With the EFL and EFL Trust using this week to highlight the good work done by the Community Sports Trusts through the lockdown period, we caught up with United’s CST manager John Halpin to get his take on what has been an extraordinary period.
“Covid-19 has brought us all together in a way we would never have expected before it happened,” he said. “A lot of our staff have been volunteering right through the 100 days of this lockdown delivering items for schools, and taking school dinners to people’s homes, and things like that.
“We’ve been picking up prescriptions and doing essential shopping for people who were confined to their homes, and for those over the age of 70 who were self-isolating. That sort of effort has been ongoing, along with the work we’ve done with vulnerable children who perhaps needed help with mental health and wellbeing issues.
“As we mentioned on the website the other day, we delivered 100 goodie bags to kids in the local area, just as a further boost to their feelings of wellbeing, and we made sure those bags had practical items in them that they could use for their schoolwork, and for things they might be doing at home.
“Being honest, although this has been a very difficult time for everybody, it’s also been very rewarding for our staff. I’d say we’ve had our eyes opened to things that are going on around the city which we otherwise don’t get to see on a day-to-day basis.”
“That means there are huge avenues we can look into when things do start to return to some kind of normal,” he added. “We’ve found new groups, which includes children, who really do need support and help.
“That isn’t just because they possibly haven’t got support at home, it’s because they need additional support for their mental and physical health.
“These are areas we haven’t properly worked in before, but certainly when lockdown lifts for us it’s an area we’re going to be looking to work hard in.”
With new challenges faced by everybody, he commented: “We’ve found through this period that mental health for all ages has been one of the big issues.
“We’ve spoken to our local Mind Charity facility in Carlisle and we’re trying to do some online work with them at the moment, with people who need this type of support.
“Moving forward we’re hopeful that we’ll be starting up sessions and programmes which will help children and adults of all ages with their mental health in a number of different ways.
“When you talk to people around the area they all see the football club as being so important to them, and that’s something we in the club’s Community Sports Trust can utilise as we seek to help out as much as we can.”
One of the main questions asked of the club when it comes to the community side of the business is when things like soccer schools and end-of-term activities will resume.
“We’d love to be back for the summer holidays, but we’re going to have to be guided by what the guidelines are at the time,” he explained. “We can do small things at the moment, in terms of with individuals or small groups, but we’re used to working with 100 children upwards at soccer schools and on other activities.
“That’s not going to be the case for a while, unless the Government lift restrictions even more than they have at the moment. Safety is paramount – that’s for the children, their families and our staff – so we have to accept that soccer schools appear to be a little bit further down the line than we all would want.
“I fully understand that people, and parents especially, need this sort of support to help them get back to a bit of normality, so as soon as we can get the breaks off that’s exactly what we’ll do.”
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