PACT began in 2013 as a peer support organisation across Suffolk to provide support to parents and carers concerned about the mental health of a child or young person. It aims to provide them with the tools and resources they require to care for and support their child/young person’s mental health.
Key to this organisation is their ability to provide an early intervention service which turns nobody away, has no criteria and is always there to answer questions and support. Many of the families that PACT works with have vulnerable children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities – primarily mental health issues which have had an enormous impact on them during the coronavirus pandemic. Already isolated from their peers, many have felt the effects of being of out of school for months, of which has seen a dramatic rise in anxiety levels around their health and the health of their families.
A grant from the Suffolk Coronavirus Community Fund has helped assist with salary costs to enable PACT to continue to provide support to parents and carers through this difficult time. From informal Zoom drop-in sessions twice weekly, to a closed Facebook group providing resources and videos, and a webinar with invited guests, (such as NSFT staff and 4YP), the team adapted very quickly back in March as they quickly became aware of heightened anxiety levels from their families. Zoom sessions covered topics such as how to manage the anxiety around the home-school element of family life, juggling working from home with childcare, supporting vulnerable relatives and those shielding, worry about accessing mental health services and more recently the plan for returning to school.
The ethos behind the work of the team at PACT is always believing in parents being the true professionals in their children, therefore working hard to provide resources, information and training in order to establish the best outcomes for their children. Their outreach service has escalated over the last 12 months, providing phone support and private zoom sessions 1:1 with parents to discuss issues which they need immediate support with, issues ranging from self-harm, eating disorders, violent behaviour, anxiety, OCD to domestic violence, eviction/homelessness, safeguarding issues and help accessing higher level support.
We have found our membership in the support group has risen by almost 50% during the past 12 months and now stands at around 650 parents/carers being supported in the closed group alone. Our team have been working extremely hard to make sure everyone who seeks our help will find it and it will be tailored to them in the way they prefer, whether this is by telephone calls, 1:1 Zoom calls, messenger, email or group sessions. The funding received recently from the team at the Foundation has meant we are able to continue with this level of support for at least the next few months which is fantastic news for the organisation, and most importantly the parents and carers who currently have access to our offer across Suffolk.