When you’ve got low self esteem and you’re trying to face lots of problems, giving up control of your life can be a tempting option – you just want someone to come in and make it all OK. But, unfortunately, there are no easy solutions. It’s rare that things go away or get resolved without making changes to your lifestyle… but to do this, you need to believe in yourself – and there we are, right back at the beginning, as self belief is something that you don’t have.
So how can Gateway’s Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service help people to break this cycle?
Admitting that you need help is a really positive step, but you have to be prepared to work towards the life you want, too. So our POWs are trained not just to give practical advice, but to help women take control of their own lives in order to move forward.
Saira was referred to the POW service by her midwife. She and her husband were living in a flat above a shop after having to move out of a shared house. But the flat was full of mice and cockroaches and its only access was via slippery fire escape steps.
Saira was clearly suffering from depression and low self esteem. In a recording made by her POW, Maria, it’s clear she didn’t believe she had any control over her situation. She says: “I’m pregnant; I have no family support. I don’t know what’s going to happen right now. It’s dangerous living here, but what can I do?” In a quiet voice, she asks, “Is there anyone out there who can help me?”
During Maria’s first visit, she explained to the couple how they would need to work together to sort things out. “I took them aside separately and said ‘we all need to work at this, and you will need a lot of patience, because it’s going to take time’,” Maria says. “No-one has a magic wand.”
Like many clients, Saira says she liked Maria because she felt that she wasn’t judging her. Maria’s help was practical and without prejudice.
“On the first visit, I phoned around and we started to apply for the various things that they were entitled to and needed to sort out,” Maria says. “For example, Saira had put off applying for income support because she thought it would affect her partner’s finances, so we worked that out, and got him to apply for working tax credit.”
But, as they unravelled some of the financial issues, Maria was also working towards raising Saira’s self-esteem.
For example, Saira was so self-conscious that she didn’t want to go to antenatal classes. She said she felt fat and didn’t want people to see her. Maria’s approach was to try and make her feel better about her body image in other ways. “I asked her to send me photos of herself on the days that I didn’t visit her – just for my benefit, so I could she she was OK,” she explains. “In the first few photos she sent, she’s looking down at the floor, but after a few weeks she’s smiling and looking into the camera. She’s starting to feel better about herself; she doesn’t mind the idea so much.”
They talked about the future. “I asked her to think about what she wants to achieve in life,” says Maria. “It’s something that many women forget to think about when so much else is going on. She told me lots of things, but I helped her to see that what it boils down to is taking more control. So we talked about that. I got her to realise that she is already very powerful – after all, she had carried a baby! – and we discussed how she must make sure to retain that feeling of power when she deals with everyday situations.”
Since Maria’s first visit, which was almost six months ago, Saira’s depression has started to lift. Now that they have split the practical issues into more manageable chunks, she is finding the confidence to ask for help with the things she needs. She asked a friend to help with the deposit on a better home – something she hadn’t wanted to do before. She’s making phonecalls herself. She takes her baby out and about to clubs and support groups and is even talking about going back to work.
“She doesn’t wait for permission as much as she used to,” Maria says; “she speaks out a bit more. And she’s gone from feeling tired, exhausted – and even threatened, worrying that her baby will be taken away – to realising that she is a good mom.”
In this audio clip, you can hear how Saira’s language has changed from where she was at the start. Rather than hoping that someone will step in, she talks about specific issues and sounds far more active. There’s still a lot to sort out, but she’s in control and – with support – she’s prepared to work for it.
listen to ‘Gateway Family Services: Saira’ on Audioboo
In the last quarter of 2012, 65 babies were born to clients of our Pregnancy Outreach Workers team, and 55 of those women initiated breastfeeding.
That’s 85%, compared to an average of 65% in the wider community*.
In December alone there were 17 births and 16 of the women initiated breastfeeding – a whopping 93%.
Increasing the rate of breastfeeding is something that’s important at both a national and local level, so we’re delighted to be doing our bit to reach the city’s targets.
Most clients want to breastfeed – they know it’s the natural thing to do and the benefits it brings – but sometimes they need just that extra bit of help. That’s why all of our POWs are trained in breastfeeding support as part of
Unicef’s Baby Friendly Initiative.
Before the baby arrives, POWs give their clients lots of information, including leaflets and DVDs from the World Health Organisation and Unicef. Often, POWs will watch the DVD with the client so that they can explain or interpret it, talk about it and answer questions. We also run group sessions where POWs can demonstrate different breastfeeding techniques using dolls.
Sophia and Khadijah run a session at Springfield Children’s Centre. “It’s a six week course, where we show the DVD and give out handouts, as well as giving demonstrations of things like how to help baby latch on,” says Sophia. “We answer questions and discuss worries so that the mums are as prepared as possible. Then, for up to eight weeks postnatally, we visit mum and baby to give some extra support when they need it most.”
In this video of a typical breastfeeding group session run by the POWs, Colette uses a doll to show some different techniques for breastfeeding:
Another POW, Jacqui, says, “At the time of the birth, breastfeeding support is vital. We find that if the mother doesn’t get enough help and encouragement straight away, in the hospital, she’s more likely to start bottle feeding. That’s where POWs can really make a difference.”
Jahanara’s client had her baby on Sunday. “I was her birthing partner,” she explains. “Before the baby was born, the mum had told me that she wanted to breastfeed; this is her second child and she’d already told me how difficult she found it when she bottle fed her first baby. So I knew it’s what she wanted – but, after giving birth, she was so tired, she just didn’t want to do it. She wanted to give the baby a bottle. So I gently reminded her of everything she’d talked about before, and encouraged her to try again. Now she’s very happy to be breastfeeding.”
*published average breastfeeding rates for 2012 in the wards we cover. Source: Birmingham Public Health Health Inequalities Action Plan 2012.
Pregnancy Outreach Workers, or POWs, provide support to women for their social and emotional needs. Social needs can mean anything from a little housing support, to very complex issues such as child protection or domestic violence.
One of the areas in which we offer support is attending appointments, both medical and non-medical. By supporting clients to attend their medical appointments we can ensure that they are receiving the best medical care for themselves and the unborn baby. In this video, Farzana is going to a hospital appointment with her client.
Some of the women who are supported to attend appointments lack confidence to attend by themselves, or need someone with them who can explain what is happening during the appointment. Some of the women are isolated and do not have anyone who could accompany them to hospital or other non-medical appointments. The POW acts as a befriender in these situations so that the woman does not feel like she is alone.
Many of the women that we support are in financial difficulties, for any number of reasons – it could be a delay in benefits, or moving from a paid job to benefits, or having no recourse to public funds. As a result, some pregnant women can go days without food; especially those who are isolated or estranged from family.
Gateway Family Services operates a
food bank of non perishable items. We rely on donations to the food bank. In the video above, Farzana delivers a food parcel to one of her clients who was in desperate need of some help. As you can imagine, being pregnant and hungry is very unpleasant; not to mention the effects that this could have on the unborn baby.
These are just a couple of the things that POWs do every day. No two days are the same, just as no two cases are the same.
Yasmin has been doing some work experience with us at Gateway Family Services. Here is what she had to say in her own words.
‘My name is Yasmin Rai. I am 17 years old and I am an A-level student. At my school it is encouraged to complete a work experience placement in order to gain knowledge and understanding of the working world. Therefore I decided to look for a work placement in an office based environment. During my research I came across a company, Gateway, and I was both interested and intrigued with the services they provide. After contacting Gateway they kindly offered me a two week work placement in their office.
During my two weeks at Gateway I took on the role as receptionist. I felt this provided me with many responsibilities within the company. I was able to answer phones, sort post, pass on messages and welcome guests. I was also lucky enough to gain an insight into all the services at Gateway. I was invited to one of the Health Trainer’s team meetings, which gave me an understanding of the work of the Health Trainers. I also spent some time with Lighten Up, where I was given an in depth explanation about how their service works to help people lose weight.
I completed various administration jobs for the Pregnancy Outreach Workers. Some tasks required me to read through files to gather information on clients; this showed me the amazing work the POWs carry out for many vulnerable pregnant women. I also worked with the EAST department completing evaluations with previous clients and then adding feedback to the database. Additionally I was lucky enough to attend a training course about Equality and Diversity, which I found thoroughly interesting.
The work experience has developed my communication skills, especially over the phone, organisational skills and has given me a very in depth experience of administration work. All the tasks I have carried out have been enjoyable and a great learning opportunity. The experience has also made me acknowledge the great work that Gateway Family Services does.’
This the group of young learners who did employability and personal development with us.
I have just spent the last two weeks delivering a training course to 16 and 17 year old people. The course was Employability and Personal Development and though it was tiring it was a couple of the most rewarding two weeks that I have had in a long time.
Young people receive bad press all the time. People view them as lazy or trouble causers. This group of young people were neither of those. Some days they were hard work but other days we had such good fun together. They were never rude or disrespectful to me or to the other members of the group. They supported each other to get through the course and gave each other advice. At the start of the two weeks some learners were quiet and found it difficult to join in by the end of the two weeks I could hardly get a word in edgeways and that is exactly what I wanted. Whilst it wasn’t a long course I know that they got loads out of it and have definitely increased their confidence.
These young people had ambitions and aspirations, one wanted to be a doctor, another a dentist. Most of them knew exactly what they need to do in order to reach their goals. They had great personalities, they were funny, kind, considerate and were even concerned that I had not eaten any lunch and they were fasting at the time!
One of the learners was already getting support from one of our key workers. The key worker told him about an apprenticeship opportunity and gave him some interview support. This included doing a mock interview and going through likely questions. The learner went for an interview and got the job. He’s the one in the suit.
Good luck to them all.
In this clip one of our volunteers, Donna, talks about how she became involved with volunteering after being made redundant, as well as helping people recover from a heart attack, Donna has got some qualifications, increased confidence, new friends and even learned to foxtrot! the Cardio Rehab Volunteer programme was funded by the Sandwell, Solihull and Birmingham Workforce Locality Board more details about the project can be found here
Do you want to become a volunteer? Or even want some help in finding paid work or training?
Well, key workers will be at your disposal this week with drop in advice sessions being held in the following venues:
Thursday 7th June: 12pm-2pm SMALL HEATH LIBRARY Muntz St, Small Heath, B10 9RX
Thursday 7th June: 2pm-4pm SCACA 174-176 Stratford Rd, Sparkhill, B11 1AG
Friday 8th June: 11am-1pm NORTHFIELD LIBRARY Church Rd, Northfield, B31 2LB
Do come along for some informal advice.
We look forward to seeing you all.
Gateway Family Services are offering support to young people between the ages of 16 – 24 years who are not in education, employment or training.
We will be offering courses in Employability and Personal Development, Customer Service and Preparing to Work in Adult Social Care.
We have a key worker service that can offer one to one support with CV building, looking for jobs and finding the right training.
If you are aged 16 – 24 years and live in the Birmingham and Solihull area please call Chelsea Gaffey on 0121 456 7820 for more information.
Karen had been a victim of domestic abuse and as a result had been living in women’s refuges in and around Birmingham. Now that she was settled she wanted to carry on with a job in the care industry as this is what she used to do.
Key Worker Rachel, supported Karen to create a CV and an email address. Karen wanted to do a counselling course and an NVQ in Advice and Guidance as she already had an NVQ in Care. Karen knew that she would need to do some voluntary work to gain more experience. Rachel gave Karen some ideas of organisations that she may be able to volunteer with. Karen made contact with them and one organisation invited her to an interview. Rachel downloaded the company’s volunteer handbook and worked with Karen on her interview skills and techniques.
Karen attended the interview and found out that she was successful four days later.
This is a great opportunity for Karen as she will receive training and gain valuable experience as well as getting a reference for any future applications she makes.
*Names have been changed.