We have been working with pregnant women in Birmingham over a number of years. Many have difficult and complicated lives and while we primarily want to support them, we also want to help people understand how systems and services can let them down at times. In particular we want to urge commissioners, policy and decision makers to examine if their services really support people who have greatest need.
The Pregnancy Outreach Worker service is increasingly showing us where there are gaps in services, these gaps lead to exclusion, inequality and injustice. The picture we see is in contrast to the Troubled Families Unit report – which was compiled after talking to 16 families in poverty. This report does not challenge services but does seem to lay blame firmly at the door of the poor.
I reviewed the case of a current client we are working with, her circumstances prompt a number of questions about the way support services are structured :
Jodie was referred to us when she was 14 weeks pregnant, 22 years old, living in a hostel, an unplanned pregnancy, the father unwilling to be involved. Jodie suffers from depression and self-harms, she has debts and is on medication. Her baby is due in December – her life is chaotic.
Jodie was referred to mental health support service by her GP, however she did not turn up for several appointments and so was discharged from their service. She has not seen her named Midwife in 4 months.
Jodie has mental capacity and therefore does not meet the definition of a Vulnerable Adult, which would entitle her to support from Adult Social Care.
Jodie’s baby is unborn and does not have a Social Worker involved – the baby, when it is born, may generate Social Worker involvement.
Jodie has been re-housed but does not have any money for food – she is in receipt of food parcels
Jodie’s chaotic lifestyle did not start when she became pregnant and will not end when the baby is born – It appears that statutory support services will begin when the baby is born and considered at risk or in need. The work we are doing with Jodie is to prepare her for parenting and being able to support a child, but crucially to understand causes of her chaotic life. We are examining the gap with what is available to her and why she is not engaging with services.
We believe that investing time in her may prevent her child becoming at risk or in need. Our aim ultimately is that Jodie and her child will be able to function well as a family unit. – Jodie is one of over 200 pregnant women we are currently supporting in Birmingham
(names have been changed)
Photo by Nina Matthews Photography