Changing with the times and time for a change


When the shutters came down across the UK at the end of March, pulling the plug on our NSPCC local services was never an option.

Instead, the question we asked ourselves was what can we continue to do despite all the restrictions imposed by the lockdown – there were simply far too many children, parents and families who needed our support. In short, we had to adapt and evolve, and it had to be done very quickly!

My guiding principle during these unprecedented times has been to make sure we are still here to help as many children as possible. This has seen some of our local practitioners take on new roles working on the NSPCC’s Childline and the adult helpline, or teaming up with external organisations to deliver essential food, medication and activity packs to the most vulnerable and isolated families in our communities. At the same time, we have made our buildings available for the benefit of others, such as in Tidworth where the health service is providing a safe environment for new parents to bring their babies to have their first-year checks. In addition, we have also opened a toy library in Glasgow to help families in Govan, operating alongside the foodbank.

We have also found new and different ways to respond to the needs of children and families we were supporting before the lockdown. The starting point was to set-up 'safe and well checks', with every child and parent receiving at least one weekly check-in call from their NSPCC practitioner. The aim was to maintain the relationships which had previously been built and to support parents and carers with strategies to help manage their anxieties during lockdown. To compliment this work, we developed resilience bags with resources which were posted or dropped off to families’ homes by our practitioners.

In addition, we have rapidly adapted our evidenced based programmes to be delivered via video calls, so that we can continue to support children who have been sexually abused as well as families struggling with a range of adversity. One example of this is our package of support for children in foster care, to help maintain the stability of foster placements. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology our practitioners are now working with around 1,400 children and/or their carers delivering around 3,000 activities a week. This includes calls, sessions, groupwork and interaction with other professionals to ensure children are properly safeguarded.

With the lockdown now starting to ease we are preparing to deliver more of our services in person. However, while we are managing the challenges of this extraordinary period in our lives, we won’t forget the many lessons we have learned during the past few months. We are currently evaluating what is working well so we can emerge from this to deliver even more for children and families in the future, changing countless lives for the better. I am extremely proud of the resilience and innovation shown by the NSPCC and my team during this difficult time.

Before the pandemic changed our lives, I had planned to announce my departure from the NSPCC, after six years. As a social worker, what drew me to this job was the opportunity to influence the health and social care sector through evidence-based programmes. I feel very proud that six years on, the NSPCC has a solid programme of services and that we are recognised as a leader in developing, testing and scaling up evidence based programmes.

Although I am still energised everyday by NSPCC’s purpose and the creativity with which it is delivered, it is also a good moment in my life to regain work-life balance after 16 years in senior roles, including at Cafcass, GSCC and the London borough of Hounslow, by passing the baton on to Claire Johnson.

I may be leaving the NSPCC, but I will always be a champion of social work.

Sherry Malik is outgoing director at the NSPCC

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