Author: Sue Beardsmore

Starting up a charity – with help from Gateway

19 year old Francis from Northfield in Birmingham has founded his own charity with the help of Susan Bernard from Gateway Family Services.

One in five young people is now without a job. So it’s tough to find work or even work-experience.  It’s especially tough to find work you really want to do, but with the help of  Gateway Family Services one young man is beginning to make a dream come true – a dream he didn’t even know he had.  Six months ago he didn’t have a job – now he’s started his own charity.

Last summer Francis left University without knowing what to do next. He was struggling to find full time work and couldn’t see much hope for the future.

He heard about one of our ‘Back to Work’ events, he wasn’t sure it was for him, but went along anyway and met Susan Bernard. Susan is a Gateway Family Services Key Worker, funded by the Big Lottery. Her role is to advise and support people to get the skills they need to find work – and that’s what she did for Francis.

He’d got some ideas about voluntary work with young people and children; he loved football, and he’d heard about a charity in the Cameroon that was helping young people through the sport. He wanted to get involved, he wanted to help. Then he had an idea of setting up his own charity to work with the one in Cameroon – but didn’t know where to start.

But Susan did.  With her local knowledge and contacts, Francis found the right people to talk to; he got the right experience and the right help. From first aid qualifications to business advice. So, with Susan’s encouragement and support he set up his own charity. Based on the principles of ‘Football4Action’ it’s called ‘Rural Development Centre UK’ or RUDEC UK, and it aims to equip young people in Cameroon with the skills to make a difference to their local community and a difference to their own future.

Francis has found more support, from two other charities – Edward’s Trust and Acorns, and from Waitrose in Harborne – and Susan is still supporting him too.  In June he will be making his first trip to Cameroon to see at first hand the challenge for his charity.

So – in a few short months, a young man who didn’t know what to do has found the direction he wants to take with the help of Susan and Gateway Family Services.


‘No food for a week’ – support from Gateway

Our pregnancy outreach workers find themselves doing remarkably simple things to help women get the help they need for a healthy pregnancy.

Here Lynette is loading up her car with food donated by friends, relatives and staff at Gateway.  This is common because we often find women who can’t afford to buy basic food.

We’re not alone in doing this. Food Banks are becoming more common.   Fare Share is a national food bank charity which has a depot in Nechells – handing out food parcels. In  September the National Lottery granted £425,000 to a the Narthex group in Sparkhill

A Big Lottery award of £425,000 to the charity Narthex Sparkhill sees a commitment to opening and running a five-year funded food bank in Sparkhill.  The National Lottery, through the Big Lottery Fund, has made this grant to Narthex which will enable them to expand the work they are already doing amongst some of the most needy people in the city.

Sparkhill food bank project will address the needs of the most vulnerable within the community including people placed in sudden financial crisis due to change in personal circumstances leading to financial hardship and in some case destitution or homelessness.

Like us, the Ladywood Food Bank relies on donations from the public for its work across the constituency, plus donations from Tesco’s Morrisons, Sainsbury’s Cost-Co, Asda, Aldi, Farm Foods and other businesses.

Food is fundamental and the pregnancy outreach workers provide a critical link – they know when women are short of food and make sure they get the help they need.

Gateways skills training and apprenticeships offer employment opportunities

We work in areas where unemployment is well over 10%. There are over 1.2 million unemployed young people aged between 16 and 24 in the country as a whole and in our region there are 178,000 workless people, and 208,000 working age people with no qualifications at all.  For people without qualifications or experience, finding work is more than tough. Training and employment opportunities are really important, and we work to provide them.

Some of the people who’ve tried our courses talk about their experience.

We help give local people the skills they need to find work, and whenever we can we recruit local people to work in their local area.  They help others to live healthy lives, at the same time they have the chance to work. Training in skills for employment and apprenticeship schemes provide more opportunities to overcome barriers to employment.


Pregnancy Outreach Workers improve babies’ chances

Attacking high infant mortality rates in deprived areas is a complex issue.  There can be practical and emotional problems that prevent women getting the help they need from the services that are available.  Jackie James talks about what she does and  how Pregnancy Outreach Workers bridge the gap between the women who need support and the agencies that can provide it.

Read more

Pregnancy Outreach Workers succeed in helping hard to reach young mums.

Gateway’s Pregnancy Outreach workers offer one to one practical and emotional support. They make sure vulnerable women access all the services and help available, resulting in healthier mothers and healthier babies who can be hard to reach. This is a typical case.

After Alison* found she was pregnant she was referred to the POW service because she was a teenager, she smoked and her housing was far from ideal.

She was very frank about her lifestyle, and her difficult childhood. She said she’d self-harmed while she was still at school, and that she’d used cannabis and cocaine ‘to forget’. Although she said she’d given up cocaine, she said she still used cannabis quite heavily.

It was clear Alison needed emotional support and practical advice. A Gateway POW helped her to access all the services and grants she was eligible for, and told her how she could reduce her intake of cannabis. A ‘Stop Smoking Clinic’ was suggested.

Alison said she’d rather try and give up by herself, that she’d cut down from 25 to 5 cigarettes a day and only used cannabis once in the evening.

Alison shared her fears around parenting and her doubts about being a good mother. The outreach worker tried to give her confidence and practical support, then, three months before she gave birth, Social Services got in touch with her. They said they’d been contacted about her cannabis use. She was really worried, but was given reassurance and told to be open and honest with the social worker when they visited.

Alison went to a support group at her local children’s centre and Gateway’s outreach worker visited her at home until she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

On the day she left hospital, Alison  was again visited at home by Social Workers. They drew up a 6 week care agreement with her and said if they had no cause for concern at the end of it, they would close her case. She followed the care agreement, and when the 6 weeks were up the social workers were satisfied. She continued to breastfeed, and said that after her daughter was born she didn’t use cannabis at all.

With support, Alison made a distinct change in her attitude to life. She now plans to devote herself to her baby’s early years, and then commit to full time study for a career in childcare. Alison said she considered the POW her ‘pal’, and said the help and support she got made a real difference.

*not her real name.

Gateway Family Services Awarded Social Enterprise Mark

Gateway Family Services

Gateway Family Services has been awarded the Social Enterprise Mark in recognition of the work it does to help people overcome barriers to learning, employment and access to community healthcare.

There are 400 markholders across the UK – and it isn’t given lightly. It shows that a company is committed to social or environmental objectives, and can be trusted.

Vicki Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, is delighted with the award. For her, it is one more proof that Gateway’s work contributes to eliminating the causes of deprivation.

“Service users arrive here unprepared for the workplace but we enable them to become work-ready and qualified; some even leave their training already employed. We aim to reduce inequality by bridging gaps in public service delivery and working in partnership with the NHS and local authority. Gateway creates specific job roles to address deprivation, such as our Pregnancy Outreach Workers”, she says.

The Social Enterprise Mark will give Gateway a competitive edge and it will also be used to promote the social enterprise movement in general. For the company it will be an opportunity to demonstrate that what it does, and its profits help communities in the long term.

Gateway Pregnancy Outreach Workers help 4000 women


Gateway Family Services Pregnancy Outreach Worker

In areas of Birmingham where babies are at high risk, our outreach workers are making a real difference. The sooner a pregnant woman is seen by health professionals the better – but there are many reasons why they don’t make that vital first appointment.  Travel problems, anxiety about dealing with doctors, childcare arrangements, and language issues are just some of the reasons they given – but they’re reasons our outreach workers can help with.

POWs primarily support pregnant women with a low medical risk and high social risk. Our POWs have real life experience of issues that can affect these women because they have a real good understanding of their local communities – that’s where we recruit them from and their experience is more important than any qualifications.

They’ve been offering home-based, practical support – and sometimes they just listen, but their work improves the life chances of newborn babies.