Teddy bears in face masks are helping vulnerable children in Oxfordshire understand coronavirus.

Oxfordshire County Council’s principal social worker, Annelies Henshall, is spreading the message that even teddy bears wear face masks to protect themselves from Covid-19.

Ms Henshall and her teams strive to protect vulnerable children and families during the pandemic and the new teddy bear message is designed to put children at ease.

She has worked for the County Council in children’s services for nearly two decades, however, she has never experienced the level of change coronavirus has brought about this year.

Her role is to help improve the quality of life for local children; from working alongside families to provide targeted support to protect against abuse and exploitation, to finding forever-homes via foster care or adoption – and listening to and understanding children’s needs and aspirations.

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Ms Henshall said: “Covid-19 has impacted on how we provide social care and increased the ‘out of sight’ risks to children. We’re working together, with children and families, to support the #Stopthespread campaign.”

The social worker has started to use the teddy bears to make the children less scared of face masks.

Ms Henshall said: “As lockdown has eased, we’ve been able to begin visiting homes again. But we’re incredibly careful to ensure safe-distancing and wear PPE so staff look very different; for young children, possibly quite frightening.

“Imagine, I walk into a family’s living room clad in gloves, face mask and apron; I’m going to look a bit scary.

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“That’s why some staff have made little teddy bear face masks.

"Rosie the Covid Bear allows them to explain to children why we are doing things differently, and how we are trying to keep everyone safe from the virus."

Rosie the Covid Bear helps the children relax so they are able to talk to staff.

Ms Henshall visits families that have become overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting. Some of these cases have been made worse by the psychological pressures of Covid-19 as the whole family is often having to live and work under one roof all day, every day.

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Ms Henshall said: “Parents often appreciate the more creative ways we’ve come up with to talk to their children.”

She added: “My passion is to make a difference to young people’s lives.

" I’m proud of how me and my Oxfordshire County Council team have risen to the Covid-19 challenge, to ensure we’re there for children and families when they need support the most."