Young Children and their Parents
Community activities for parents or carers with babies or young children are a major focus for St Peters. On a regular basis the whole crypt apart from the therapy rooms is taken over by Happy Babies, which works with women with young children or who are pregnant and are fleeing from violence or traffickers or seeking asylum. This support is critical for these extremely vulnerable mothers, many of who can’t access benefits or any other public funds.
Over the nine months before lockdown around 500 women have been supported at St Peters and a second centre in South London, with around 100 expectant or new mums seeking help each week. On offer are pre and post-natal care, relaxation and counselling, English classes, help with welfare and benefits and activities for under 2’s, with a nutritious lunch provided by FareShare volunteers.
During lockdown Happy Babies have been determined to keep in contact. Weekly texts are sent to all who have been in touch and a contact phone number is accessible 9-6 each day. Those who would like a phone call (around 250 women) are contacted each week with support provided to Albanian and Chinese speakers in their own language and phone interpretation for others who need it.
Pregnant women are now linked up virtually with a doula (trained companion) to provide support before and after the birth, and where possible are sent a month’s supply of nappies, a baby box and baby and children’s clothes. Activities for children continue virtually with a zoom children’s singing session every week, contact with a reading specialist and small sessions for school age children. Data top ups to combat isolation and provide access to schoolwork and books and educational toys are provided as necessary. English teaching continues online for some mothers and welfare support and help with accessing services is ongoing.
Lucy Bracken says: ‘We have really missed being in the church crypt and watching all the children grow. We have an amazing team of volunteers but are always on the look out for more. If you are interested in coordinating children’s activities or can provide specialist services do please get in touch”. www.happybabycommunity.org.uk
You may sometimes have noticed a brightly coloured double-decker bus stopping at estates and parks. Hackney Playbus is a small charity that uses play to support children’s learning and development, aiming particularly to reach those children at risk of missing out in their early years or where the family may be vulnerable. On Tuesdays at St Peters they would usually be running a free baby and toddler group with parents and carers, most of whom stay on for Souper Tuesday. They hope to be back as soon as they can but in the meantime staff are trying hard to recreate that happy, noisy, playful atmosphere with online zoom singing sessions and videos and telephone support for those who need it.
Weekly videos aimed at the under 3’s include a song, a story, baby and play activities. The videos feature in a weekly newsletter that has links to online resources to assist parents with play at home and information on support services. During lockdown Playbus has also delivered much appreciated Bookstart packs from the Book Trust charity to all of their baby and toddler group families, giving them free books and resources to encourage a love of reading.