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Charities strive to keep up support against sudden changes

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Charities have had to fight tooth and nail this year to continue to support their members – adapting to harsh and sudden changes.

SportsAble supports people with disabilities in sport. In tier 3 sport for people with disabilities was exempt from restrictions – but when Berkshire moved to tier 4, this changed.

“It’s been the sudden changes of plan that have been the most difficult,” said Julia Chester, deputy chair of SportsAble’s board of trustees.

“The latest news was a bit of a shocker. It’s one more bitter blow after so many this year.”

For Thames Hospice, restrictions have meant it had to change its plans for Christmas Day, and was unable to host visitors for Christmas lunch. Visiting hours are no longer 24-7, but from 2pm-9pm.

Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice has been hit multiple times this year.

The latest blow was needing to call off its outdoor markets.

“Before we had more freedom to do things outside and we came to the market in a very COVID-safe way,” said Fiona Devine, founder.

The Bear adult autistic social group, part of Autism Berkshire, is one of many small organisations in the borough whose Christmas celebration plans were scuppered.

In lieu of a Christmas party, members visited Braywick Heath Nurseries to pick up gift bags – but after tier 4 came in, could no longer meet with volunteers there. The short-notice changes have caused a lot of anxiety, said Helen Harris, who runs the group.

“Autistic people like to know what’s happening next. It’s confusing for most people so you have to think how confusing it is for someone on the autistic spectrum,” she said.

“They can’t deal with the unexpected. It’s a nightmare for everyone but it’s a double nightmare for them.”

This year, those providing gifts to families in need were stretched more than ever. The Brett Foundation put out an urgent appeal for more donations and Baby Bank Windsor has seen the number of referrals go ‘through the roof’ jumping from 2,000 to 3,200.

Rebecca Mistry, who joint-runs the Baby Bank, said that parents are feeling the need to water down formula milk and keep babies in nappies for longer, which can lead to sore skin.

In the absence of people dropping by with donations, the Baby Bank set up an Amazon wishlist and was soon visited by three vans full of donations.

It has received funding from the Prince Philip Trust among others, paying for expensive items like mattresses (which cannot be second hand) – however, it hasn’t been receiving funding to pay those running it for the time they are putting in.

Alongside Lauren Hall, Rebecca has been working full time at the Baby Bank.

“People want you do to the work but people don’t want to fund you to pay you,” said Rebecca.

“That doesn’t pay your bills. So that’s our next challenge, to find that funding.”

Meanwhile, Our Community Enterprise is offering free assistance to Royal Borough charities which support local residents and are seeking funding.

To find out more, contact Nicola Davidson on 07946 569801.

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