The children of Barton Hill are being forgotten by authorities when they need support most, warns a mum and community volunteer.
When lockdown measures came into play in March, the first priority was to reach out to the families who were forced to self-isolate or struggling to make ends meet and provide support for them.
Samira Musse, the co-founder of Barton Hill Activity Club joined forces with the Somali Task Force response group and others to address basic needs, such as food and medication. While this work is still ongoing, it soon became apparent that the government-imposed restrictions were having a far wider-reaching impact.
Parents started getting in touch to say they had no paper or pencils for their children to do schoolwork on, while some were struggling to cope with children with special educational needs or disabilities without any additional support or resources.
“There is no support for children in this area full stop, it’s like these children are forgotten,” says Samira, who has launched a fundraiser to help provide activity packs for children in the area and help bridge the gaps in support for home schooling.
The aim is to provide an educational pack for as many families as possible, with priority given to those with special educational needs, and with parents who have lost all their income and are unable to afford the basics for their children’s home education.
Samira explains the neighbourhood has been particularly hard hit by the financial fall out due to lockdown restrictions, with many having lost income due to precarious self-employment and zero-hour contracts.
“Someone needs to speak out and say something,” continues Samira. “Children need more than just food; they need basics like paper and pens and things to do their learning. These educational tools are needed now because children are getting left behind.”
Bristol City Council has responded to concerns, saying it recognises more disadvantaged communities are the hardest hit by the current crisis and it is working to ensure no one does get left behind, as well as looking to provide support for communities as lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Work being carried out includes identifying young people at risk of being digitally isolated and providing IT equipment and distributing books to help encourage children to read.
Samira says some families face a language barrier in terms of accessing support and interpreting instructions from schools and many large families are living in two-bedroom flats with only one laptop, making it incredibly difficult for children to maintain their education.
The activity group is partnering with Bristol University to run a virtual homework club to assist children with their education.
There is no shortage of people in Barton Hill willing to step up and support their neighbours, but Samira says it’s time the government, council and schools did more.
“These people are already going through so much,” she says. “They are worried about their families and their children and their health and jobs. They [the authorities] are letting down these families.
“We need people to say ‘I understand what you are going through’. I hope when this is over the council and the government and everyone just rethink the treatment of these people.”
A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “We recognise that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting different people in different ways and that the greatest impact is being felt by vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the city.
“We are working hard to ensure that no one feels left behind and have implemented a number of schemes to support citizens affected by coronavirus, including maintaining a fully-funded council tax reduction scheme for those whose financial situation has changed, delivering over 1,000 emergency food parcels to the most vulnerable, and providing tablets to disadvantaged children so that they can learn, play and contact their friends.
“While supporting the vulnerable remains at the forefront of the council’s response to the immediate crisis, we are also looking ahead to ensure that we are able to provide the necessary support for Bristol’s communities during the post-coronavirus recovery and into the future.”
The council is working with Creative Youth Network, the police and youth and family support organisations to find young people who may have been digitally left behind and provide them with tablets so that they can learn, play, and contact friends and family for support during the lockdown period.
Support Samira’s fundraiser via: www.gofundme.com/f/help-for-educational-tools-during-covid19-lockdown