Since RCLC closed the centre to the public on 18/4/2020, due to social distancing measures set out by the government, we have had to make lots of changes in the delivery of our core programme of courses as well start to develop extra support in response to the needs of the community. It has been a challenging time for staff; working from home, uncertainty around work, home-schooling but for the women we support the face to face, the interaction was a lifeline, which we can no longer offer. However, we have adapted our service over the month of April so that we can continue to work in the following ways;
- Our new term will now start on 5/5/2020. All learners enrolled onto the summer term will be notified of this change. Reading and writing improvers, English conversation beginners and improvers, sewing beginners and improvers and beauty improvers will all run on their normal days as set out in the timetable.
- Enrolled learners will use whats app video chat groups or zoom to learn in small class groups of three.
- The pre-entry class and beginner’s IT class will not run as the learners do not have the equipment or the technical support to do IT from home. Whilst the pre-entry class requires lots of one-to-one language support (due to the very limited level of English) needed in face to face teaching.
- RCLC will be developing MHFA courses for the community and voluntary sector, towards the end of May/ June in light of the response for this support from the sector.
- RCLC will and has remained in contact with our vulnerable learners and elderly BAME men and women over the phone, checking in on them once a week to see they are OK, if they need referral or just a friendly voice to say hello. Shaheen Kausar (outreach worker) has a new mobile phone so any BAME man or woman who needs support and advice can use this new contact number: 07923 138 730
- RCLC will try to develop a befriending group for the learners with current volunteers and be part of the larger befriending group for the under 50s in Reading
- The creche has sadly been closed and staff have been furloughed.
- Thanks to the support of Connect Reading and Focus Group Ltd, RCLC have purchased 7 new mobiles for staff so that they can stay in touch with learners, deliver classes and respond to enquiries. Please see the new numbers below;
Petra Robinson (main office and enquiries): 07923 138 681
Shaheen Kausar (for advice, support and outreach): 07923 138 730
Aisha Malik (manager): 07923 138 711
9. RCLC have opened support to vulnerable BAME people via a joint initiative with ACRE etc, CommuniCare referrals and other organisations linked to hub. This is open to men as well as women
As with any organisation trying to cope in this extraordinary times RCLC has faced its own fair share of challenges too. Although we are resolute in our response to the need we want to address in the community, when our new term starts in May, we have no idea if the classes will work remotely. There are a lot of new changes to implement, new methods of teaching for staff and learners but we are hoping that they will work. It is also Ramadan and as children are at home it may be difficult for many learners to participate. Learners attended the classes at RCLC as their way to meet people, get out of the house and make friends. It may be difficult for many women to have some space in their home for 30 minutes to do this learning. Learners may also struggle with the technical elements of joining a class through zoom/ whats app and similarly tutors may too. We are hoping to receive some training for tutors (for teaching online) by the university.
Just like many charities renting a building, RCLC still have to pay for the building insurance, rent, utilities etc even though the centre is closed. Sadly, our landlord was not very understanding when we had to close the centre and when we asked for support, we did not receive either of these. In response to a request for rent help, RCLC received threatening emails from the landlord regarding building insurance requirements unless we fulfilled all aspects of the policy. This is despite the BIA advice. In fact, Sarah (our chair) reported our insurers AXA, the article was published in the Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/02/businesses-warned-they-may-lose-insurance-on-closed-premises-lockdown-coronavirus
RCLC are also very worried about the mental health of our learners especially as many of them will be unable to talk freely from their homes. We are hoping our regular phone checks will help but I fear that as they have no privacy will be unable to communicate their real needs. Similarly, RCLC are worried about the impact of working from home will have on our staff, will this format work and how long can RCLC sustain it. The impact on staff morale and being able to cope with these working conditions is also something new for everyone around the country. Other concerns include maintaining trustee accountability and importantly long-term funding to sustain our work, as almost all current funding is COVID 19 related and our lottery application which went in in January is now in limbo.
Surrounding all this uncertainty and new way of working RCLC have received great support from our funders; Henry Smith, Reading Borough Council, DCLG and the Tampon Tax Grant. We are grateful to their support which has enabled us to continue to provide a much-needed service to vulnerable BAME women in the community.