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Sunderland charity adapts and diversifies in the face of Covid-19 pandemic

01 June 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the charity sector, crucial fundraising events have been postponed or cancelled, staff and volunteers have been forced to self-isolate or adapt to home working while the demand for the services remains.

Short break specialist, Grace House, based in Sunderland, are certainly one of the charities which have been affected by the pandemic.  Working with approximately 300 families, they provide overnight short breaks for children aged 5-17 years with their services providing a fun, safe and exciting environment where children can come and live life to the full.  Their support services also assist parents and carers with services such as counselling, signposting and connectivity.

Due to the vulnerabilities of the children, many of the families Grace House support have been in ‘lock-down’ for many weeks causing issues such as feelings of worry, isolation and an increase in tension throughout the family.

Aware of the issues the families were facing, the charity quickly took steps to ensure their services were still accessible.  Staff and volunteers ensured communication was maintained with the parents and carers either via telephone or online meetings and a range of online activities were created including zumba, yoga and mindfulness.  Children’s activities including a magician and gardening activities which could be carried out at home were also offered with the charity even delivering resource packs direct to the family home.

Fundraising is a vital part of the business, however, with many events being cancelled their fundraising income has reduced by approximately 52%.  To reduce the financial impact and to continue interaction with their sponsors and supporters a range of online events have quickly been created including a quiz, race, and bingo nights, and a comedy night featuring the North East’s very own Alfie Joey and Finbar Healy!

Grace House CEO, Victoria Brown commented, “Along with many other charities, we were worried as to how the Covid-19 pandemic would impact the families and children we support and the charity as a whole, however, I am delighted with how we have adapted at such short notice.  We had to look at new ways of engaging with our families and to ensure they knew we were still there for them. I am extremely proud that our short breaks service delivered in partnership with Sunderland Care and Support has remained open and I would like to thank the SCAS team for their ongoing support during this very challenging time.

Our staff have been working throughout the pandemic either remotely at home or within our short breaks facility and have adapted brilliantly, Grace House is all about welcoming people and interacting with our families and I am proud that we are continuing this great work and helping the North East community.”

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