In 2015, we set our strategy for five years ending in 2020, that we joked was our ‘2020 vision’. As we approached the end of that five-year period, our progress was looking great and we had achieved most of what we had planned – and in some areas we had exceeded our planned targets. In any other year we would have gathered our stakeholders and created our next long term strategy, but of course 2020 has not been the year for following the usual plan.
I have written about our work during lockdown supporting children and their families, and how we reopened in June to make sure that our services resumed as quickly as possible in line with government guidance. As we approach the end of the year, we are taking stock of how 2020 has affected all the people who are a part of Dingley’s Promise and how we can collectively move forward to meet our goals and aspirations.
Our teams have worked so very hard this year, and coped amazingly with numerous – and often sudden – changes in our way of working. The team members who work directly with children have embraced remote working, despite it being very different from what they are passionate about doing, and have supported each other through some very tough times. Our organisational focus on wellbeing has been vital in making sure colleagues are doing ok and are able to reach out for support when needed. I am so proud to be part of such a mutually supportive team, who realise that they can overcome any challenge when working together.
The vast majority of our children went home during the first lockdown in March and were supported by their families. In June when early years’ settings reopened across the country, most of them returned and we were relieved to see how quickly they settled in again. The increased stress for some children in being separated from their families after so long was evident, but the majority of children were happy and excited to return to us. Our teams have worked hard since then to address the two main areas where their development had slowed the most – listening & attention and health & self-care. They have helped the children to adapt to the new hygiene measures in place and helped them to enjoy an autumn term full of fun and new activities. While they have had a gap in their education, we will continue to support their recovery. We will also increase our outreach work to help other children get the help they need as early as possible, and continue with our remote support for any children who have to be absent from education.
Our families have been absolute heroes this year. They have coped with increased isolation and in many cases a total lack of the services they had previously to lockdown. They have worked closely with our teams to support their children at home, using our online platform to share progress. Not only that, but they have supported each other in online meetings and in closed groups, sharing their experiences and being there for each other. Families’ need for emotional support from us has increased significantly this year and we will continue to respond to this need throughout the coming months, to ensure those who have struggled with their mental health have the support they need.
The people who support our work have been incredibly generous this year in making sure we can deliver the vital support that children and their families have needed. Many have responded to our emergency appeals, and despite their own troubles have prioritised supporting us through this very challenging time. This has enabled us to redirect our fundraising efforts towards supporting those most in need and focusing on the children’s recovery from the impacts of the pandemic. The year ahead will be a difficult one and we need your continued support more than ever, whilst we overcome the hurdles we are faced with and return to a new normal.
Despite the extreme pressures of 2020, Dingley’s Promise has been able to step up and provide the support our children and families have needed. This is fundamentally a result of: our incredible supporters who ensured we were funded; our staff and volunteer teams who have continued to work with such passion and commitment; our Board of Trustees who have provided support and guidance at such a crucial time; our children and their resilience in the face of an unprecedented removal of education and therapeutic services; and of course, their families who have managed fantastically under extremely difficult circumstances without access to services.
To all of you involved in Dingley’s Promise’s journey, thank you so much for your hard work and support. We wish you a peaceful and restorative festive break and look forward to continuing to meet the needs of children and families in 2021 in what we hope will be a more predictable year.
Catherine McLeod MBE, CEO of Dingley’s Promise