This past year has been a lost year for all of us. People have lost livelihoods, children have lost months of schooling and most devastating of all, families have lost loved ones. COVID-19 has affected us all, in different ways and to different degrees. 

For families already in difficulties, it’s made life harder than ever and we’ve seen growing numbers of families struggling to cope. Three families supported by Home-Start share their experiences of the pandemic and how Home-Start is helping them rebuild what was lost. 

A mum with COVID scared she’d never meet her newborn babies

Ndey Hydare is a single parent to ten-month old twins. Two months before she was due to give birth Ndey caught COVID. Rushed to hospital, Ndey was given an emergency C-section. Close to death she was unable to hold her much longed for children for the first weeks of their lives.

After a difficult start the family returned home to their second floor flat. With no lift it was impossible for Ndey to safely carry her babies up and downstairs so the family felt isolated and confined to their small flat. Home-Start is supporting the family and helping them to secure more suitable housing.

Ndey said:After my C-section I vaguely remember a midwife at the other end of the room holding up the twins so that I could get a quick glance before they were taken away. I thought I was going to die. My heart was breaking for the two little babies a few wards away. They had no one but me.

Gradually over a few weeks my breathing improved and we were able to go home. It was a huge relief to be home, but the reality of living in a flat set in. I live up two flights of stairs. I can’t physically carry the two babies and their pram up and down the stairs on my own. But I also can’t leave one twin alone while I carry the other one down. It’s an impossible situation. Add lockdown into the mix and I felt very alone.

I’ve health issues so I’ve been shielding. I feel isolated, so I greatly value my Home-Start calls. Home-Start Wellingborough helps me in so many ways. They’ve given me food hampers, vouchers for clothes, toys and books for the twins.

They’ve looked after the twins when I’ve needed to go to hospital and they are helping to sort out my housing by getting the council to put me in a higher band. We were all just existing inside four walls, but Home-Start has brought happiness and love into our lives.

My ex-husband said I’d never be a mother. He took away my self-belief, but Home-Start is helping me to rebuild it.

With Home-Start’s support, not only am I a mother, I’m a good mother.”

A dad sofa surfing with his daughter

Damien Sutherland is a single parent to four children. After a family breakdown, Damien and his eldest child found themselves homeless just as the second lockdown was announced. Eventually they were moved into temporary housing, where they were joined by Damien’s three younger children. During lockdown Home-Start Medway provided emotional support to Damien.

Damien said: “Lockdown was brutal. I’ve never felt so alone. I just focused on my children and tried to get through the nights as best I could. My mood was low but I was offered no mental health support.

We are living in temporary accommodation in a small two bed flat. It’s very cramped with the four kids in one room sharing two single beds, and I’m in the box room filled with all our stuff.

We spent lockdown in these cramped conditions so I tried to get us out the flat as much as possible. This was when I was referred to Home-Start Medway. My Home-Start volunteer calls me twice a week. These calls saw me through lockdown and took away my feelings of isolation.

When Home-Start provided us all with clothes, it was the first time I had anything new in years. Home- Start also got the children new school uniforms. This was such a weight off my mind. Until you go through it you have no idea what it’s like sending your kids to school with clothes that don’t fit or that have holes in them. It breaks your heart. And you can see how it affects their confidence too. But it felt so good to see them return to school with new uniforms that fit.

Home-Start is also helping to sort out our housing. They’ve spoken to the council who’ve moved us to band C. Due to my disability and mental health issues we are hoping I get moved to band B.

During the loneliest time in my life, Home-Start Medway helped me to not feel so alone. I’m suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I’m trying to manage my mental health conditions. With Home-Start’s support I don’t feel like I’m crashing.

Home-Start got us through the lockdown, and is helping us to get in a position where life isn’t just about surviving, but actually enjoying. I do still feel worried about the future, but I feel more optimistic than I ever have. Having Home-Start support is a big part of the reason why I feel more optimistic. I don’t feel like everything is on me – that there’s help there if I need it.

Without Home-Start I wouldn’t be as far ahead as I am now. The kids are doing great at school, they’re healthy and happy - we’re all in a good place, and a very different one to the one we were in at the start of lockdown.”

A mum with home-schooling on a cold concrete floor

Louise Hickman was evicted from her ex-partner’s house and had to quickly find a home for her and her twins, aged four. When Louise moved into her new home she had had very little furniture and no carpets. Home-Start Wakefield has supported Louise to create a warm and comfortable home for her children.

Louise said:When my twins were one I left my partner. Since then we’ve moved from one terrible house to the next. Every time we move it feels like we’re starting from scratch. It’s far from the secure home I want to give my children. Throughout this time I’ve been supported by Home-Start Wakefield.

"They’ve been the one constant in our lives"

In so many ways Home-Start has taken away my stresses. When things were tight they’d arrive with food and clothes, but their help went way beyond that. They were - and continue to be - there for me in whatever ways I need. The difference this support has made not just to my life, but to my kids life is huge.

In February 2020, we were allocated a council house. I was relieved to finally have a permanent home, but there were many issues with the house. Big issues – like the gas leaking and no heating or hot water. Just a few days after moving in we had to move out. We moved in with my friend and her kids. There were seven of us in a one bed flat. I was in the living room on the sofa, with the twins next to me on blow-up beds.

Five months later we were able to return home. I was so grateful to have our own space, but with no carpets or furniture it didn’t feel much like home. The bare concrete floors make the house feel cold, so I’ve had to blitz the heating this winter leaving with me with monthly bills topping £200.

Our finances are stretched. My work as a cleaner has been massively affected by COVID-19. My finances have dropped by around £300 a month. It’s been hard, but we’ve managed to scrape by with help from friends and Home-Start.

The one thing that hasn’t changed much for us during lockdown is being able to have days out. I’ve never had the money to take the kids out. People say they’ve found lockdown difficult because they can’t take their kids anywhere - I’m like ‘welcome to my world’.

When Home-Start told me that they were going to help me get a new carpet I felt such relief. This has helped me to get to where I need to be so much quicker. Now, with my new carpet sorted I can work towards getting a car and setting up my cleaning business, so that after years of uncertainty I can build a better future for my kids.”

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