Most of our learners are very isolated already and the lock down has made this worse. At the moment their lack of English language skills is not only isolating, but means that they find it hard to keep up to date with the latest health advice and regulations.

For some women, DIWC is their only source of support. A mother came to us asking for help with her daughter who was having severe emotional and behavioural problems dealing with lock down. She didn’t know who else to ask and we were able to give reassurance and signposting to another agency.

DIWC is finding new ways to engage with women, through social media and video calling, which in turn means that staff and learners are all gaining new digital skills. However, not everyone has access to the internet or smart technology, and we are trying to keep up with them by phone so that no one is left out. We’ve found that the chance to stay in touch with staff is a great help and comfort to some learners, women in the art class say that the exercises we’ve suggested keep them calm.

There are a lot of families connected to the Centre whose small businesses have had to close and they need to be signposted to the correct services for help. Families can be under a lot of pressure with mouths to feed, no money coming in, not knowing where to turn. Again language is a major barrier to accessing the help they need.

We hope that we will be able to use the experience to improve the way we work in the future, offering distance learning alongside in-house classes, which will help women who aren’t able to commit to a weekly timetable to take part. It will help us to cope with the major challenge of reopening the Centre when the time comes, because we will need to halve (at least) the number of women in each class and close two of our class rooms to manage social distancing and we have no idea if our crèche will be able to operate by then

However, our existing funders have been very understanding and we are still teaching our normal timetable with around 180 opportunities for learning and socialising taken up each week, and even new learners joining. So although we are all working from our various corners, kitchen tables and garages, we are staying resilient.

The photograph shows the daughter of one of our staff members keeping busy during lockdown by getting paint all over herself and the furniture. We have permission for it to be used.

(Update provided by DIWC)