Botley Bridges Annual Report to Funders and Service Users
This was the fourth year that Botley Bridges provided services for families with children in the Botley, Cumnor, West Oxford and North Hinksey area and what a strange year it has been!
The charity was established when universal children’s support services were closed as part of the County Council cuts. Income has come from a variety of grants and donations without which Botley Bridges could not continue. The trustees continue to be very grateful for this financial support. Local County Councillors and both North Hinksey and Cumnor Parish Council have made grants.
Botley Bridges usually provides face to face support to families but for part of this year we have had to rely heavily on supporting families online. Our aims continue to be:
- Supporting learning for young children
- Preventing isolation of new parents and parents with young children
- Helping parents and children to maintain good mental health
- Creating a strong local community and reducing barriers to access
- Supporting families in acquiring skills which help create strong families
- Providing information to parents about other organisations which support families.
Grants and major donors
|Oxfordshire County Councillors|
(Susanna Pressel and Judy Roberts)
|North Hinksey Parish Council||£5,000|
|National Lottery Fund||£3,000|
Expenditure: £14, 344
|Salaries (coordinator 16hrs)||£10,626.00|
|Company and governance costs (accountancy, etc.)||£643.00|
Services provided October 2019 – October 2020
Open Access Play and Learn sessions (pre-pandemic)
Before the pandemic began in March 2020, our programme consisted of 2 stay and play sessions per week focussing on learning through play for the under 5s. In addition, we ran a weekly baby group specifically for babies under 1 year. We also held a monthly Saturday session for dads/male carers and their children.
There are many positive outcomes from the sessions. Parents/carers can make connections and build friendships with other local families as well as learning how to support their child’s development through carefully planned play and fun activities.
Peer support is extremely important as often parenting is a thankless task. Providing support and signposting families to other services & information is extremely beneficial for mental well-being. The Coordinator, casual staff and volunteers are all trained in early years and are able to support families with a variety of issues from domestic abuse to speech and language difficulties.
Many different families with varying needs and circumstances access our services including those with English as a second language. Being part of the community is vital for these families whose wider families are not local.
Hayley Hayle (Botley Bridges co-ordinator) supported weekly Well Baby Clinics, working alongside the health visitors, providing a usual point of contact with new families in the area.
Over 200 families accessed face to face sessions between October 2019 to March 2020.
On average 25 families accessed the universal stay & play and baby sessions weekly.
On average 16 dads and male carers attended Saturdads each month.
69 families accessed courses facilitated by Botley Bridges from October 2019 to March 2020.
“I used Baby group, stay and play and the Health Visitor sessions. They have all been really useful to me. We don’t drive so it is useful to have something so local to us to help keep our child active, socialising and healthy/check on his health/development if we are concerned”
“The Friday afternoon baby group was really valuable to me while I was on maternity leave. It was a lovely place to come and meet other mothers and talk about all things baby, but also to have some really special time with my son while he was tiny. And I have a number of homemade toys that I made at the sessions!”
“I started to use Botley Bridges from the first moment I arrived in the UK. From the beginning it was the most supportive place for me, to meet other mothers, for not to be isolated without family support, my support to cope with a special needs child’s problems and another family problem. I did a lot of courses for free at Botley Bridges, English courses, First Aid courses, Maths courses and 3 very helpful parenting courses.”
Family Learning Courses at Botley Bridges
Although we had to postpone lots of planned courses, we still managed to fit in a free English as an Additional Language course for 10 families in January & February. We were able to provide a crèche for the users who needed childcare.
We have also worked closely with Abingdon & Witney College to provide other family learning courses. We facilitated “Reading with your child” and “Storytelling” to 11 families.
“I have struggled to instigate imaginative play with my toddler. This course has helped me to create story games and use everyday objects in a more imaginative way.”
One of our Trustees, Sue Wastie, a qualified speech and language therapist, led a speech and language workshop which was attended by 11 families.
“It was a helpful talk with good examples. Sensitive responses and covered different age groups. Very reassuring and enjoyable”
We try to run courses at a variety of times of day to make them accessible for all families.
Paediatric first aid courses
Botley Bridges also coordinate and advertise paediatric first aid courses for parents and carers of young children. This year 24 families attended 2 courses – one in the afternoon and the other in the evening. The workshops are very popular, especially for those with young babies and they really give parents reassurance about what to do when accidents happen.
Moving to online services in March 2020
Following the lockdown announcement in March 2020, we thought hard about how we could continue supporting families. We decided to make the most of social media and platforms such as Zoom to engage families. Hayley began running twice weekly story and singing sessions on the Botley Bridges Facebook page by using the Facebook Live feature. Although Hayley wasn’t able to see the families, the families were able to interact with her by using the message box. This meant that the families could request favourite songs and interact during the live session. The session was also recorded to the Facebook page for families to access again at their leisure.
In previous years, we have run popular activities in the local parks during the summer holidays but unfortunately, due to Government guidelines, we were unable to do that this summer. Instead we devised “Botley Bridges Summer Crafts at Home”. We made up themed craft packs for families to collect in a safe and socially distanced way in return for a nominal donation, and Hayley ran additional crafting sessions using the Facebook Live feature. These were very well received and it is something that we will continue during school holidays until we are able to provided face to face sessions again.
10,000 video views between March & October 2020.
36 families joined the summer craft sessions.
179 craft packs were made up for individual children
“I’ve found these virtual sessions so important in keeping the kids connected and feeling part of the community. All of your activity ideas have helped to keep them happy and occupied”
“As a parent, I enjoyed the organisation of the packs with the bits already prepared. I liked the themes and the children loved the decorating. They especially loved the playdough. They liked watching the videos and trying to show you what they were doing”
Supporting new parents online
The usual Baby group session was moved online using Zoom and led by Sue Dowe. These sessions were run twice weekly and parents had to email for the Zoom link. Sue continued these in the format of the face to face group with a relevant topic, baby singing and a chance for the families to socialise with each other. We ran 42 online sessions with 6 families per session on average.
In September, we were able to recommence face to face baby sessions at the Seacourt Hall as this group was classed as a support group. We ran 7 sessions with 14 families per week on average.
Support for families with babies born during Lockdown
Although we were running the baby group as mentioned above, we were aware that there were lots of parents giving birth during lockdown without access to the usual face to face support services. In April, we approached our local Health Visitor, Oxfordshire Breastfeeding Support, OXPIP (Oxford Parent Infant Project), Motherkind Cafe and Oxford Sling Library to ask whether they would be interested in forming a partnership to support these new parents. They all agreed to work with us. We began by setting up one Zoom group. The first session attracted over 30 new mums so in subsequent weeks, the group was extended to two groups and families were assigned a group based on their location.
Families were able to access a ‘one stop shop service’ with a range of different professionals to advise and support as well as making connections with each other for peer support. Families have set up WhatsApp groups and they have met up for walks and company (when permitted to do so).
102 families reached
24 families per week
A Facebook group was set up in conjunction with the Zoom group called Oxfordshire Lockdown Babies 2020 which gave the families a chance to interact with each other and ask questions of the professionals.
We are proud of the partnerships that we have formed during this period. We have also worked closely with The Maple Tree at Wheatley, Flos in the Park and Donnington Doorstep to provide support.
As well as the weekly Zoom sessions, we have set up one off Zoom workshops and taster sessions with OXPIP, Fit & Healthy Mums, Baby Sing & Sign, Baby Sensory, Sleep Consultants and Community Nursery Nurses. Professors Philip Goulder & John Frater ran a Covid question and answer session to address concerns that the new parents had.
“It has been so isolating as a first time mum under lockdown – this group helps me feel less alone and build new friendships for the future”
“I have found this to be a useful forum to share some of my challenges as a new mum”
“As a new mum I have felt isolated and found these sessions invaluable”
“I joined when my baby was tiny and I was really struggling to access support due to the pandemic. The warmth, friendliness and knowledge has been wonderful”
“Botley Bridges has worked tirelessly during lockdown to provide vital forums for mums to connect, support one another and get assistance from health and welfare services”