WellChild CEO Blog: Fighting our way through COVID-19

By Chris Hill · May 5, 2020

Belfast WellChild Nurse with family

Published by WellChild Chief Executive, Colin Dyer

In March, as COVID-19 took its hold on the nation, WellChild, like many charities faced an unprecedented challenge. The families we support even more so. We quickly realised that to stand still would be to faulter, just when we were needed most. From day one we were determined to fight our way through the crisis, not just for our survival, but for the many thousands of families who need us more than ever.

Six weeks on from publishing an open letter appealing for urgent help, I reflect proudly on a transformative period for our charity that has seen us quickly adapt our operational and service model to meet the sudden and very different needs of the families we support.

In less than two weeks, we launched the WellChild COVID-19 Response Service, who at the time of writing are sourcing food and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for more than 330 families and counting. Our COVID-19 information and guidance for families has been accessed more than 31,000 times, and the WellChild Family Tree online support network has become more relevant than ever, with new members in March 70% higher than in an average month.

During this crisis, families caring for a child with serious health needs are more hidden and isolated than ever. Thanks to the support of our Patron, The Duke of Sussex, we have been able to shine a public light on some of the biggest challenges facing our families at this most difficult and uncertain time. We have reached millions of people through national and online media, telling the world about the struggles vulnerable families are facing, their fears, anxieties and their difficulties accessing vital support and supplies, from food and cleaning products, to medicines and PPE.

Forced to make some tough decisions, including furloughing staff and making major expenditure cuts, we have been operating with significantly reduced resources. Our fundraising team adapted quickly and we have unlocked unprecedented support from organisations and individuals from across the UK, including more than £25,000 in direct donations from the public, to our Resilience Fund. This will go some way to help fill a forecasted 60% reduction in income due to cancelled or postponed fundraising events and activities.

A huge thank you to everyone who has stepped up to help WellChild and our families – not least the corporate supporters (such as GSK and Infiniti Retail Group) who have made significant and crucial contributions to our direct family support and resilience fundraising, and the grant-making trusts who have quickly released funds to help charities like ours with these new challenges.

However, despite the immense pride in our rapid response to the crisis, we must tread cautiously. We have given ourselves a fighting chance of survival, but we do not yet know how deep and long lasting the recovery will be. There are many difficult roads ahead of us.

Meanwhile, when the world eventually returns to its ‘new normal’, the families that rely on us will need us more than ever. We have come very far, very quickly, but more families are reaching out to us for help every day. The fight continues, and with your support we are determined to succeed.