After six years with Gateway, Pregnancy Outreach Worker (POW) Catherine Lennon is leaving to live with her family in Ireland. So we asked her to reflect on her time with us.
Over her time as a POW, Catherine has worked mainly in Washwood Heath, Northfield and Bordesley Green – three very diverse areas of the city.
“I’ve learnt a lot about different cultures from my work here,” said Catherine. “Going into people’s homes to work with them gives you a real insight. And although we’re Pregnancy Outreach Workers, it’s not just one field that we cover; there’s domestic violence, drug use, mental health… I’ve learnt to be prepared for anything.
“More importantly for me, though, I’ve got a broader outlook about what’s going on in the world generally. I question things more now. I’ve learnt about the influence that political decisions have on everyone, and I’ve seen first hand the impact that things like welfare reforms have on the most vulnerable people.
Catherine said, “I remember everyone I’ve worked with, of course, but some have been particularly memorable.
“Leanne had a lot of issues, but more than anything she needed someone to help her organise her time. She had a Probation Officer, a Social Worker and a Drugs Counsellor, all of whom needed to see her frequently and at set times, plus her ante natal appointments… She wanted to take advantage of the help she was being offered, but she had so many appointments it was difficult to keep track. So I helped her get organised and, more often than not, took her along to the appointments myself, in the car – if I didn’t take her she wouldn’t have been able to attend.
“We find this a lot – people are told to go to endless appointments, but they don’t have the money or the transport to get there.
“At one point, Leanne was living in a hostel in Handsworth but was offered a council property in Kitts Green (approximately 10 miles away – about an hour and a half by public transport), so I took her to view the property. If she hadn’t turned up, she would have been taken off the housing list, which would have been catastrophic for her and her baby.”
Michelle Bluck was Catherine’s manager during the time she was seeing Leanne. Michelle says “Catherine really turned things around for Leanne . She ended up keeping her baby – she was deemed to be a fit parent – and Catherine’s intervention played a big part in that. She’s naturally compassionate, but she’s also firm but fair, and she’ll go the extra mile if it means she can empower people.”
Catherine continued, “Despite her difficult background Leanne is a funny, articulate woman. I hope I helped her to harness those strengths. She’s also a talented artist, so I tried to encourage that, too, to give her confidence in herself. And she did become more self-confident and independent. The outcome was that she got to keep her baby and I hear they’re still doing OK.
“Of all the clients I ever had, Leanne is the one I spent most time with. Time, of course, is the thing a lot of the other professionals just don’t have.”
Working at Gateway
Catherine said, “I will miss the people I work with. My colleagues are great … although lots of POWs underestimate their abilities and the impact they have. Sometimes it takes you to stop and reflect like I am now to actually see that.
“It’s a small team, but we make a big impact and that’s a lot to do with us being very supportive to each other. The managers I’ve had have been really supportive, too, even with issues outside of work. I could talk to Michelle about anything and she was there for me at difficult times. You don’t forget that.”
Catherine’s current manager, Caroline, said, “Catherine’s departure will leave a hole. She’s great for the team because she’s good at giving a different angle on things, and colleagues and clients alike really look up to her. She’s someone who just gets on and does things. She will definitely be missed.”
Finally, here’s a video we took of Catherine last year, putting together a hamper for a new mum who’d been having a particularly difficult time.