Coronavirus Update - Service Delivery
In line with advice from the government we have closed our office at Gracemead House in Hatfield for the time being. We continue to run all of our services supporting vulnerable people across the county. Providing advice to those facing housing issues and preventing homelessness remains our priority.
Whilst we will continue to support service users face to face, where there is an urgent need (taking into account the appropriate government health guidelines), due to the restrictions in place, much is being done via phone and video calls, to support individuals facing homelessness and families in conflict.
The number of referrals to Herts Young Homeless has increased since the lockdown. Any young people who were sofa surfing are more likely to have lost this option if they do not have their own room or have been displaying symptoms of the virus. We anticipate that this trend will continue as more households are affected by the virus. There is little movement in supported accommodation across Herts as a result of the virus (as government guidelines advise that young people are not moved around during this time) and so we anticipate that there will be a reduced amount of hostel accommodation for any new people presenting as homeless. The housing of rough sleepers we anticipate will also have an effect on the amount of available temporary accommodation which is suitable for young people.
The emotional well-being of our service users during this time has lead to us increasing the amount of contact we have with each of them, in some cases daily, whereas we might previously have spoken to them weekly. We are also experiencing a significant impact on the mental health of our service users. More are suffering from anxiety and depression due to worry about the virus and our frontline staff are offering more signposting to mental health support to our service users. Our Live Life service, for young people who have experience homelessness, is moving from offering a monthly meeting to a weekly virtual meeting to offer community contact, peer to peer support, online training opportunities to meaningfully engage them and wellbeing sessions.
Isolation means that family conflict, domestic violence and coercive control are more likely in the home and our mediation teams are supporting families and giving advice via video calls.
Our service users are suffering financially. Those who were working on low-paid zero hours contract jobs may have lost them. Due to the unprecedented demand on the benefits system – there have been around one million claims within the last two weeks - it is currently incredibly difficult to contact Universal credit. We have had young people and our staff who have been on the phone for hours, with over 1000 people waiting in front of them. These benefit delays are making it very difficult for service users to buy food and pay bills.
The Covid19 emergency has had a significant impact on our service users in terms of their ability to access their basic food needs. Many of our service users live in some of the most deprived areas of the county. They have not been able to afford to bulk buy store cupboard essentials and are now finding that they do not have enough food at home to feed themselves and their families. Some have underlying health issues such as diabetes which require a particular selection of food – which has been in short supply. Although many of our service users are receiving help from Foodbanks, which offer a great service, these foodbanks themselves are very stretched. Our frontline workers need to be able to hand out supermarket vouchers to those service users who are most in need so that they can choose themselves which items they need to secure at any particular time – this might include essential healthcare items such as nappies, wipes or paracetamol as well as food. In the event of a service user needing to self isolate, it is vital that they have some basic supplies to live on for 7-14 days. Whilst many of us are lucky to have support networks of family or friends at this time who can help us out with any food items we might be missing, many of our service users are isolated and estranged from their families and they don’t have well-established social networks.
We continue to work collaboratively with our partners to strive for the best outcomes for our service users and are managing to maintain all our services, and the increasing demand for them at this time. Our Advice line is open daily for young people in need of advice and we also offering support to professionals from our partner agencies / stakeholders on how best to help service users.
Over the next few weeks and months, we will provide updates through our website and social media on our services and the impact that these unprecedented circumstances are having.
Our existing telephone numbers are being re-directed to our workers at home and all email contact details remain as before.
In the meantime, we would like to thank all of our funders, staff, partners, supporters and volunteers for their ongoing support in this rapidly changing environment. We sincerely hope that you, your families and friends stay well.
Our friends at Groundswell have put together the following helpful leaflets:
We welcome the call from the homeless charity Crisis and the Liberal Democrats who have asked the government for immediate guidance on how to help rough sleepers who are likely to have pre-existing health conditions that make them vulnerable to the illness. We welcome any guidance that sets out what measures government is taking to ensure rough sleepers get appropriate health checks, what accommodation will be provided so that people can self-isolate and advice for the public on how best they can support people who are homeless during the coronavirus outbreak.
If you have any queries, please contact us.
Important information for all visitors, suppliers and business partners planning to visit or work at Herts Young Homeless Group (HYH):
Drawing on the latest information from the government, we have decided:
- To close Gracemead House, Hatfield until further notice
- Staff should attend externals meetings via remote technology if possible (telephone or video conference link)
- All volunteering will be suspended for the foreseeable future
Resources for adults & young people to support well-being at this time of uncertainty
NHS Mental Health Helplines: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
Young Minds have published great resources and ideas about things adults and young people can do to manage any stress and anxiety they may experience in relation to coronavirus: http://youngminds.org.uk/blog/what-to-do-if-you-re-anxious-about-coronavirus/
They also have a mental health advice line available for parents operating between 09:30am-4pm, Monday- Friday: 0808 802 5544
How to look after your mental health when self-isolating: http://youngminds.org.uk/blog/looking-after-your-mental-health-while-self-isolating/
Centers for Disease Control and prevention provide some helpful messages on how to talk to children about Coronavirus: http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/talking-with-children.html
Every Mind Matters provides general information about looking after your mental health which would be relevant during this challenging time as much as at any other time and provides top tips to improve emotional wellbeing: http://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/
Mind website provides useful information about how to cope if people feel anxious about coronavirus, how to manage staying well at home if being asked to self-isolate and taking care of your mental health and wellbeing among other tips and advice: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/
Mind Hertfordshire Network provides a crisis helpline for anyone experiencing mental health distress or requiring emotional support and signposting. Professionals, family/ friends can call on someone’s behalf with the individual’s consent. Crisis Helpline number: 01923 256 391 or visit http://www.hertsmindnetwork.org/
The Anna Freud Centre 'Schools in Mind' have worked closely with settings to help promote whole-school and college approaches to wellbeing. They are conscious that the Coronavirus is creating increased pressure and additional workload for school and college staff at an already busy time of the school year. Therefore, they have produced this document which they hope will give some guidance about how to maintain children’s wellbeing at a time of uncertainty.
They have also developed two videos, one for parents and one for children and young people which will hopefully be helpful.
Addressing social stigma associated with Covid-19 published by the WHO and UNICEF: http://www.epi-win.com/sites/epiwin/files/content/attachments/2020-02-24/COVID19%20Stigma%20Guide%2024022020_1.pdf
North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) has tailored its Healthy Hub service to provide residents with information, advice and support in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This will include how to:
- stay mentally well and physically active whilst staying at home
- access essential items such as food and medication
- receive financial support
- entertain and engage children
- stay socially connected
- volunteer your help
View Our top 10 tips to reduce family conflict during isolation.