As I write this article, we are still in national lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. So much has changed since the beginning of 2020 and we are all finding new ways to carry on working and provide services to the families of Luton.
In early March, we all began to become aware of the potential impact of Covid-19 in this country and numbers of parents attending our group sessions began to decline. Initially we were worried about quarantining people who had returned from a trip abroad but we quickly realised that the coronavirus was present in this country and we all had to take on advice to wash our hands frequently and get used to new terminology such as ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’.
Having completed an exercise to review our Business Continuity Plans we found ourselves in a situation where we had to test them for real. Then things started happening quickly and the delivery of all groups stopped from week of 13March. On 23March, we all found ourselves in lockdown and we had to react rapidly to work out how we could continue to support our partner agencies and the families of Luton
We asked Children’s Centre staff to work from home where-ever possible and all children’s centre buildings were closed to the public. Redgrave Children and Young people’s Centre became a base for the Luton and Dunstable community midwifery team (as did Chaul End Community Centre). When a decision was made to move all immunisation clinics for under-fives out of GP surgeries we volunteered our children’s centre premise to be used for clinics and our children’s centre building at Limbury is currently being used as an immunisation clinic every Tuesday and Thursday.
As with many services across Luton, we have reviewed our usual ways of working to ensure the health and safety of our teams and the families we support. Whilst our group sessions and face-to face services are no longer taking place we can still provide support to parents by phone, on the Flying Start website and via our social media pages.
Our Family Workers are providing support, advice and guidance by phone and parents can ring us on the appropriate number or email as below
Flying Start Central: 01582 546931 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Flying Start North: 01582 546925 or email@example.com
Flying Start South: 01582 546929 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Flying Start West: 01582 546932 or email@example.com
For more generalised parenting queries, such as toilet training, bedtime routines, behaviour etc., Flying Start Luton have set up a helpline for parents to ring between 10 and 3 pm on weekdays. The telephone number for this universal helpline is 07501 722556.
All Luton parents and carers are able to access FREE online courses at www.inourplace.co.uk using access code HATTERS and their Luton postcode. This includes four courses; antenatal, postnatal, understanding your child and understanding your teenager’s brain.
We are providing material on our Facebook pages for all families to access at a time that suits them such as home-learning ideas and activities, story times and rhyme times.
Key information such as videos of our three-week Bump to Babe course can be found on the Flying Start website: https://www.flyingstartluton.com/
We are still accepting Service Request Forms from any professional who would like us to support families with under- fives.
From 27April our FSCC staff we will be supporting our colleagues in the 0-19 teams at Cambridge Community NHS Trust by making calls to parents of children aged 6-8 weeks to carry out a telephone check and offer additional support to those who need it.
We are getting used to new ways of doing things be it holding meeting via Skype, Zoom or tele-conferencing and working from our kitchens/dining rooms/bedrooms. Some of our staff members have been ill (and recovered) or have had to self-isolate with their family but we are all supporting each other and maintaining a team spirit.
I would like to thank the Flying Start staff members for their resilience, inventiveness, and determination to find new ways that we can support families and children during these unprecedented times.