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Tower Hamlets Together receives national recognition for partnership work to support shielding children


The work of a council and NHS partnership to support clinically vulnerable children through the Covid-19 pandemic has been recognised with a prestigious award.

Tower Hamlets Together, a partnership of local health and social care organisations, won the Local Covid-19 Response Partnership Award at the Health Service Journal (HSJ) Awards this week.

The award recognises the partnership’s excellent work in supporting clinically extremely vulnerable children and their families who were shielding during the pandemic.

Covid-19 presented unique challenges to clinically extremely vulnerable children in Tower Hamlets, as shielding meant not attending school, minimal outdoor play and limited social interaction – with some families also facing the additional challenges of low incomes, overcrowding and managing complex health needs.

Tower Hamlets Together developed a multi-agency group to ensure that each child who needed to shield was correctly identified, their families and schools were informed, and support was put in place to meet the needs of the whole family.

The group coordinated calls made by staff in both NHS and Council children’s services to all 800 families with clinically extremely vulnerable children and offered further support calls. Further support calls were offered and through these conversations, over 900 referrals were made to services for children and families.

With support from local volunteers and voluntary-sector organisations, the Council’s Children’s Services made and distributed more than 500 play-bags with developmentally-appropriate games, crafts and other resources, which were donated through the East London Business Alliance.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:

“For families with clinically extremely vulnerable children the pandemic has been a particularly challenging time.

“As a council we’ve always been committed to working with our partners across the public and voluntary sectors to meet the needs of all our residents, and it’s great to see this work being recognised on the national stage.

“We will continue to work to ensure that all of our young people and families are supported as we bounce back from the pandemic.”

Cllr Asma Begum, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Children, Youth Services and Education, said:

“Working together with our partners has always been key to supporting vulnerable children in our community, and it has been particularly vital during the pandemic.

“Collaboration through the Tower Hamlets Together partnership has helped us to join up different services and ensure that families received a wide range of support. We’re delighted that this work has been recognised with an HSJ Partnership Award.”

Amy Whitelock Gibbs, Chair of Tower Hamlets Together, said: “Tower Hamlets Together is a special partnership, bringing together so many services that are vital to local people. This award is testament to the hard work, trust and innovation of teams across all our partners, who stepped up to face the challenges of COVID19 and protect our communities. We plan to build on this success to ensure our residents get the best possible support through the pandemic and beyond.”

Tower Hamlets GP Care Group Joint CEO Tracy Cannell said: “It was a true joint effort, jointly led and delivered with primary care services going above and beyond expectations to care for children and their families. This project is a reflection of how we have worked in all services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to support Tower Hamlets residents. I am also extremely proud of how our staff have responded and the efforts they have gone to during this difficult time.”

One parent of a shielding child said: “I really looked forward to weekly calls from our support worker as they helped me to connect during this really difficult time when we felt separated from the world. He helped me talk through my anxieties – and made me laugh! He even spoke to my 14-year-old boy a few times and helped us all believe we were not forgotten.”