The consultation on Birmingham City Council’s budget proposals for 2015-16, “Responding to the challenge, looking to the future”, closed this week, and the council is now considering the feedback that’s been received.
One of the services that always seems vulnerable to budget cuts is our Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS), so of course we prepared a detailed response as an organisation. We used data collected over the last six months to show how the POWs’ work is aligned with the priorities of the council, the Health and Wellbeing Board, and national guidelines.
However, we were also very keen for other views and comments, from outside the organisation, to be taken on board. So we spoke to current and former clients, as well as colleagues in partner organisations, to raise awareness of the consultation and the ways in which people could respond.
We were delighted to hear that comments were being sent in thick and fast from people who understand, as we do, the unique benefits that the POW service brings to the city.
Some of the comments, like this one from a local foodbank co-ordinator, were forwarded to us:
My name is Helen Pipe and I am the Foodbank co-ordinator at Birmingham Vineyard Church. I am writing to you to say that I believe that Gateway Family services Pregnancy Outreach Team should continue to be maintained. As a church we supply Gateway’s Pregnancy Outreach Workers with Foodbank bags containing food and toiletries for the vulnerable clients that they work with. Many of the pregnant women that they work with are in a crisis situation, with no access to funds and therefore food and provisions. The Pregnancy Outreach Workers play a crucial role in helping families through a difficult time. This a service that needs to continue working in our city.
This comment came in from a former commissioner:
I am saddened to hear of the threat to decommission. The POW service was positively evaluated by B’ham University through a randomised control trial. […] The POW service offer a unique service to women during pregnancy and often gain access to hard to reach families who do not always access professional services. The POW service is able to offer upstream interventions to families and therefore reduce poor downstream outcome.
We have also been very happy to hear how keen our clients and former clients have been to respond to the consultation. Many sent emails and text messages, like the one above, with their thoughts on the POW service and how it had helped them.
Finally, in case you were in any doubt of the ways in which POWs support people every day, here are just two of the women that one POW, Shazia, supported last week. Daba is glad someone can go with her to antenatal classes, and Bolagia is grateful for Shazia’s one-to-one advice about looking after her new baby. It’s obvious that both are becoming more confident and independent thanks to POWS.