VOICES OF LEWISHAM
“They are proving their resilience and strength at a time of great uncertainty, taking it in their stride and I couldn’t be prouder of them”.
Simone Woodward works with children and young people within the care system. As part of the Lewisham Virtual School team, she supports them through their education journey and runs a weekly supper club. While meetings in person were impossible in the spring - making it more difficult to build trust with her young clients - the digital alternative did offer the advantage of helping her get to know their carers.
“My role normally is very much about face-to-face contact and building supportive relationships with our most vulnerable young people. It is essential when working with our children that they learn to trust you and you have to work at building those relationships.
“The biggest challenge for me over lockdown has been the disconnection with the young people that I work with. Although I have been able to continue to deliver the current service, at times this could be rather testing when trying to talk to teenagers that you have never met before over the telephone.
“However, something really helpful that has come out of working differently during the original lockdown has been getting to know the carers who look after our children and young people.
Normally, I would work directly with school and the young person, so getting to know more about home life and talking with carers during this period has been really helpful. For example, when discussing with the young person their post-16 options and applications for Years 12 and 13, being able to ensure the carer is also aware of the process and timeframe has been helpful in managing expectations all-round, whilst giving that added layer of support.
“I think the length of time we are potentially looking at for these restrictions is concerning though. I worry about the consequences of this, both on the mental health of our young people and also the extra pressure that puts on their home life.
“For me personally, it’s also been really hard being isolated from my colleagues as we get on really well as a team. We have though really embraced digital communication – Zoom, Teams etc - which has helped hugely in keeping some kind of connection with everyone on a daily basis.
“I have been meditating and doing lots of yoga to help myself through these testing times. I have practised yoga for some time but it certainly feels more pertinent now more than ever to take the time out just for me. I have also been writing a journal daily which I feel has been good for reflection purposes and managing any anxiety.
“I am now working again in a physical capacity, following restrictions with my supper club, and we are having regular meetings where they can decompress and share their experiences with each other. Everyone seems to have really missed the social side of life, and even school!
“We cover many subjects in our group, and were thrilled to be the only group of under 18’s in care asked to contribute to the prestigious Children’s Commissioner report this year. Being in care, they have lots of worries about their futures, but it gives me tremendous hope that COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be one of them. They are proving their resilience and strength at a time of great uncertainty, taking it in their stride and I couldn’t be prouder of them”.
We spoke to Simone in November 2020.