Funding from Santander, through Santander Universities is enabling the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) free day-care scheme, which has already helped nearly 100 local NHS workers, to continue.
£42,500 worth of funding will allow the scheme, which has been hosted in the closed Sportspark on UEA’s campus since 8 April after schools closed, to continue for free.
Despite many schools now opening again, some have restricted capacity and current guidelines means workers cannot leave children with certain family members.
Louise Cooper, a Radiographer in the Breast Imaging Department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has two children who have been attending the scheme. Her mother who is over 60 used to help out with childcare but hasn’t been able to during the pandemic.
She said: “I cannot express how valuable the Sportspark has been to me and my family. Not only has it allowed me to come to work and contribute to fighting COVID-19 it has meant I can feel happy that my children are experiencing fun and normality during this strange time.
“The staff are amazing and the children cannot wait to get there in the morning, looking forward to all of the wonderful activities they have organised for them. I cannot thank all of you enough. It has been the saving grace for our family.”
The new funding will allow the programme to continue to run until the summer when the Sportspark reopens, although the facility is waiting on Government confirmation of this date.
The scheme was set up by UEA Health and Social Care Partners who have worked with local NHS trusts to ensure parents can use the service free of charge.
The day-care is open to children aged five to 15 years old, whose parents are key workers at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust. The venue offers an extended child care service between 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, which most schools are currently unable to offer.
As part of the programme, children are split into groups and follow a timetable of activities, including sports like social-distancing football, crafts, free time and homework sessions.
Over the past eight years, Santander Universities has partnered with UEA on a programme of scholarships, internships schemes and entrepreneurship initiatives. With the current pandemic presenting many new challenges for students, universities and the local community, Santander, through Santander Universities is repurposing and providing additional funding to ensure immediate support to alleviate health and educational challenges.
Matt Hutnell, Director at Santander Universities, said: “Universities such as UEA, are doing some fantastic work to contribute to the UK’s effort to combat the outbreak of COVID-19. We’re delighted to collaborate with our university partners in a way which increases their response effort and look forward to continuing to work with them on supporting both students and the broader higher education community with further initiatives over the coming months.”
Students and staff from across UEA have been volunteering to support the service. Ellie Dickerson who is a Master’s student studying Developmental Science in the School of Psychology at UEA said: “As soon as I heard about the programme I wanted to help. I worked in a day-camp back in my hometown and I really enjoy working with children.
“It’s just such a worthwhile thing to be a part of and the kids absolutely love it – they say it’s like their second family. Plus it’s so rewarding to know that it’s helping key workers, I’m glad to be part of the effort to pull through this together.”
The day-care scheme is just one of the initiatives the University has put in place to support the local community during the COVID-19 epidemic. Staff at the University have been manufacturing hand-sanitiser gel and collaborating with local businesses to 3D print visors and other PPE equipment for local NHS partners, and the University has also opened up empty accommodation for NHS workers.
UEA Vice-Chancellor Professor David Richardson said: “Our civic responsibility as a University is to our community and so I am delighted that with the generous support from Santander Universities, we are able to continue this valued service.”