Covid-19: Our Response
As a small charity that supports young women from difficult backgrounds we understand the anxiety that both our service users and partners in our sector are experiencing. We are reviewing all our upcoming events and we are very grateful and encouraged that many of our supporters are happy to support us.
We are working shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners to help us weather these unprecedented conditions so that we can continue to deliver outstanding support to young women who need help now, and will continue to in the challenging days ahead.
We know that although it will be tougher to operate over the coming months, we will be needed more than ever.
We exist to ensure that young women from disadvantaged backgrounds get the best chance to succeed at home, school, work, and in our communities.
Our service users have been devastated by Covid-19. We have seen our disenfranchised, care-affected young women unable to meet their basic needs. They have seen their jobs disappear and their essential support services closing. On top of this they are isolated, scared and unable to meet their emotional and mental needs. We have delivered food, hygiene products, increased 1:1’s, added programmes and sessions to our offer and signposted them to local support services. For those in school, their core safety, support and opportunity to have a hot meal and sustain engagement with other services disappeared. For those not in school many have experienced diminished support as key workers self-isolate. Demand for Sister System support has increased quickly.
These girls are now at heightened risk of exploitation. Many have been forced to return to unsafe homes or relationships in an urgent attempt to stay safe. Some have taken on carer responsibilities, even sleeping on floors.Their already fragile mental and emotional well-being is unable to manage this situation. We have moved accredited courses to an online delivery model and kept over 47 young women engaged in their educational and support programmes with us.
Sister System's fantastic team rose to the occasion to support both the pre-Covid existing service users' needs, and the new urgent demand for our service. Having been awarded emergency funding form Haringey Giving, the FORE Raft fund, the London Community Response, Bridge Trust, The National lottery, Feminist review and Rosa, alongside the incredibly generous donations of the public via our Crowdfunding page, we mobilised an outstanding response to ensure that no girl that is working with Sister System was or will be left behind because of Covid-19.
During the first lock-down we were immensely proud to have risen to the challenge with many staff taking on additional and voluntary work to ensure that these young women were supported and looked after:
Rapidly responding to the urgent new needs of existing and new referrals of up to 99 care-affected young women in Haringey & Enfield, we are proud to have delivered an additional 2,363 of direct contact comprising of:
700 additional therapeutic mentoring sessions
480 requests for emergency food and hygiene support with 168 basket drop offs across 3 months of lockdown and further collections once our office re-opened, and we continue to deliver to those who are shielding and/or are unable to leave their homes.
40 virtual high risk safeguarding panel meetings
An additional 98 remote resilience workshops to our vulnerable young women with an additional 768 hours of collating and delivering food & hygiene baskets,
113 meetings and 164 peer led interventions.
Continued payments to 4 of our Big Sisters.
Once our offices re-opened in July and following the NYA risk assessments and guidance we then moved back to some face to face delivery whilst still supporting our sisters that are shielding and/or were unable to get to our Head Office for a plethora of reasons. We are currently an NYA amber service provider and as such are delighted to be able to welcome our sisters back. Turnout was high with up to 20 young women wanting to attend, and with the donation of PPE and flexibility of use of space both in and outside our building, we ensured we kept everyone safe without having to turn anyone away.
We continue to run our pre-covid programmes funded by the Postcode Lottery. We have been able to continue to supply food and hygiene baskets, weekly peer2peer sessions, weekly therapeutic mentoring sessions and with the additional funds are running the Sisterhood programme and a host of additional soiree drop in sessions. Our Big sisters have amongst other things launched book clubs, transition clubs, support me now and supported each other in creative and dynamic ways.
We have identified the need for an entirely new programme ‘honour thyself’ which we will launch alongside our education partner OCN.
We would like to thank all our volunteers, funders, our board, our statutory and community partners for their continued support and most of all the sisters themselves who at a time of great uncertainty came together and maintained our community.
With another 6 months of restrictions ahead of us and a long cold winter we are preparing to continue the vital work of Sister System within these unprecedented times.
We are committed and dedicated to ensuring that this pandemic will not adversely affect some of our communities most vulnerable young women.
We are the big sister they never had.