A Jersey charity that supports families whose children need off-island medical treatment says the pandemic has put an even greater strain on its services.
Family First says it has seen a significant rise in referrals.
Family Liaison Manager Cheryl Dolbel says it has been an incredibly tough time for some islanders with sick children needing UK hospital care.
"With the restrictions being in place it just makes the whole situation that much more difficult. Many families would be able to travel over and come back at the end of treatment, but due to flight restrictions they have had to stay over there for long periods of time."
The charity is currently supporting 32 families - offering financial, administrative and emotional assistance.
"We have feedback from families saying that they don't know what they would have done without the service, that we have been a lifeline to them and just knowing that somebody in Jersey is at the end of the phone to support them with whatever arises makes a world of difference. We can't change what's happening with their child, but we can support with the other things that adds additional stress like finance and accommodation."
Rachel Rabet, whose son is currently receiving treatment in a UK hospital says Covid made an already very frightening and anxious time even harder:
"My husband was unable to travel with me to Southampton whilst our son underwent surgery, but Family First arranged everything for another family member to travel with me so I would have some support which made such a positive difference.”
Originally founded by the Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation, it has helped 106 local families in the past three years and sourced more than £200,000 towards lost earnings, rent or mortgage payments and travel and accommodation costs.
It is now looking for benefactors to support its expansion as it moves to become a fully independent charity.
It is also hoping to raise at least £15,000 to take on extra staff to cope with the extra demand and grow the service.
“Many of the families that we support have a child with a long-term health condition which requires ongoing support due to regular appointments and treatment in an off-island hospital. This places an additional burden on what is already a worrying and stressful time for families and carers who are often having to take regular time away from work, sometimes unpaid, so that they can be away with their child during the length of their treatment.
Our aim is to develop our team so we can continue to meet the needs of local families and by working with existing support services and agencies across the Island to offer improved co-ordination of care for families and holding their hand through what can be a very traumatic time in their lives. By easing the burden of financial and practical worries whilst being away from home the sole focus for families can be on their child during their treatment." - Cheryl Dolbel