Family First, the Jersey charity that provides families who have a child requiring medical or mental health treatment off-island with access to financial, administrative and emotional support, is this month marking its three-year anniversary.
The Family First service, which was originally founded by the Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation, is actively seeking benefactors to support its future infrastructure as it moves to become a fully independent charity and provide extended support services to local families in need.
Since inception, the charity has supported 106 local families during the last three years, with 32 local families with a child requiring UK hospital treatment currently receiving support. To date, Family First has sourced £218,400 for local families to support them with loss of earnings, rent/mortgage payments, and the cost of travel expenses and accommodation in the UK.
The charity works in partnership with local statutory services and existing charities who support children and their families to ensure the whole family of an ill child is supported and signposted to the relevant services in the Island and the UK whilst they undergo treatment/care off island.
Family First provides:
- financial support sourced from relevant charities in Jersey to cover travel, accommodation and ongoing living expenses associated to families being away from home, often for an extended period of time
- a central point of contact in Jersey whilst families are in the UK with their child, providing ongoing emotional and administrative support
- a link to relevant local Government services in the Island such as Education, Health and Social Care and Social Security, as well as other relevant services and resources
- a source of information regarding travel and accommodation in the UK when seeking treatment, an aspect which has been increasingly challenging as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions imposed.
Over the last year, the charity has witnessed a significant uplift in regular referrals being made from families for long-term support. Family First is hoping funding can be sought to provide for additional members of staff over the longer-term in order to continue to grow the service and offer a high quality and frequency of support to more local families in need.
Cheryl Dolbel, Family Liaison Manager for Family First explained to Channel Eye: “Many of the families that we support have a child with a long-term health condition which requires ongoing support due to regular appointments and treatment in an off-island hospital. This places an additional burden on what is already a worrying and stressful time for families and carers who are often having to take regular time away from work, sometimes unpaid, so that they can be away with their child during the length of their treatment.
“Our aim is to develop our team so we can continue to meet the needs of local families, by working with existing support services and agencies across the Island to offer improved co-ordination of care for families and holding their hand through what can be a very traumatic time in their lives. By easing the burden of financial and practical worries whilst being away from home, the sole focus for families can be on their child during their treatment.
“During the pandemic, like so many other charities, we have seen an increased demand for our services, particularly due to the fact that many local families have had to remain off the island for extended amounts of time due to ongoing travel restrictions or as a result of their child’s vulnerability linked to their health conditions. This has placed an additional level of strain on what is already a very challenging set of circumstances for local families.”
Rachel Rabet, a local mother whose son is currently receiving treatment in a UK hospital said: “Due to Covid-19, we knew that travelling to the UK would not be easy and it made what was already a very frightening and anxious time even harder. My husband was unable to travel with me to Southampton whilst our son underwent surgery, but Family First arranged everything for another family member to travel with me so I would have some support which made such a positive difference.”
The charity has set an initial fundraising target of £15,000 with the proceeds going to help more local families in need of support. For anyone wishing to make a donation to the charity, this can be done via the Family First JustGiving page or via the Family First website.