Somerset Stories: CLOWNS

C.L.O.W.N.S (Creating Learning Opportunities In WesterN Somerset) provide support by delivering opportunities and activities, and encouraging families to learn, thrive, have fun and be happy. Although the west of Somerset is stunningly beautiful, the wages are low and the amenities are poor. Manager Sue Shaw told us how a recent grant for £2,500 from The Somerset Fund is helping them create and deliver bespoke Family Caring Packages to vulnerable families, helping to give them a little lift in life.

“We work with families in the west of Somerset, supporting children aged 0-4 years with their development: social, play and emotional. We get them ‘school ready’, supporting all the family to ensure a thriving environment for the children in those early years.

Our idea was to make life a little bit better for families; we looked at the support they were getting and we thought: where’s the ‘You’re special’ bit? It’s essential for your emotional wellbeing. So, we came up with the Family Caring Package which we call U and Yours. We did a pilot run which proved to be really helpful – we listened to the community and were able to deliver what they actually wanted, not just what we thought they’d like. We involved the local people and businesses, who helped by donating vouchers and gifts for the boxes, which were branded, and felt just a little bit luxurious.

We saw a regression in the children after the first lockdown. West Somerset is already isolated and now we had Covid isolation on top of that – it was like a double whammy. Children learn from their peers and each other and that had suddenly stopped.

The lockdown had a huge emotional impact not only on the children but also the adults: if you’re having a rough day it’s important to be able to share that with someone; it can help put things into context.

We’re here to support mental health and wellbeing, and right now what people are missing is the fun part of life. So, we’re giving people a small lift. It’s not life changing, but to know someone is thinking about you is really valuable.

Things are difficult right now; with non-essential businesses closed we’re needing to buy a lot of the things for the boxes that had previously been donated.

We’re very grateful for the grant and also to the businesses and individual donors who support The Somerset Fund through Somerset Community Foundation. It’s helped us to buy the boxes and contents, and has helped us generally with the delivery of the whole project. And we’ve worked very closely with Home-Start West Somerset who’ve helped us identify local families in need.

We delivered 60 boxes to families in December, and at the end of the 6 months we’re aiming to have distributed 200 packages.

We want to give people more than just the food essentials that they can get from the food banks; people are already able to access that. Our care packages are the next step, like the hierarchy of needs. And they’re bespoke in most cases too; there’s a lot of extra thought that goes into creating them, making sure they’re the right fit for the family. We want our care packages to make people feel truly cared for.”


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