences and recommendations for this blog.

Young carers undertake a wide range of caring roles and responsibilities in the family home including providing emotional support and personal care, undertaking housework and budgeting. The duty on local authorities to identify and assess the support needs of young carers applies regardless of the type of support they are providing.

Local authorities are expected to take ‘reasonable steps’ to identify children in their area who are young carers. The local authority must carry out an assessment if it appears that the young carer may have needs for support and, if so, should identify what those needs are.

Adopting a whole family approach is recommended as the best way to identify young people who are caring for a family member. This means that whenever an adult is receiving social care or support, any assessments undertaken should always include discussions about children in the household to identify if they have caring responsibilities and may, therefore, require support as a young carer. Providing the right care to adult family members at the right time is vital, and helps to ensure that children do not take on inappropriate caring tasks. The need for children to provide care is increased when services to ill or disabled adults (or other family members) are inadequate, inappropriate or missing and when family-based interventions are not provided.

Useful Resources for Young Carers:

If you’re a young carer, friends and relatives are often the first people to turn to for help. You may find it helpful to talk to a teacher about what you do at home so that they can understand what is happening and give you more help.  The school could also put you in touch with your local young carers service, or get a young carers worker to talk to you.  If you’re worried about your health, or the health of the person you care for, speak to a doctor or GP, this may include a school nurse or school counsellor.

Other resources:

Childline

Samaritans

The Children’s Society 

KIDS 

Action for Children 

About Safe-guarding.co:

For more information on how to support schools/ colleges and resources to develop staff knowledge of safeguarding in learning environments, please contact us.

With the ongoing concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) we have changed the way we work to ensure that we continue to deliver high quality safeguarding training courses.  Our ethos of “Doing the Right things to Do things Right” is being achieved via our distance learning courses and we offer video conferencing, interactive training and blended learning on a wide range of Safeguarding topics.  To find out more about the services and training courses delivered please visit our services >>  or contact us >>