The changing face of family support

‘Thank you so much for the crafts you gave to my son. He was really anxious in lockdown and lacked motivation. When he got the pack he was so pleased. It gave him something to do instead of focusing on his worries. It has even inspired him to look at working with textiles when he gets older.’

Parent of child who received a craft pack

COVID-19 is changing the way that people are working and social distancing means that face to face contact in sectors like drug and alcohol support where clients are often some of the most vulnerable in society, has not been allowed to continue. So how are these services adapting? We shine a light on Reach Drug & Alcohol Service which offers one to one support, group work, advice, harm reduction, prescribing and family support right across Dorset.  

The REACH Specialist Family Support Team are doing remarkable work to ensure they continue to deliver high quality care to their families during COVID-19. They have responded with versatility, creativity and a determined passion to overcome the challenges to service delivery as a result of the restrictions. They have moved quickly to work differently and responsively being acutely aware of the increased pressure and risks the restriction have placed on their families. 

They have adapted the service so they can deliver advice, guidance and support on virtual platforms, which includes daily Whatsapp/text messages, weekly/fortnightly 1:1’s via phone or zoom, a fortnightly group via Zoom and practical resources which are sent via email.

“When I heard I was no longer able to access the REACH Drug and Alcohol project due to COVID-19, I became scared and anxious. I didn’t think I would be able to maintain my recovery, as well as look after my children. As all the worries were going around my head I received a text message from my family support worker, letting me know she was just at the end of the phone and if I needed any support to just give her a call. The text came at the exact moment I needed it and they kept coming! I receive a weekly phone call from her and my recovery worker, she sends encouraging texts most days and emails with resources for me and the kids. If I ever have a wobble and there have been a few! I know the support is still there for me”

As part of re-thinking how support could be offered and what practical help families might need during the lockdown period, the team has been able to build on existing relationships with partner agencies and the community, resulting in a number of very practical initiatives which have made a marked difference to families. Many organisations offered up generous donations so that the team were able to send through lockdown activity kits, craft boxes and learning packs to ensure that every child had the opportunity to participate in home learning, with stimulating resources to hand during the pandemic. The Reach Team were also keen to ensure that parents continued to have access to many of the essentials required to keep the household running and put together care parcels of toiletries and special spa treats. 

“Before COVID-19 I had not had a drink for 42 days, I was working and enjoying an alcohol free life with my family. Then lockdown happened, I was furloughed, my routine and structure was taken away, I had to try and support my daughter who has struggles of her own. My mood became low, old habits returned and I lapsed. My Family Support Worker contacted me and I told her what had happened. She put a plan together for me which I am trying hard to stick to. I am using the online resources available to me and having weekly phone 1:1’s as well as workbooks emailed to me. It’s still a struggle but I know the support is there for me when I need it”

A small emergency fund was set up to help those families most in need and the team were also able to secure a hot meal delivery twice a week to help families that were struggling financially. Crucially, as COVID-19 has taken its toll and more and more families have lost their main income earners, the team has also been keen to extend the service offer to those who may not have previously required support. They have been in contact with local schools, GP surgeries, Family Partnership Zones and other partners to encourage them to refer any families that may benefit from the help offered by Reach’s specialist family worker or the individual support provided by the wider REACH team. 

If you would like advice or support from your local Specialist Family Support Worker please contact our us on 0800 043 4656. Alternatively you can contact one of our hubs direct;

REACH WEST (Weymouth) – 01305 571264

REACH NORTH (Gillingham) – 01747 825872

REACH EAST (Christchurch/Wimborne)  – 01202 482908

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