Reflecting on a Year of Challenge and Lessons for the Road Ahead

When the Prime Minister first told the nation to stay at home on March 23rd 2020, who could have imagined that one year on we would still be living with restrictions in place. It has been an incredibly difficult and anxious time for us all and our thoughts are particularly with anyone who has lost a family member or friend. Children have suffered major disruption to their education, been isolated from friends and for families and carers, the pressures of home schooling, job insecurity and financial hardship has added to the stress.

Chance UK has had to adapt at speed and come together (remotely) to keep our front line services going and make the best of the opportunities on offer through adversity and significant financial pressures. As we approach the anniversary of the first lockdown, it seems like a good time to reflect on a year of change and challenge. here are three of the biggest lessons I’ve taken from this year:

Reminding ourselves of the reason we are here

One thing that has kept me going through the tougher times has been remembering the mission of Chance UK. Never before, in our 25-year history has our role in supporting children and families been more important. Whilst the full impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health has yet to be seen, The Royal College of Psychiatrists reports that an additional 1.5 million children are thought to need new or additional mental health support as a result of the pandemic. The Children’s Commissioner has warned that the damage to children’s mental health caused by the crisis could last years and research has shown primary school aged children are experiencing increased emotional and behavioural difficulties during this time. We’ve got a role to play in supporting during the difficult times as well as the build back and we want to play it to its full.

Nurture the qualities of adaptability and resilience in ourselves and others

This year has reinforced the importance of adaptability and resilience. Chance UK has transformed services in response to government guidance and launched new services to provide the support that families need now rather than working in the ways we always have. We weren’t early adopters of digital working, but find ourselves increasingly confident and comfortable in this space. Staff, Mentors and youth workers have risen to the challenge – finding fun, engaging activities which work online and being a safe, consistent presence for children during a time when so much has changed.

We’ve continued to deliver our services whilst we have been worried about ourselves and others, with children at home and all the sadness, anxiety and isolation that this year has brought. We’ve had to nurture our own resilience as individuals, alongside those we are working with. It’s not going to be a straightforward journey out of lockdown and we will need to continue to practice this in the coming months.

Let’s learn to do better.

Whilst no one’s life has been untouched by the events of the last year, the impacts of the pandemic have not been evenly spread –  with higher death rates within Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities and estimates that the negative impacts of school closure are over 50 per cent larger for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. These alongside the murder of George Floyd and the debates which followed were all stark reminders that we shouldn’t be aiming to “return to normal” as soon as we can but rather to do better.  That’s true for us as an organisation too – and has been a key question we have been asking ourselves throughout the year and as we put together our new organisational strategy. What do we need to do better and how can we achieve this?

It’s been a tough year and we need to acknowledge quite how tough its been –  but let’s not forget how far we’ve come.

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