In March 2020, when COVID19 began to sweep across Europe, services provided to children, families, and communities were heavily impacted. Physical distancing has exacerbated many issues present in communities across the globe, from the lack of access to technology for many families to violence within homes.
The measures that were taken across Europe, and elsewhere, are impacting all aspects of life. TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs are no exception, but their quick mobilization and innovative practices have meant that staff members are still reaching out and engaging with the community even without the physical space the Play Hubs normally are housed in.
TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs, which operate in 8 countries to provide inclusive spaces for young children and their families, have continued to support them through flexible solutions. The Local Action Teams tasked with operating the 15 Play Hubs under this project have sprung into action to adjust activities to address community challenges, often ways formal services haven’t been able to. The work of these teams has continued and, in many cases, intensified.
Due to their unique and well-established position within communities, they are a trusted resource and support system for families that are facing any number of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic shines a light on the essential elements of the TOY for Inclusion project – intersectoral work as a way to address complex issues, innovative and flexible solutions tailored to communities and the development of inclusive and easy to reach services.
Each country has developed a tailored response under extremely challenging circumstances. In the coming weeks, TOY partners will share insights into their response efforts. Here, we share the response from Slovenia.
Inclusive practices for distanced learning
Play Hubs have become an online space, where children and parents can find ideas for play and learning at home. Play Hub staff are sharing videos, games, ideas for arts and crafts, music, recipes to try with children, and more.
TOY for Inclusion partner, Educational Research Institute (ERI), works to stay in contact with teachers and assistants to offer support on the topic of inclusion. They are also working to address families’ access to distanced learning without computers, tablets, or smartphones. Currently, the ERI team is applying for grants to help in this regard.
ERI is currently working with the media to provide educational programs through television or radio broadcasts. Also, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Sport prepared a national call to gather ICT equipment.
Even though face-to-face meetings are currently impossible, each Play Hub continues to support families, children, and communities. While these requirements on physical distancing in communities where Play Hubs operate might change how Local Action Teams are working, their understanding of the communities in which they work is allowing them to address specific challenges and combat exclusive practices.