Claire Allen and children attending a class pre-lock down

Graduates cast lifeline to Cumbrian children and families in need

After it was revealed in a report from National Foundation of Educational Research that a third of children are not engaging with school work set, recent graduates have set up initiatives in Carlisle to help support children and families in their educational but also their emotional needs. 

Claire Allen and Karen Walker graduated in physiotherapy and occupational therapy respectively and after specialising in children's mental health and emotional well being, they set up in private practice two years ago.

Called Therapeutic Tree house, they offer therapy-led yoga and mindfulness courses for children in schools and community centres.

However, the pandemic put paid to all face-to face classes in February so alongside their demanding roles in the NHS, in their spare time they have offered free advice to parents on regulating their children’s emotions during lock down.

This includes activities and advice on keeping children healthy and active, information on how to do this during home schooling so children can focus and concentrate on their work.

When asked why Claire decided to make resources available for free, she said: “We felt compelled to it because we had several classes running in schools and in a local community centre and we were seeing such improvements in the children's physical health and emotional well being.

“The shutdown happened very quickly so we decided the best way to continue to help was to provide resources on our Facebook page and via email so parents and teachers could utilise them during lock down.”

The pair were nominated in the top best 20 health and fitness business in north Cumbria in 2019.

They hope to return to  face-to-face appointments soon with appropriate PPE however, they anticipate it will be October at the earliest before they can teach their classes again.

In the meantime, they are launching a new series webinars  that will be provide yoga and mindfulness classes for children aged 3 to 18 and clinical Pilates for children aged 7 to 18. To find out more visit the Therapeutic Treehouse Facebook page.

Jacquie Baccar, 47 of Harraby has been playing a key role supporting her community during the crisis as a Volunteer and Engagement Worker for Family Action in Carlisle. 

The charity works in conjunction with Cumbria County Council to provide a lifeline to families with children aged 0-19.

Unable to carry out her usual work to lock down it has not stopped Jacquie’s ceaselessly creative drive to help those in need. 

Jacquie provides educational activity kits for 100 children of different ages. Each child receives packages each week that include seeds and compost to grow their own food and she encourages families to cook the produce they grow. Each child also received a diary to record the life of their plants over the summer.       

Jacquie cooked up a time capsule activity for older children so that their experience of this unprecedented time is recorded.

“I’ve always volunteered and worked in the community in Harraby. I left school without any qualifications to speak of and through my work I managed to get an NVQ. It was this experience that taught me how to write academically.

“It was only after I found myself divorced with three young children 13 years ago that I took the plunge to start a foundation degree in health and social care through Carlisle College in 2013. After completing that I found out about a top up to a full degree in working with children and young families at the university.

“I love talking to people about volunteering and how beneficial it can be so once all this is over, I’ll be glad to get back to seeing people in person!”

Jacquie graduated with a BA Hons Working with Children and Young Families in 2016 and throughout her time studying there she made a big impression on her tutors.

Dr Karen Lockney, Programme Leader, Working with Children and Families said:

“Jacquie was an excellent top up student who came with valuable life and work experience.

“I now see Jacquie working in the community with such drive and vision, making a real difference to children's lives through her work, especially during lock down when she is coordinating projects to support families in creative and interesting ways."

Once Jacquie turns 50 she intends to look into fostering but once again her altruism shines through as she intends to care for teenagers who often face greater challenges in being fostered or adopted.


Claire Allen pictured before lock down with children participating in one of Therapeutic Treehouse's classes. All relevant permissions for reproducing this image have been sought. 

Karen Walker, working from home giving advice to parents on how to help their kids navigate their emotions in lock down.

Jacqui Baccar standing in front of food packages destined for families in need.