In our first full update since September and with the school year ending, we take a look at how the unprecedented events of recent months have affected children and young people and The Eikon Charity’s work with them.

Lockdown has been very hard for children and especially those who were already struggling – with learning, relationships or mental health. Teachers, psychologists and neuroscientists have warned of the risks of young people being isolated from their peers for such a long time.

And although this last month has seen some progress towards a return to life as it was before lockdown, things may yet get harder for children as the full financial and social impact of the crisis hits families and communities. There is also the risk of a second wave of Covid-19.

In recent months we’ve seen a spike in referrals of children with worsening mental health. We take this extremely seriously. Not only is this an awful thing for a young person to go through, affecting every area of their life, in some cases it can lead to serious self-harm and suicide attempts.

The number of children and young people presenting at accident and emergency departments of Surrey hospitals following attempted suicide has increased in the last three months. Tragically, suicide is the leading cause of death in children aged 5-19.

How we’re responding
We know that prevention and early intervention are by far the most effective ways to work. That’s why we dedicate so much effort to working with children and young people before – or as soon as concerns arise. But we’re also actively prioritising referrals of children waiting for support from statutory mental health services.

And throughout the crisis we’ve been making every effort to support children and young people remotely with issues relating to their education, family and friends, and their emotional wellbeing – through welfare phone calls, messages and a new virtual youth club.

National Lottery Communities Fund | HM Government logo
We now plan to expand our digital delivery and are delighted to announce that we have secured funding for our Surrey Virtual Youthwork project that will enable us to reach out to more children and young people safely.  The £100,000 Coronavirus Community Support Fund government grant, distributed by the National Lottery Communities Fund, will also leave a lasting legacy of improved digital capabilities that will benefit children and young people beyond the life of the project.

Last month we started a consultation with schools on how we can best support them through and out of the crisis.  The number of schools responding was very encouraging.  Results of this analysis of schools’ needs will feed into our plans for the autumn term and beyond.

Eikon’s Youth Specialist Sarah has continued to provide emotional support via 1:1 phone check-ins and lunch clubs to our most vulnerable children during lockdown.  This has been a critical lifeline for some who are very isolated.

Anna Wallis, Vice Principal, Kings College Guildford

As a founding member of the Surrey Wellbeing Partnership – a group of voluntary sector organisations working together to help improve the wellbeing of Surrey children, young people and families – we’re working to influence the shape of preventative and early intervention support.

We want children and young people to have a choice in the kinds of emotional wellbeing services they can access, and to get access sooner – before a concern can become a crisis.

Powering our response
Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health
Eikon’s approach and services are embedded at the heart of the Surrey Wellbeing Partnership’s bid to commissioners of emotional wellbeing and mental health services for children and young people in Surrey. We will know by the autumn how successful we’ve been and what specific preventative and early intervention services Eikon will be delivering on behalf of the NHS and Surrey County Council.

Those services form part of our overall offer to children, young people, their parents & carers, schools and community groups across the county – a lifeline for children that we’re only able to offer thanks to gifts and grants from generous supporters.

Child Mental Health Appeal
We have launched an appeal for funds to help us do even more to support children who are struggling but unable to access services or facing lengthy delays to get help.

Challenge Events
Motivating us all – young or old, to get and stay physically and mentally fit, whilst also supporting children who need us, we had a very successful 2.6 Challenge in the spring, raising over £5,000.

With fundraising events such as RideLondon being cancelled and the London Marathon being postponed, to make up for the lost donations we have now also launched Eikon’s own challenge event: iCan100.  Aimed at hikers, runners, cyclists and swimmers, participants can attempt 100 miles solo or as part of a team, raising awareness of Eikon’s work – and much-needed funding.

My RideLondon

Also just launched is My Prudential RideLondon – an alternative to the cancelled RideLondon event, aimed at helping charities such as The Eikon Charity raised funds to replace donations lost because of the cancellation.  

Covid-19 specific funding
We have also worked hard to secure as much new grant funding as we could to enable us to continue to work as normally as possible during the crisis. Where it was appropriate, we furloughed staff and took advantage of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

All of this, the commitment of individual donors, companies and grant making organisations supporting us – and the dedication of Eikon staff and volunteers, has meant we’re still here and able to support children and young people through this crisis.

Thank you
To everyone that has contributed time, expertise, influence or money to The Eikon Charity during the crisis – helping ensure we can be here for children who need us, thank you!  We will update you again in a few months on our progress.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you and to understand how the coronavirus crisis and lockdown have affected you.  Do get in touch via the website or simply by reply to this email.

Our very best wishes,

The Eikon Charity Team

About the author

Gareth is Eikon's Head of Development and is responsible for Eikon's fundraising, communications and for identifying new partnerships to improve the lives of children and young people.