Author: Caroline Mackie

Sharing the realities of teenage pregnancy

Who better to tell young people about the realities of teen pregnancy than a group of young parents who have been through it themselves?

Gateway Straight Talking Peer Educators
Some of our Straight Talking Peer Educators with Co-ordinator Caroline (right)

Gateway’s Peer Educators are young people who became parents as teenagers. They visit groups of children and young people – usually in schools – to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE), healthy and unhealthy relationships and the realities and implications of early parenthood.

Peer Educators are trained to work with children and young people, and draw on their personal experiences to help pupils understand the emotional, social, and practical implications of becoming a parent. As well as telling their own stories, they get pupils involved with a range of activities, some of which you can hear about in the video below.

Gateway delivers these programmes across the West Midlands in partnership with Straight Talking Peer Education.

Course content

Straight Talking courses have been independently evaluated to be effective in making students listen to, hear and remember our message.

The teenage pregnancy course is hard hitting, covering the responsibilities of parenting and giving an insight into the realities and challenges of life as a young parent.

To work alongside this – in response to DfE statutory guidance “Keeping Children Safe in Education”, and requests from schools – Straight Talking has developed a supplementary programme that covers child sexual exploitation (CSE), grooming, healthy and unhealthy relationships, sexting, relationship abuse and consent.

Watch the video to meet Peer Educators Che, Cherelle, Casey, Natalie and Cherrie, and find out more about their work in schools across the West Midlands.

What do the schools say?

As part of our RSE day […] Straight Talking provided us with sessions on both Teenage Pregnancy and CSE and sexting and the feedback from our staff and students was fantastic. Students talked about how they felt engaged, spoken to with respect and relevance to them and that they loved the fact that teenage mothers were willing to speak to them about their experiences, this made it really ‘real’ for them.

(Claire Kilroy, Deputy Headteacher, Arena Academy, 2018)

Book now for your school

Think your pupils might benefit from some Straight Talking? Gateway’s Peer Educators would love to help. For more information, or to book a course, email Peer Educator Co-ordinator Caroline, or call 0121 456 7820 and ask for Caroline, Jo, or one of the Peer Educators.

Local pre-diabetes results are influencing national roll out

diabetes testYou may remember we launched a new service at the end of last year, supporting people who have been diagnosed as being “pre-diabetic” (also known as “borderline diabetic” – in other words, they have a high chance of getting Type 2 Diabetes).

This was part of the pilot for a national programme which, it was announced this week, will be rolling out across the UK very soon thanks to the success of courses like ours.

To date, we’ve started 31 courses at 26 GP surgeries across South Birmingham, with another 19 planned for April. We’ve had around 600 referrals so far and we’re very pleased to say we’ve had a 92% retention rate.

Those are the stats, but what do the people who’ve actually been on the pre-diabetes course think about it? Well, we’re delighted to note that the feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive about the course – and their new lifestyles! Just last week we received this email from Elaine with some great news:

I had my blood sugar test done last July and as you know it was 44. Since that time I had been following a healthy diet. Attending your course reinforced my knowledge and reminded me of the hidden sugars. I am pleased to tell you I had a blood test last week and my result was 40 so I celebrated with a hot cross bun. For me I think it was no sugar in tea/coffee, if I had cake or pud I made my own with very little sugar or a sugar substitute, wholemeal/granary bread, wholemeal pasta, porridge with seeds/nuts, very little potato and lots of veg/salad, protein and most meals made from scratch.

Why is this great news? Well, a score of 40 means she’s no longer pre-diabetic!

A diagnosis of pre-diabetes is given when someone’s HbA1c – their level of glycated haemoglobin – is measured at 42 mmol/mol or more (with 48 mmol/mol or over meaning that someone is diabetic). So, at 40 mmol/mol, Elaine is back in the “normal” range.

Congratulations to Elaine and everyone else on the pre-diabetes course who is working hard to become healthier and reduce their chances of a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis.

Tackling pre-diabetes could be a walk in the park!

As well as changing the way you eat, watching out for sugars in food and cutting back on portion sizes, one of the main ways to lower your blood sugar levels and the chances of being diagnosed with diabetes is to do more physical exercise.

walkingOne of the things we try and do at Gateway is to make it as easy as possible for people to do that, by referring people from the course into other services that can support people to do more physical activity.

Gateway Health Trainer Keiran has been running walking groups in South Birmingham for a few years now, and he’s very keen for people with a pre-diabetes diagnosis to join him in taking some gentle physical activity.

Walking is one of the simplest ways to start exercising – it’s free and you can start off however slowly you like! However, many people find motivation difficult. Walking groups are a great way round this, providing incentive, support and even new friends. To find out more about Keiran’s walking groups, ask your GP to refer you to a Gateway Health Trainer.

Record numbers of donated Christmas hampers go out to clients

wrappingWe’ve had loads of donations this year … which is great, because this year we’ve got more clients than ever who are in need and will appreciate a little Christmas present.

We started advertising for donations a bit earlier this year because our services were starting to see more and more people in need of food and basic essentials.

Usually our Pregnancy Outreach Workers (POWs) give hampers to the clients they feel are most in need, but this year – thanks to the amount of food and gifts donated – we’ve been able to open it up. So our POWs have been able to give more freely, and our other services have been able to make up some packages for their clients too.

donationsWe have been surprised and thrilled to see donations coming in from all over the country over the last couple of months. After sharing a link to our blog post on social media, we received one particularly large donation of baby equipment and essentials, via our Amazon Wishlist, all the way from Kent!

Holte School in Lozells has been collecting for us this year, via the Trussell Trust, and they’ve been really generous – we were delighted to receive an amazing 32 boxes of donations from pupils, staff and their families.

The Vineyard Church, who donate food parcels to us regularly throughout the year too, have excelled themselves this Christmas with an especially large number of gift sets, toys and chocolates.

And of course our staff have donated a huge amount to the food and baby bank – not just over the last few weeks, but throughout the year. We don’t ask staff to contribute, but many choose to, and have been extremely generous in giving a little bit extra to the people they and their colleagues work with.

In this video, Justine takes us around the stock room to see what’s been donated.

But where do the donations go?

Our POWs, and for the first time some staff from other services too, have nominated people they support to receive a hamper.

In the video below, some of our staff explain who they’ve chosen and why, as well as giving us a sneaky peek at what they’re putting in the hampers. This year it’s not just POWs, because we’ve also been able to give donations to clients in our Befrienders and Healthy Futures services who are in need.

So many of our clients have had a really tough year this year; we’re very glad we’ve been able to give a little bit more to a few more people. So a big THANK YOU to everyone who donated anything, however small.

Having said that… our clients are in need of food and baby essentials all year round, not just at Christmas. If you’d like to donate, give us a ring on 0121 456 7820 or browse our Amazon wishlist.

Why breast is best – some tips from our breastfeeding experts!

bf-toolkitNext week is World Breastfeeding Week, so for this week’s Friday Story we thought we’d ask our Pregnancy Outreach Workers (POWs) for their expert advice on breastfeeding.

All of our POWs are trained in breastfeeding support as part of Unicef’s Baby Friendly Initiative. A POW will work with a client for around a year altogether, building up the sort of relationship where their practical advice will be welcomed and listened to.

And we know it works: women supported by a Pregnancy Outreach Worker in Birmingham are more likely to breastfeed than the city averages. In the last contract year (April 2014 – March 2015), 76% of POW clients initiated breastfeeding, compared to 75% of new mums in the city overall. More importantly, they’re much more likely to maintain their breastfeeding than other new mums in the city: 62% of our clients continued to breastfeed and were still doing so at 6-8 weeks post birth, compared to a city average of just 43%.

This is even more impressive when you consider that our service is targeted on areas of high deprivation and some of these wards have a significantly lower average in terms of breastfeeding initiation.

Why breast is best!

By Pregnancy Outreach Workers, Khadijah Irving and Tynika Butler.


The main reason breastfeeding is better than bottle feeding is the convenience. It’s just so much easier to breastfeed compared to the hassle of constantly buying and preparing bottles, equipment and formula.

When you wake up in the night, what’s easier?

  • Getting out of bed, going downstairs, boiling the kettle, sterilising a bottle, making up the feed, cooling it down by putting the bottle into two or three changes of cold water… and all the time soothing your crying baby? Or…
  • Simply picking baby up and lying back down in bed to breastfeed?

Breast milk is the best food your baby could possibly have. It is naturally tailored to baby’s needs, right from the first milk you produce (colostrum). It contains all the nutrients baby needs, when it needs them, and your baby will have a much lower risk of illness (gastrointestinal infection, urinary tract infection, constipation, etc) as a result.

The skin to skin contact you get when you breastfeed is really important too. It helps to build a strong physical and emotional bond with your baby.


No competition here. Breast milk is free! Formula milk is about £10 a tin, and then you need to factor in bottles and equipment too.

It’s not widely known, but there’s also a cost at the hospital; if you want to bottle feed, they’ll provide you with disposable sterilised bottles, but you will have to pay for them.

Many of our clients use Healthy Start vouchers, and you can use these to buy powdered formula, but you must take into consideration that you only get £3 of milk tokens. When a tin of formula costs £10, and you have to make up the rest of the money yourself, AND buy the bottles, teats, sterilising stuff, cleaning brushes… it soon adds up.


Here’s a benefit for mum: breastfeeding is good for weight loss! Your stomach will appear flatter quicker because, as you breastfeed, it contracts the womb. You’re also losing up to 500 calories every time you do a feed. You’ll be back in those jeans sooner than you think!

Watch a breastfeeding demo

Finally, here’s a video from another one of our Pregnancy Outreach Workers, Shazia, with some demonstrations of breastfeeding positions and latching-on techniques… with a little help from her knitted “breast”!

A new way to donate: Gateway’s Amazon Wishlist

As you may already know, our Pregnancy Outreach Workers (POWs) give out food parcels and essentials, like nappies and toiletries, to help new mums and their families through particularly tough times.

And now that POWS are working city-wide again, with the most vulnerable clients, we are anticipating an even greater need for “baby bank” items. It’s a bit of an unknown at the moment, as we get used to working in areas where we haven’t been active for the last few years, but we would like to make sure our cupboards are stocked.

We rely on donations from members of the public and from businesses, but it’s not always easy to share with people exactly what we need. So we’ve set up an Amazon wishlist.

Click here to view the Gateway POWS Amazon Wishlist
Click the logo to view the POWS Wishlist

Anyone can buy something for POWS from the wishlist. You choose and pay through Amazon, and it gets delivered directly to us here at the Gateway offices.

You’ll know that what you’re giving is going to be wanted and needed, and you can do it from the comfort of your armchair. (That’s not to say you shouldn’t choose to drop off donations in person if you want to, of course! We really, really appreciate the second hand and homemade baby items that we receive from kind donors!)

It also means that if we identify a need for something in particular, we can add it to the wishlist and communicate that need to our friends and supporters directly.

Why is the baby bank needed?

foodbank2There are lots of reasons that our POW clients find themselves in need of help to tide them over. Most families are on a low income that has stayed low as prices have gone up over the last few years. Many women are eligible for benefits but experience delays in payment, especially during the move from Income Support to Maternity Allowance. Some women are between homes – fleeing domestic abuse, for example, or evicted from the family home. Some have fled their home country to seek asylum and have no recourse to public funds. All are trying to give their babies the best possible start despite their own vulnerability and needs, so a little help goes a long way.

The following statements were all made in just the last two weeks on our Impact Assessment App – so you can see how much the donations are needed and appreciated:

Jackie* said:

You visited with family support worker […] You talked about food parcels and said you will get me parcel from Gateway food bank. We discussed about cooking food as I do not know how to cook so I buy my food from outside, but you and the family support worker will help me how to cook food at home, so this will help me with budgeting.

Alina* said:

You are a angel for me today. I am having very bad pain and have not bought nappies for my baby. You came to my house with the travel cot for my baby, free vouchers and labour information pack from Gateway. You accompanied me to Asda and helped me to save my money when I was buying nappies by giving me good advice to choose better and find the good price nappies and wipes. Many thanks as this was a big favour you did. I saved £7 with your advice. God bless you.

Hayley* said:

You have been a great support but I have to now gain the strength to go at it alone. You have helped me with baby clothes and court letters and other things thank you.

Joanne* said:

You helped me in my emergency, you moved my belongings to my new address and are easy to talk to. You are blessed and I’m lucky to have you working with me. You gave me baby clothes, kitchen utensils and £15.00 to help me [from the POWS hardship fund]. I appreciate you thank you so much. You took me to the Children’s Hospital so I can see my daughter in the neo natal unit.

Claire* said:

Brought me food parcels which I was thankful for. Will refer me to children centre help with parenting course and counselling.

Angie* said:

You gave me enough food to eat for two days. You give me hope and items for me and clothes and toys for my son. You are the only person that helped me with my health and cared to stay with me when I [was ill]. I cannot thank you enough you are so good to me I appreciate it, all the food, and I hope you can help with a place to stay for me and baby.

If you would like to donate via our Amazon Wishlist, click here to view the wishlist, then choose and buy via the Amazon website. Make sure you choose Gateway POWS as the delivery address.

If you have any baby clothes or other items that you’d like to give us in person, we’d be very grateful for those too. Phone 0121 456 7820 and we can arrange a collection, or you can drop them at our offices any time during working hours.