Face to face

Throughout the long months of Covid restrictions, the word “unprecedented” has been used an infinite number of times.

This has applied to every part of our personal lives.

And it has also had an immeasurable impact on the work of professionals and volunteers, who have been showing unsung heroism in their determination to draw alongside vulnerable children and young people.

At no time in anybody’s professional training were they given training on how to engage “remotely” with children and young people.

The opposite is true.

The emphasis has always been on building meaningful relationships.

And these relationships rely on eye contact, understanding body language, and the reassurance of reliable and attentive face-to-face support.

Despite this, the creativity of many practitioners and volunteers has been extraordinary.

Online teaching, “garden gate” conversations, food parcels, social media contact, and telephone conversations have been harnessed in a way which was previously unimaginable.

So many of those adults offering this support to children and young people have themselves been experiencing Covid anxiety and social isolation. Working from home, without the day-to-day reassurance from the physical presence of colleagues and line managers, has also taken its toll. Whilst these arrangements have had some positive effects, that has depended very much on the individual circumstances and household arrangements of practitioners.

Alongside this, Sandstories has found itself set aside, as face-to-face training has had to be postponed and cancelled by commissioners across the UK because of the demands on the frontline and the requirements of social distancing.

There have been many requests for Sandstories to transfer its unique training model onto an online platform, so that it can be accessed virtually.

However, after much soul-searching, I have reached the conclusion that not only would this require a film crew (which unsurprisingly I don’t have!), to provide a 360° interpretation of the Sandstories presentations, but it would also strip away a crucial element of the training itself. 

And this crucial element is the creation of a safe space for a group of practitioners to be able to reflect upon, explore, and express the realities of their day-to-day experience of working with vulnerable children and potentially resistant families. This has never been more important than during a time of global pandemic.

Sandstories has developed new presentations to help practitioners reflect on this new reality, in a way which will acknowledge and strengthen their desire to keep children at the centre of all they do, capturing all the learning from the last 12 months and looking ahead at how this can be incorporated into increasingly intentional child-centred practice.

Sandstories looks forward to the day when face to face training can resume.