Caring for all in the time of Covid: why health and therapeutic charities are so valued in lockdowns

With the NHS stretched by the pandemic, charities that provide much-needed local health services have become more treasured than ever


The first wave of the pandemic in the spring provided a striking demonstration of just how much we cherish the NHS. Millions of us stood on our doorsteps and balconies each week, clapping to show our appreciation of health workers at the frontline of the fight against Covid-19. But it also highlighted just how much the NHS is struggling.

Even before the pandemic began, a report by NHS Providers, the body representing NHS trusts, found that the service had to contend with “100,000 vacancies, a growing waiting list for elective care, increasing demand for mental health, community and ambulance services, and a social care system in a fragile state”.

Desde entonces, Covid-19 has only exacerbated the situation: NHS capacity has been stretched to its limits, with services constrained and thousands of operations postponed or cancelled. Mental health services have been under particular strain, with GPs reporting a significant increase in numbers of people experiencing anxiety and depression; one survey of young people with diagnosed mental health problems found that 80% said their mental health had deteriorated as a result of the pandemic.

As Chris Hindley, CEO of the north-west-based charity YouthFed, points out, it is young people who have been at the sharp end of lockdown restrictions. “Young people are going to be most affected by the downturn," él dice. “The lack of those entry-level jobs, the ending of career guidance and support because they’ve not been in school, simple things like getting a driving test, doing a gap year, going to university – all of those things are being cut off to them.” It’s not surprising that his organisation, which aims to help young people reach their potential, saw a doubling this summer in the numbers of young people seeking mental health help.

YouthFed works with about 6,000 young people each year, offering advice and support ranging from teaching online safety through to intensive mentoring. Realising there was a huge unmet need for more personal support, last year YouthFed began offering one-to-one mental health sessions, alcanzando 150 young people. It’s a much-needed service – getting a referral to NHS children and young people’s mental health services is not always straightforward and budgets are tight. Además, the north-west has one of the highest rates of depression in the UK.

An unmet need was also the case for Heel & Toe, a charity based in the north-east of England, que fue fundada en 2008 by Paul Bannister in response to the lack of NHS therapeutic services for his daughter, who has cerebral palsy. The condition, which affects about 30,000 children in the UK, is characterised by muscle weakness, uncontrolled movements, spasms and difficulty speaking. Symptoms can be alleviated by regular therapy, but many parents struggle to find support. Heel & Toe’s two centres, in Chester-le-Street and Durham, employ 14 therapists providing physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, conductive therapy, massage and hydrotherapy to 225 niños.

The range of therapy offered has been transformative, says fundraising manager Amanda Tweedy. “These children want to be able to do things for themselves, especially as they become teenagers," ella dice. “They don’t want to ask their parents or siblings to help them do simple things that you and I take for granted: put shoes on, fasten up a coat.

“We’ve had children here who have gone into Kaye walkers, or taken steps themselves, when they were told it would never be possible, that they would always be reliant on a wheelchair.”

For both charities, the pandemic has posed additional challenges. Emma Ward, a mental health and youth group support worker at YouthFed, says that lockdown led to a 100% increase in people accessing the charity’s mental health services: “Depression, self-harm, coping with stress, and health anxiety were magnified with this second lockdown.”

Desde marzo, most of the support that Ward has offered has been online or on the phone, helping young people overcome their fear of the future and to become “psychologically flexible”. She has seen her support and that of the direct delivery team make a real difference, such as helping a young man, who was struggling with extreme anxiety, fear of failure and self-loathing, reach a position where he has been offered a job.

For Heel & Toe, the pandemic had an instant impact: the March lockdown meant that its two centres had to close, and the children were left without any help. “Lockdown was such a long break from therapy for these children who are growing and have a window when their therapy is really important to them,” says clinical lead and paediatric physiotherapist Jo Parsons. “Three months in the life span of a one- or two-year-old is lots – and all the time they’re developing and growing.”

The big advantage that charities offer is that they can be nimble, and many have responded to the pandemic by adapting to the new circumstances. In normal times, YouthFed makes contact with young people through youth clubs, schools and other partner organisations, but it has been working on increasing and improving its digital offering. This has been harder than expected, says Hindley, because it has meant competing with a vast array of enticing online content. YouthFed has discovered, también, that many young people don’t have access to their own computer and a broadband connection.

The Barclays Covid-19 Community Aid Package grant will enable YouthFed to deliver a fully online service that will provide the mental health support so many young people desperately need. It will go towards purchasing 100 laptops with broadband dongles so users can access YouthFed’s services and those of partner organisations; fund a professional to deliver mental health support through the online platform; as well as the creation of high quality downloadable content, says Hindley. This will include “bitesize chunks about [su] own wellbeing, how to maintain good mental health, and support when [they’re] starting to sink”.

Like YouthFed, Heel & Toe has adapted so it can offer some of its services online; in July, it launched a pilot scheme offering physiotherapy and speech and language therapy over video link. Any worries that the children wouldn’t respond well to receiving their therapy via video soon melted away, says Parsons: “Children, even the ones with complex disabilities, were happy to see us in their own home and wanted to show us their own bedroom, so we could look at their toys as well.”

One positive outcome is that parents have, of necessity, had more hands-on involvement in their children’s therapy sessions. “Parents became more engaged in the therapy,” says Parson, “so they understood a bit more of what we were looking for in order to help their children to progress, and they grew more confident with handling their children.”

For Heel & Toe, the grant from Barclays will be similarly transformative, enabling the charity to extend video sessions to all families who want them, so that in periods of lockdown, children do not regress. It may even be able to continue to offer the service to parents who would prefer it to travelling long distances to the centres.

Both charities have risen to the challenges of the pandemic by finding ways to offer services that the NHS simply can’t always provide. In their different ways, their work is holding out the hope, at a time of great uncertainty, of a brighter future for the young people they help.

As Ward says: “The work we do helps equip young people with skills to cope, maintaining their interest in life, keeping them hopeful, and encouraging their capacity to learn.”

To support these charities, get in touch with o

Inspired by what you’ve read?
In these uncertain times, charities across the UK could use your support more than ever. If you’d like to find out how to volunteer and give your time to help others,
visit: To find out more about how Barclays is supporting communities, visit:

los comentarios están cerrados.