The founder of an online baby group has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for her support to mums during the pandemic.

Hayley Hayle, coordinator at community-led charity Botley Bridges, was "overwhelmed, thrilled and shocked" and thought it was a "scam", when it was revealed she would be awarded a BEM for her services to postnatal care in Oxford, during Covid-19.

Botley Bridges is a charity based at Botley School in Elms Road, Oxford. The charity has the aim of supporting the care and upbringing of children aged up to 11 living in Botley.

Read also: Oxfordshire woman filmed during mental health crisis

The charity hopes to replace some of the universal services that were lost when local children’s centres closed in 2017.

In March 2020, Mrs Hayle was concerned that many families with young children did not have access to their usual support networks. To help she started holding Facebook Live interactive story and singing sessions twice a week from her garden shed.

Mrs Hayle said: "During Covid-19 right in the very first lockdown we were thinking of how we can try and help families. We realised that there were lots of brand new mums out there that were giving birth during the uncertain time and all of the support services had closed down. Mums couldn’t even register the babies birth right at the start."

Oxford Mail: Hayley Hayle, charity coordinator at Botley Bridges pictured on an online baby group session.

To help with the online baby group, Mrs Hayle built an online support network for mums. She contacted breast feeding support, OXPIP which offers maternal mental health support and community groups.

Online classes were also held to help first time mums with introducing solids to their babies and first aid and childhood illnesses to give vital support which would normally be received face to face.

The online baby group is still growing strong two year's later with online sessions being held once a week helping more than 200 mums.

Read also: First bat patient arrives to Oxfordshire Wildlife Rescue

Without this online group first time mums during the pandemic might not have received any support. Mrs Hayle said: “They would have received no support at all, and as a first time mum you would not know where to even look for support.”

Mrs Hayle is still excited to have been nominated. She said: “I was thrilled to have been nominated, some of the mums that come along to the sessions nominated me a year ago.”

She added: “To be honest, first of all I thought it was a hoax or a scam because I was informed by email. I didn’t want to click on any of the links or anything and I put the address into a scam finder and it came up as a valid address."

The weekly meetings are held Wednesday mornings at 10am to join contact

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok

Got a story for us? Send us your news and pictures here

List an event for free on our website here