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How Carmarthenshire Youth and Children’s Association (CYCA) are adapting to COVID-19 

May 5, 2020

We understand that COVID-19 is impacting on many of the groups funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, but we are also very proud of how those we fund in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors are adapting their services to support their communities thanks to a £10,000 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund.

In this blog we’re talking to Carmarthenshire Youth and Children’s Association (CYCA) based in Llanelli. CYCA provide a range of wellbeing support for families including counselling and mentoring, and also provide nurseries and after-school clubs for young children. Recently, they’ve been focusing their efforts on adapting their services online to meet the needs of their community. We spoke to Tracy Pike MBE, CEO of CYCA to find out more: 

Our charity provides services that have always been done on a face-to-face basis so the first thing that we had to do was figure out how we could continue to offer these services and remain in contact with those families and encourage them to respond to us online. That wasn’t without its issues; we had to change our policies, for example, around safeguarding, and we had to be very mindful that we wouldn’t be seeing our clients so we wouldn’t be able to pick up things like body-language.

Now that we’re adapted our services our counselling services are working particularly well for young people because coming to our centre can be quite daunting and stigmatising, so they’ve responded quite well. Parents were more reluctant because a lot of them have younger children and there’s something about giving them a safe space away from home, and we’ve made changes to our regular hours so now we’re offering things like coffee and chat sessions for parents at 8pm when children have gone to bed.

We’re reduced the amount of people in our workshops; from ten to three at a time over video calls. It has had its implications due to additional staffing, but we’ve got a local personal trainer who’s doing keep-fit classes at home and we’ve got our counsellor running mindfulness sessions every Monday. We’ve found that parents helping their children with their schoolwork are finding it stressful because they haven’t got laptops, and we’ve become a mediator between parents and schools to help students borrow laptops.

We’re finding that in the last six weeks we’ve been adapting to people’s individual needs; we’ve become their school teacher, their social worker, the counsellor, and it’s been a learning curve for us as well. We’re meeting as a team twice a day because the needs of people are so varied; we’ve been supporting people experiencing domestic abuse and have had to get a mother and their children rehoused, and all of that is far more difficult when you’re confined to your home.

Adapting our services has, in some way, been the easy part but making sure that we have enough staff has been more difficult, for instance to deliver workshops for smaller groups or to support an individual with something that they need when normally staff would be working with much larger numbers at once.

However we feel that this may be a good opportunity for us to see how we could adapt long-term to deliver our services to families after this is over. It’s tough for families who don’t drive, for example, but this is giving us the opportunity to bring our services into parents’ homes, and longer-term it’s making us rethink our how we deliver services; for example, if we normally run three sessions a week for a service on a face-to-face basis, why not in the future run two like that, and one online? Longer-term, we could provide an equally effective service with this way of working.

We’re in the process building a new website at the moment as well as moving more to a fully-bilingual service. We’ve recently brought someone in who can deliver all of our services through the Welsh language and that has been a huge step to reaching out to people.

With the stress that people are experiencing from people being furloughed and having a reduced income we want to make sure that we can do the practical things for them like making sure that families have a roof over their heads and that they can eat. That means linking in with food banks and making sure that families are known to relevant local services, and we still run a nursery for keyworkers.

We’ve spoken to a lot of families that are experiencing loss from the sudden change in their lives but despite what’s going on there are positives to the situation; that people can spend more time with their parents, children and families but also that we’re here to give them a safe space to speak to someone else. We’re finding that as people get more used to the restrictions of isolation that they are becoming more resilient, and that they’re learning from their experience in ways that will help them once we return to normality.”

Find out more about CYCA on their website.

CYCA have received a £10,000 grant to help them support their community during this difficult time. This is part of The National Lottery Community Fund’s commitment to prioritising applications for COVID-19 related activity. To fund out more about our response and what funding we have available, visit our website.

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