Author: Jane Piggott-Smith

Love Your Neighbour – taking part in a “Week of Kindness”

Last week the Love Your Neighbour campaign held a Week of Kindness, encouraging people across the city to plan small acts of kindness towards others in their neighbourhood.

We’ve been involved in Love Your Neighbour since its launch in the summer, and we loved the idea of a Week of Kindness, so we had a vote in the office and came up with two events. On Wednesday, Managers Jane and Michelle, together with Health Trainer Wayne and volunteer Caroline, visited a local hostel with some little gifts to give to people; and on Friday, a group of staff went out into the streets around the Gateway office to hand out hot drinks and snacks to anyone who wanted them.

Wednesday: chocs and chats at a local hostel

Michelle with hostel visitorWednesday’s visit to the homeless centre was really interesting. It’s a place we have quite a lot of contact with anyway, as we often work with people who have housing issues, but despite our experience there were still some surprises – not least the varied mix of people who were at the centre: from single mums with children, to married couples, older single women and a lot of non-English-speaking residents who hadn’t been in the country very long and were new to Birmingham.

Wayne with hostel visitorIt’s important for us to have an up-to-date knowledge of the issues that people in Birmingham are facing, so that we can adapt the services we offer and respond to need as quickly and usefully as possible. So it was really good to spend some time with staff and visitors to the hostel, and have a proper chat over a cuppa.

What’s more, we were also able to offer direct support to some of the people we met. Despite their stressful experiences, seven people who’d dropped in that day signed up with Wayne to receive one-to-one support from a Gateway Health Trainer, which is great.

Friday: hot drinks and help at Five Ways

On Friday a larger group of staff went out for our second Week of Kindness event, taking hot drinks and snacks to give out on the streets around our office. We’ve noticed an increasing number of people sleeping rough recently so we also took some gloves, hats, socks, scarves and a couple of blankets in case we met people who might need them.

CxjH24pWIAAhMHcOne of the people we met was a man called Keith who had slept rough the night before, so we got chatting about the options available to him. Thanks to our staff’s knowledge of services in the area, we were able to tell him about the cold weather provision at the William Booth Centre in town.

After spending some time in the underpasses at Five Ways we moved on to a very busy spot outside Morrisons. The weather was freezing so it was good to be able to offer passers-by some hot drinks! Thanks to all the staff who took part.

The Love Your Neighbour campaign

Anyone and everyone can get involved with Love Your Neighbour. In fact, that’s exactly what it relies on. The idea is just to start thinking about getting to know the people around us a bit better, with the hope that it might help to combat loneliness and prejudice.

The Love Your Neighbour campaign says,

Over many generations people have made the UK their home, built it up and found they can belong here. But we cannot take our diversity for granted. It is no use sharing a street or a suburb with people from different backgrounds if we do not know them. Loneliness is at epidemic levels, prejudice threatens to pull communities apart.

We cannot love our neighbour if we do not know our neighbour, understand them, their culture and identity. We all need to build friendships that cement our society together, crossing differences that can become barriers such as age, social background, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and faith – working for peace alongside all people of goodwill.

Love Your Neighbour started in Birmingham, but we’re glad to see it’s starting to spread across the country. It’s a simple message but a very positive one… something we all need at the moment!

Six months of Solihull success!

Our newest service, Solihull Lighten Up, has now been running for six months and we’re very pleased to report some early successes!

  • In the last six months, 98 clients have lost a total of 610.9kg, or 96st 9lbs
  • A total of 77 people have been to Slimming World thanks to Solihull Lighten Up, and 70 to Weight Watchers
  • 21 people have been referred to our Dietitian Lorrain, and 28 to our Behaviour Change Advisor, Vicki

How does it work?

Vicki and Lorrain (on the left) at an event at Hobs Moat
Vicki and Lorrain (on the left) at an event at Hobs Moat

Solihull Lighten Up builds on our experience with the Lighten Up service (which closed earlier this year), by offering people across Solihull a wide range of support with weight management.

When someone is initially referred to the service, we find out as much as possible about their lifestyle and what they are hoping to achieve. We provide each person with a tailored plan so that they have the best chance of achieving their goals. Our call centre staff all have behaviour change training, and offer regular phone support to everyone who comes through the service.

As well as offering free access to weight loss groups, the service offers people with slightly more complex needs up to 12 months of one-to-one support. This might include people with learning disabilities, disabled people and their carers, people with mental health issues, people over 40 and recent ex-smokers. Lorrain, our Dietitian and Vicki, our Behaviour Change Advisor, are based at the YouPlus shop in Chelmsley Wood – although they can meet with clients at a range of venues across Solihull, including GP practices and clients’ homes – and work one to one with people to come up with the best plan for them.

Working in partnership with established organisations in the Solihull area, Solihull Lighten Up also refers people on to a range of other services. These include physical activity groups like Reza Dance, Tai Chi, EXTEND and walking groups, but also other health-related activities such as the Cook4Life cookery course.

What our clients say

The best thing about running a service like Solihull Lighten Up is when we hear from people who have benefited from the service. And in the last few months we have already had loads of great feedback from clients. Our Impact Assessment App is full of positive comments about the service, such as:

“Nice to know someone’s looking after your welfare. It makes you proud especially when you have had a good weight loss.”

“It’s made me feel happy and good. It’s nice someone asking me about my weight it gives me that push to help.”

And just this week, Vicki received the following text message:

“Hello Vicki, I have now finished my 12 week programme at WW and have lost a total of 9lbs. So I am very pleased with that. I have sent a letter to Gateway services to say thank you for offering me the weight watchers sessions. Thank you for your help and advice and for the referrals, it has made a big difference to me.”

If you think you might benefit from the Solihull Lighten Up service, give us a call on 0800 599 9880. (You must be over 16 and have a Solihull postcode.)

A happy coincidence

Although it’s wonderful to hear from past clients, most people choose not to get in touch once their support has ended… Which is why this story comes to you as a result of a happy coincidence.

Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS) Manager Justine went to the hairdressers the other day, and found a familiar face working in the salon: Anita, a POWS client she’d met and interviewed on video more than four years ago! Anita remembered Justine and her POW Nasreen fondly, and agreed to do a catchup video which you can see below.

Nasreen 2007
Anita’s POW Nasreen
We don’t often get to find out what happens to the women our POWs support. We just have to hope that the information, connections and moral support we offer gives them enough confidence and resilience to get on in the world independently. So we’re really pleased to hear how Anita’s getting on.

Anita’s story

Anita came to POWS in late 2011, some months after she’d arrived in the UK from Eritrea. She had recently become pregnant and, although she was working, the accommodation she was living in wasn’t suitable to bring up a baby. Not only that, but she wasn’t accessing any of the housing or maternity benefits she was entitled to, because she didn’t know her rights, or understand the system.

Anita’s POW, Nasreen, helped Anita to find out exactly what her rights were, and to start building a social network. Together they applied for better accommodation and the benefits she was entitled to, and Anita started visiting the group parenting sessions that POWS used to run at local community centres.

Anita gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and eventually her POWS support ended. But what happened next? Watch the video below to find out!

Why we’re starting our Christmas collection early this year

hampers2It’s only November but we are already starting to ask for donations for our annual Christmas hampers.

Every year our Pregnancy Outreach Workers (POWS) put together hampers that include essentials – food and baby items – as well as a few extra treats that we hope will help families over the Christmas period. But this year, we’ve started collecting a bit earlier than usual.

To put it simply, this is because we are seeing an increased need for food parcels, foodbank vouchers, and money from our hardship fund.

Justine, who runs the POW service, said, “The amount of hardship money we’ve given out has increased steadily over the last few months. We have also been giving out more vouchers for the Trussell Food Banks this year, in addition to the food that we give out ourselves.”

Traditionally, our POW service has had the largest need for food parcels, but over the last year we have seen an increase in need across all our services, not just POWS. Health Trainers are reporting that more and more of their clients have been in need of basic essentials, and have needed to access our food bank and hardship funds.

These statements were recently made by Health Trainer clients on our Impact Assessment App:

It would be easier for me to get one bus [to the swimming pool, instead of two], because my benefits are being cut back by £120 fortnightly. I have to budget my money carefully. They are stopping my DLA and may put me on PIP. I don’t know how much money I will be getting.


My living conditions are quite bad and I don’t have much money to buy healthy food.

This one is from a Lighten Up client:

I had to give up on the classes, as when money is hard its the last thing you think about.

And worryingly, we’ve found that many of the older people we’ve met through our newest project, Healthy Futures, have significant financial hardship issues too. Despite only having a handful of referrals to date, we can already see that there will be a need to provide food parcels and hardship payments for many of the people who are being referred to us. (Of course this will be as well as helping them to access all the support they are entitled to and signposting them to other agencies who can help.)

How can you help?

For our food bank and baby bank, we are in need of everyday, non-perishable food items and baby essentials. For our Christmas hampers, we like to include some little treats, like toys for baby and sweets or ‘smellies’ for mum. If you think you could donate, you can bring items to us at the Gateway offices, or give us a call on 0121 456 7820 and we can arrange to collect.

  • Tins – beans, soup, custard, peas, beans, fish (tuna, mackerel, pilchards) etc.
  • Rice
  • Flour
  • Herbs and spices
  • Lentils
  • Pasta
  • Pasta sauces/jars of sauce
  • Biscuits
  • Some sweets and chocolate would be nice
  • Clothes – up to twelve months as we have little space to hold them
  • Sanitary towels – the larger “maxi pad” type is better for new mums
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • ‘Smellies’ for mum
  • Shampoo – unopened
  • Body lotion – unopened
  • Newborn nappies
  • Baby wipes
  • Cotton wool
  • Baby bath wash
  • Baby lotion
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Books

We also have an Amazon Wishlist that contains some of the things we would like. (However, please be aware that it’s often cheaper to buy nappies, food and baby essentials in the supermarket!)

POWS are now working across the city

We are pleased to say our Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS) is no longer restricted to certain areas of Birmingham and our outreach workers are now supporting families city-wide.

birmingham-wardsWe have always believed that agencies should be able to refer clients to the POW service based on their needs, rather than their postcode, so this change is a very positive one for us and for potential clients. Working across the whole city means we are no longer excluding vulnerable people because of where they live.

At the same time, we have changed the intake criteria slightly to target our services to where the need is greatest. Every referred client will still speak to a POW initially, but the POW will assess their needs and risks and assign a category first. The most complex cases (Category A) will get ongoing one-to-one support from a POW, and those with fewer risks (Categories B or C) will be signposted to other agencies and offered other means of support, such as a Befriender.

The POW service now covers more than twice as many wards in the city than before, including those where we were previously only working with teens. And we’re already getting positive feedback from our partner services; midwives in South Birmingham, for example, have told us how pleased they are to have the service back in their area. We now need to spread the word to other partners and agencies that we are accepting referrals from all areas.

The stories behind the stats

Many of you told us how much you’d enjoyed reading Amy and Carl’s story in a previous blog post, The stories behind the stats, so we thought we’d post another one this week. Simone is another example of a Category A client – she was homeless and suffering severe levels of financial hardship – but we were only able to offer her this level of support because she lived in a particular area of the city. Now, we can help women like Simone wherever they live.

The story also includes some quotes from Simone herself, because she logged her thoughts on our Impact Assessment App after every appointment.

I helped Simone get back on her feet and keep her baby

Case Study by Khadijah Irving, Pregnancy Outreach Worker

mum-and-babySimone* was referred to POWS as her pregnancy was classed as high risk due to fibroids. At the time of referral, she was living in a hostel after returning from ten months away.

Being out of the country for so long meant that Simone wasn’t entitled to any benefits for three months upon her return. When we first met, she still had a month to wait until she could apply for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA). She had nothing at all, so I gave her a food parcel and £10 from Gateway’s hardship fund.

As soon as she was eligible, Simone applied for JSA and for housing. Three weeks later, she was bidding on properties but still hadn’t received any money.

After accepting a property, Simone was refused Local Welfare Provision (LWP) because she’d failed the Habitual Residency Test. This meant that although she now had a house, she had no way to buy furniture. She was sleeping on a blow-up bed and cooking with a borrowed microwave.

I called local providers but found that the only option for furniture was a Starter Pack from City Mission; however, these cost £100. Simone and I talked about ways in which she might be able to get £100 together – could she borrow £10 from ten friends? – but it wasn’t viable.

Two months after she’d first applied for JSA, Simone’s claim was closed – because she was now seven months pregnant and should be getting Income Support instead. I took Simone to the Children’s Society later that week to get a Hope Fund grant of £150, which she could spend on a Starter Pack for her house.

I spoke to Simone’s Social Worker about her desperate situation; she told me at this point that Simone had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act 12 years ago. I hadn’t been aware of this and, in fact, I hadn’t had any reason to suspect that Simone’s mental health was an issue.

Simone now owed rent arrears of over £600 and Social Services were talking about starting Child Protection proceedings due to her precarious situation, so I gave her a food parcel and another £10 from our hardship fund, and I phoned the Jobcentre to find out what was happening.

At this point, the Income Support claim finally started. It was already weeks late, so I asked them to backdate it.

Once Simone was finally on Income Support, we were able to apply for LWP, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and a Discretionary Housing Payment Claim. A repossession order had now been issued, so I also wrote for a review of rent arrears.

When I chased up the LWP I found that her claim had been refused because she’d failed the Habitual Residency Test. I had to explain that this was old information and she was now in receipt of Income Support, and we reapplied.

When Simone was due to give birth, the Social Worker told me her case would be going to a Child Protection Conference and that she would get in touch with Simone’s ex-husband to find out more about her mental health issues.

I spoke to Simone and she told me she had been taking anti-psychotic medication before pregnancy, and planned to continue afterwards, but she didn’t have a CPN and had not been referred to a specialist nurse during pregnancy.

“The social worker wants to speak to my ex. Not really happy about that as he has nothing to do with this pregnancy, and my mental health issue was long ago. You’ve given me baby things and a cot. That’s the help I need, not going into my past.”

Simone had her baby, a daughter, and was assessed by the mental health team in hospital. The Child Protection Conference was held shortly afterwards and we all agreed the child should be subject to Child Protection while there was a lack of information about mum’s history.

The next day, it was decided that Simone should go to a residential assessment unit. Simone was upset, so I had to explain that her daughter would be taken away if she didn’t go, and that it was for the best. Eventually she agreed.

Simone stayed at the unit for some time. She stopped being angry at not being able to go home with baby, and understood she needed to be under 24 hour observation while everyone made sure they were safe. Meanwhile, the furniture pack had been delivered, so she had furniture to go home to.

“I didn’t want to go to an assessment unit, but you made me understand the consequences if I don’t. Now I’m here it’s OK. I get help with the baby and I get to rest, and it’s only for two weeks.”

However, the Housing Benefit claim hadn’t been received, so the Discretionary Housing Payment claim had been dismissed; it can only be given if there is a live claim. Arrears were now around £1000 so I called them about it and was advised to reapply with a covering letter.

Eventually Simone received all the benefits she was entitled to and the arrears were paid.

“You supported me at the review meeting, I was nervous as I still feel they might take [my daughter] from me but I was very happy to hear all the people saying I was making good progress. I passed the assessment and can stay at home now with [my daughter].”

She continued to do well before being discharged gradually, going home with baby for a couple of nights at a time before moving home permanently.

“I accept I needed help and I’m getting a lot of support now. You’re going to help me so I don’t become isolated in the flat and become ill again.”

POW support ended once other services were in place and I’m happy to hear that Simone and baby are still doing well.

If you or someone you know is pregnant and needs support, please call 0121 456 7820 and ask for the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service, or e-mail

Cuts and some changes for the POW service

It’s been three months since the consultation on Birmingham City Council’s budget proposals for 2015-16 closed and we have been working closely with the Council to decide on the future of the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS).

jacqui, mum and baby
POW Jacqui (left) with a new mum and baby

The good news is that the service has not been decommissioned and POWS are here for another year!

However, the service is going to be subject to cuts of around a third.

Obviously this isn’t great news, but it’s better than it could have been. We’re really pleased to be able to report that Birmingham hasn’t lost this unique service and, although it’s not an outcome we wanted, it’s an outcome we can manage and hopefully build upon.

So how will we manage the cuts?

Well, firstly, we are actively looking for other sources of income. We now have a hole in our budget that we are aiming to fill with other funding.

But if we can’t fill this gap via other means, then we will have to absorb a large cut. Two thirds of the amount of money means we will only be able to work with two thirds of the people we worked with before.

Focusing on the most vulnerable

As part of our discussions with the Council we have talked a lot about the aims of the service, and we agree this would this would seem like the ideal opportunity to focus our work a bit more. We are in total agreement with our commissioners that we need to concentrate our efforts on those clients who need us the most.

We categorise the people we work with based on the risks they disclose when they are referred, so we are already able to identify the most complex cases (we currently call these “Category 4”). This category includes pregnant women who are living in unsuitable or temporary accommodation, who are victims of domestic abuse, who are dependent on drugs or alcohol, or who have recently arrived in the UK with no support. These are the people who need us the most, and the people we most want to work with.

So these clients – the most vulnerable families, who already make up 70% of the people POWS work with – will become our sole focus.

People who don’t fall into this “most vulnerable” category will still get some support, however. Our POWS tap into a wide network, and are particularly skilled at signposting, so although they won’t be able to take them on as clients, they will be able to advise them of other agencies and organisations who can offer specialised support.

A city-wide service?

We understand that the Council wants us to work with those who need it the most, and to target services to where the need is greatest, and that’s what we want too. To do this even more effectively, though, we’d like to broaden the service intake to become city-wide.

Currently, POWS work only within certain areas of Birmingham. If someone doesn’t live in an area we cover, they are unable to access our support. But we believe that agencies should be able to refer clients based on their needs rather than their postcode.

This would allow us to reach more vulnerable people, and for other agencies to be able to refer to us without first having to pore over maps and boundaries (or, as we suspect might currently be the case, to choose not to refer). We’d like to work with troubled families and ex-offenders, for example, but the probation service doesn’t currently refer people into our service. If POWS was a default, citywide option then perhaps they would.

We’re very pleased to hear that BCC want to work with people depending on their needs, rather than which services are available. This is how we have always tried to work and we believe it is better for everyone.

Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the last nine years, particularly those who wrote to support us during the consultation process. We’re looking forward to the future.
POWS 2014

This Girl Can! (But if you need a bit of a nudge, we’re here to help)

Have you seen Sport England’s new campaign to get more women taking part in sport and exercise? It’s called This Girl Can, and we love its attitude:

This Girl Can celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get. They’re here to inspire us to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome.

Research shows that two million fewer women than men in the 14-40 age range regularly participate in sport or exercise – and that, for many women, it’s the fear of being judged by others that puts them off.

This Girl Can keyrings
These girls can! Gateway staff show off their This Girl Can keyrings

Sport England CEO Jennie Price, said: “Before we began this campaign, we looked very carefully at what women were saying about why they felt sport and exercise was not for them.

“Some of the issues, like time and cost, were familiar, but one of the strongest themes was a fear of judgement. Worries about being judged for being the wrong size, not fit enough and not skilled enough came up time and again.

“In This Girl Can we want to tell the real story of women who exercise and play sport. They come in all shapes and sizes and all levels of ability. They have a myriad of reasons for doing what they do.

“If you are wondering if you should join them – or carry on – this campaign says it really doesn’t matter if you are a bit rubbish or completely brilliant, the main thing is that you are a woman and you are doing something, and that deserves to be celebrated.”

We love this campaign. It fits in perfectly with our ethos here at Gateway. It doesn’t matter what you look like or from what position you’re starting, as long as you just do something!

Sport England’s research shows that 75% of women would like to do more, and this is reflected in our client base. So we provide the extra motivation of one-to-one support, whether that’s in person or over the phone, to encourage and boost people’s confidence. Because, as we know, increased confidence usually leads to increased activity.

Starting small, thinking big

One of the things our Health Trainers help people to understand is that exercise takes many forms, and you don’t have to be a “sporty person” to make a start. Most people begin with light exercise at home, or by walking a small amount every day. Some buy a bike (or borrow one from us) and some go swimming or running.

Some need the support of a group. There are a huge amount of classes and groups available now, including those – like Zumba, or Drum n Bounce – that are more like going clubbing than going to the gym! We can even offer group activity for people with mobility problems, or those waiting for or recovering from surgery, since staff have been trained in Extend.

Unsurprisingly, the clients who have started doing exercise – in whatever form they have chosen – tell us they feel loads better for it.

Elisabeth told us:

I wasn’t active at all before I started seeing my health trainer, but now I try to fit in one hour of exercise each day, either a walk, a swim or Tai Chi in the park. This has helped me to lose weight, along with some small changes I have made with my diet. I’m feeling much better as I have more energy.

And Sally said:

My first month was hard but I’m pleased I did what was asked of me. I’ve lost 4 lbs in weight so far! My Health trainer Wayne’s as excited as I was. Thanks for the confidence boost – I needed it.

Watch the This Girl Can video below. We hope it inspires you to get out and jiggle!

Maternal Health Trainers: tailored support for pregnant women

Maternal Health Trainers (L-R) Susan, Vicki and Joy
Maternal Health Trainers (L-R) Susan, Vicki and Joy
You are probably aware of our Health Trainers service, but did you know that it includes a Maternal Health Trainers service, providing tailored support for pregnant women?

Most women who have a Maternal Health Trainer are directed from Maternal Lighten Up, the telephone support service. Those with a BMI of 30 or over are given the choice of three services to work with – Birthfit classes, Slimming World or a Maternal Health Trainer – and Maternal Health Trainers are the most popular option.

Three of our Health Trainers are specifically trained to advise on maternal healthy weight. Vicki Bond explained how her work differs when she’s supporting a pregnant woman:

“The format is generally the same as general Health Trainer support – six appointments, with advice tailored to the individual’s needs – but for maternal clients it’s about managing a healthy weight gain, rather than losing weight. The appointments cover diet, as they usually do, but as well as the government recommendations (“five a day”, etc), we include extra information specific to pregnancy: things to avoid and things to try and include, like foods rich in iron. It’s also particularly important to cover food safety: making sure food is cooked thoroughly, for example.

“Often we find that women have stopped exercising, so we talk about which exercises are safe to do during pregnancy, like swimming. Depending on the trimester we might suggest aquanatal classes, or yoga. We also talk about the benefits of breastfeeding, and how mum’s diet can help baby in the longer term.”

Clients often tell us they feel like they would have gained more weight if they hadn’t been with the service. For most, simply being encouraged to check their weight regularly and do some light exercise makes a big difference. And, after the service has finished, many continue with the routines that they’ve started during pregnancy – like swimming, which is great for mum and baby.

Mumina’s story

When Mumina* joined the service, she said:

This is my third pregnancy and I dont want to get as big as I was with the other two. I put on so much weight I was in pain all the time.

Her Maternal Health Trainer, Joy, worked with her to look at her diet and routines around mealtimes, and to make some small changes. Two months later, Mumina said:

I feel happy. My baby is due in three weeks and since being pregnant I only gained 6kg. I am glad I followed your advice.

Rachel’s story

In the summer of 2013, Rachel worked with a former Maternal Health Trainer, Richard, who helped her to come up with her own healthy eating and exercise plan. She saw the benefits straight away, and found it motivating to keep a diary monitoring her food and activity.

We took this video of Rachel a couple of weeks before her due date and Rachel gave birth to a healthy baby girl in the autumn of 2013. When we last spoke to her she was very pleased to tell us she was wearing her pre-pregnancy trousers again!

*not her real name

POWS: Benefiting Birmingham

Click for full size
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.

Find out more about the 2015-16 budget consultation here, and about
other consultations, including the current Third Sector Strategy consultation, here.