Botley Bridges Annual Report to Funders and Service Users

Period: 1st November 2020 –   31st October 2021

Dear Funders and users of Botley Bridges,

Botley Bridges is now 5 years old and has continued to provide services for families with children in the Botley, Cumnor, West Oxford and North Hinksey area by a variety of methods due to the ongoing pandemic.  

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 has continued to provide a range of online and face to face support to families and this report will explain how we have done this.

 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.

Income: £13,392

Cumnor Parish Council £5000
Doris Field Trust £1000
County Councillor fund £1414
Fundraising £1509
Donation £1200
Parental contributions £3269

Expenditure:  £16,886

Salaries                              £11559
Premises £2530
Resources and equipment £780
Company costs £475
Telephones/internet £468
Governance – accounting £902
Grants awarded £108
Other / training etc £64

Services provided November 2020 – October 2021

We have relied heavily on an online presence this year due to ongoing Covid 19 restrictions. When guidelines permitted, we were able to provide face to face support.

At least 330 families accessed services from Botley Bridges between November 2020-October 2021. 

We have supported many more families but it has been impossible to track them all this year due to some sessions running on Facebook Live.

Supporting new parents

As Baby Groups were classed as support groups, we were able to run a weekly Baby Group in Seacourt Hall until the Country went into lockdown in November 2020 and January 2021.  This service then moved to an online zoom group.  Since restrictions lifted again in April 2021, local Health Visitors now join us for a monthly well baby clinic where parents can seek medical advice as well as getting their baby weighed.

68 families have attended the face to face baby group throughout the year. 130 families joined zoom groups.

We continued a weekly zoom group set up at the start of the first lockdown in partnership with Oxfordshire Breastfeeding Support, Oxford Sling Library and Vanessa Campion (Health Visitor).   New parents were able to access relevant support as well as meeting other new parents in the area.

Our Coordinator, Hayley Hayle was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s New Years Honours List 2022 for services to postnatal care in Oxfordshire for setting up and providing the ongoing weekly zoom group.

“It takes a village to raise a child but without Botley Bridges, we have no access to that village.  Thanks for all you do”

“This online group has been a life saver – it is lovely to see other new mums and their babies”

“Botley Bridges has worked tirelessly through lockdowns to provide vital forums for new mums to connect, support one another and get assistance from health and welfare services”

We delivered two 5 week Baby Massage courses at The Seacourt Hall.  Not only were Baby Massage strokes taught, we included a weekly topic such as ‘understanding your baby’s cues’ to enable responsive parenting.  This is extremely beneficial to healthy attachment between baby and caregiver.

“I learned to really listen to my baby and not just say shhhh – it’s ok”

“I definitely feel more connected to her and her moods.  I am careful to look for cues”

“Great bonding experience to really get in touch with my baby”

“It’s nice to get out of the house and come to a friendly group”

17 families attended Baby Massage sessions.  All said they would recommend these courses to others.

Supporting families

One of our Facebook Live story and singing sessions. These sessions have also been saved to a Botley Bridges Youtube channel

We continued to use Facebook Live to provide twice weekly story and singing sessions for families. After each session the video was automatically saved on to our Facebook page for families to catch up with at their convenience. This was a great way of keeping in touch with families as they were able to interact with us during the session and request favourite songs and stories as well as sharing suggestions for activities with each other.

Following an online parent forum zoom session led by one of our Trustees Sarah Cohen, parents requested that the videos be added to You Tube for those families who do not use social media.  We now have our own You Tube channel.

Over 100 Facebook Live sessions took place.  To date, there have been more than 20,000 video views.

As our Botley Bridges “Crafts at Home” had proved popular during the summer months of 2020, we made up themed packs for Halloween, Christmas, February Half term and Easter.  Families were able to collect the packs in exchange for a small donation and we ran live online crafting sessions.

“Craft along” chocolate Easter nests

59 families joined us for online crafting activities

We introduced a weekly virtual coffee morning on zoom.  This was a very informal session where families could pop on and just have a chat with each other and with us.  Parents shared local walks and child-friendly activities with each other.  We also spoke about support that Botley Bridges could provide or signpost to other relevant agencies.

“We love the craft packs – everything there that you could possibly need”

“Excellent value for money and a great way to keep the children entertained”

“Such simple but effective ideas! Not sure who enjoyed this more, me or the kids!”

Local Health Visitors approached us to ask whether we would facilitate a monthly online Twins Group running on zoom.  We advertised throughout Oxfordshire and recruited twin families to join us.  We ran 7 of these sessions.

18 Twin families joined us online

“It is nice to meet other families with twins – all of the usual groups are closed”

Returning to face to face support

As lockdown restrictions started to lift, we gradually started to introduce some outdoor face to face sessions.  We held Story and Singing sessions at Louie Memorial Park, Fogwell Park, Cumnor Park and Oatlands Road Park.  These sessions consisted of short craft activities, handouts of ideas to do at home, a couple of stories and group singing.  Families appreciated the opportunity to be able to meet up with us again and feedback was very positive.

In July, at the start of the summer holidays, we were able to return to Botley School to run stay and play sessions in the purpose built outdoor space. Throughout the school holidays, we held twice weekly sessions – one session per week as a general stay and play and another weekly session which was a themed crafts and activities session. We were also able to provide a Saturday session to enable the whole family to attend.

101 families accessed the sessions throughout the summer holidays

When the new school year began in September 2021, we were able to continue weekly stay and play sessions making the most of the outdoor area.

There were many positive outcomes from the face to face sessions.  Many younger children had not been in a position to meet with and socialise with other children.  Parents had been unable to mix with their peers in order to develop friendships and provide support to each other.  This interaction is paramount to mental well-being.  As the sessions were outside, the families felt safer and relaxed with the interactions.

The Coordinator, casual staff and volunteers are all trained in early years child development and were able to provide  age-appropriate developmental activities as well as supporting families with a wide ranging variety of issues such as domestic violence, child development, speech and language issues as well as signposting families to other support agencies.

40 families have attended stay and play sessions between September – October 2021

“great session – loved the fact it was outdoors”

“much needed mental health boost”

“Great for families with mixed age children”

“Lots of well thought out activities”

“Glad to be back! Lots to do and plenty of space”

“A great range of activities for all age groups.  Activities are developmentally appropriate and challenging – friendly staff too!”

Family Learning Courses at Botley Bridges

We continued to work closely with Abingdon & Witney College to provide family learning courses.  All courses this year were held virtually on zoom. We facilitated:-

  • English as an Additional Language
  • Reading with your child
  • Keeping up with your child in maths
  • Emotional Health for you and your family

One of our Trustees, Sue Wastie a qualified speech and language therapist held two speech and language workshops especially developed for babies and children under 4. 15 families attended. Speech and language development has been a concern as a result of the various lockdowns.  Sue suggested activities and ideas to promote speech and language development in the home environment.

Family Links Nurturing Programme  10 families  September – December 2021    

10 parents attended 10 sessions to discuss positive parenting strategies and find out ways to promote a calm family life. This was run in conjunction with West Oxford School and facilitated by the Senco at West Oxford School and Sue Dowe- chair of trustees.

Feedback from courses

English as an additional language

“English class help my family”

“English class is very helpful for us”

Reading with your child

“Increased my confidence as a parent to help my child read and enjoy learning to read” 

 Speech & Language Workshop

“Thanks for the session – great advice”

“Really interesting session and great tips which I shall definitely use”

“So glad I came – thank you.  It was a relief to know that others were worried about speech development too and I’m not the only one”

Family Links Programme

“This programme has helped me relate to other people and my family”

“The group was fantastic and I felt respected and comfortable talking about thoughts and feelings to do with my children.”

Community Support Christmas 2020

Botley Bridges trustees were involved in the organisation and delivery of 93 free Christmas hampers to families on low income.