Huddersfield-headquartered charity – Yorkshire Children’s Centre – has ramped up the level of support given to Kirklees residents, as demand reaches record levels.

The organisation’s services helped almost 6,000 people in the initial 12 weeks of lockdown – three times more than in the whole of the 2019 calendar year. And demand has remained high as Kirklees’ battle with the pandemic has continued.

The roll out of a community anchor service for Batley and Birstall – soft-launched by Yorkshire Children’s Centre in January – has therefore been accelerated, as a result.

Initially set up to assist the Primary Care Networks with social prescribing – as part of the NHS’s 10-year plan to provide health-related help to the community – the service aimed to facilitate the integration of the voluntary and community sector within the social prescribing provision.

But deployment of the pilot scheme was quickly ramped up to reflect the growing physical and mental wellbeing needs of some of Kirklees’ most vulnerable people.

Thanks to a network of more than 425 generous volunteers – plus collaborations with existing organisations, mutual aid groups and other anchors such as the Jo Cox Foundation – Yorkshire Children’s Centre rapidly extended the range of services available to reflect fast-changing community requirements.

Additional support was provided for the Council’s helpline, for example, to ensure more people had access to the advice and signposting they required.

Routine welfare check-in calls were also made to those most at risk of loneliness and isolation. As part of these efforts, Yorkshire Children’s Centre coordinated and delivered over 300 support packages to care homes – comprising toiletries and treats, as well as artwork and letters from local school children.

Elsewhere, the charity’s wider community response actions saw it establish a Domestic Abuse Perpetrator helpline with the ongoing provision of support to help stop the cycle of abuse.

Despite the nationwide closure of many schools during lockdown, Brian Jackson College also remained open, to provide daily contact with every child who sought their support and supply paper-based learning packs for pupils who didn’t have laptop access. Support for lonely adults, vulnerable children, and families in need, was scaled up too, via the charity’s Child Contact, Community Connections and Hopeful Families services particularly.

Working as part of the Thriving Kirklees partnership, Yorkshire Children’s Centre sent over 4,000 activity packs to families – providing information for children around maintaining their health, safety and wellbeing during COVID-19.

“To know that that our one organisation has helped just short of 6,000 people since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, makes me astonishingly proud,” said Yorkshire Children’s Centre’s Chair of Trustees, Roger Bryant.

“All of this against a backdrop of ongoing funding challenges, means additional deserved praise and thanks must go to our relentlessly hard-working staff and volunteers. They rallied to ensure we could not only maintain but boost the support we provide to Kirklees’ residents – young and old – when they needed us the most.

“One of our key challenges now, as an organisation, is to try and sustain volunteer levels while demand remains high, but people are getting back to work.”