Category: Hard to Reach

People who may have significant barriers to accessing services, reluctance to use them.

Getting the full picture to offer full support

Across Birmingham, the city’s Early Help system is still giving thousands of families and children vital help and support. Below, you can read the story of just one of those families.

What is Early Help?

Originally set up by Birmingham Children’s Partnership as part of their COVID-19 response, the Early Help system allows teachers, social workers, housing workers (and others) to refer families and young adults to one of ten specialist teams based across the city. These Early Help teams work with families to find out what they need, and then give them extra support, including emergency food and financial help.

In Edgbaston, where many families are living in temporary accommodation, including hotels, the Early Help service is led by Gateway Family Services. We have worked with nearly 400 families since the service began last year, providing food parcels, emergency funds, and connections to local services that can offer longer term help.

Case study: the Maier family*

The Maier family were referred to Early Help Edgbaston by a Barnado’s housing worker in the summer of 2021. Dad Denis, mum Maria and their teenage son Stefan* were living in temporary accommodation – a single room at a hotel – and although they were receiving help from Barnado’s, the housing worker felt that they needed further support.

The referral indicated that the family’s status is ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF), meaning that they are subject to immigration control and can’t claim any mainstream benefits or housing help. The housing worker had also mentioned they were short of food, and that there were health issues, although it wasn’t clear at first what this meant.

A member of the Early Help team called the family to find out more and, although Denis had very limited English, they managed to get a better picture of what was happening.

Denis explained that he had moved to the UK from Romania a couple of years ago. Upon arrival, he had successfully applied for a National Insurance Number and started working at construction sites, and was joined by wife Maria and 18-year-old Stefan at the start of 2021. He also mentioned that Stefan is disabled and that Maria looks after him at home.

However, soon after the family’s arrival, things had taken a turn for the worse.

Denis’s National Insurance number had been used by someone else illegally, and this, combined with the language barrier, made it very difficult to apply for settled status. Having missed their chance, the family were left with No Recourse to Public Funds.

What’s more, Denis had been injured, meaning he was no longer able to work, and Maria was now caring for both her son and her husband. During the conversation, Denis expressed a lot of concern for his wife and mentioned that she was suffering from back pain. It took some digging before we realised that Stefan is severely physically disabled, but didn’t have a wheelchair. Maria had been carrying him around the hotel room.

The Early Help Edgbaston team jumped into action, making referrals to various health services for Denis and Maria, and to the council’s Occupational Health service for Stefan so that he could be assessed for a wheelchair. They also referred Denis to the Community Law Centre for support with his legal challenge for National Insurance fraud. Finally, they arranged food parcels and some emergency funds. At this stage, the family felt they were getting all they help they needed so, with their consent, the case was closed.

In September, however, the Maiers were re-referred, this time by someone from the Big Issue legal support team. Although Denis is making a legal appeal, with help from the Central Law Society, the family still needs a bit more help. So Early Help Edgbaston is now working with local charity Karis to deliver a joined-up community support package. Early Help Edgbaston is part of Gateway Family Services, which has a family support worker and access to interpreters, who will help build a much clearer assessment of the family’s needs. Together, they will help the Maiers to access further help with housing and finance, as well as linking in with existing GP support.

More information

If you are a family in need of support, or an organisation helping families in the Edgbaston locality, please visit the Early Help Edgbaston pages on our website, call Early Help Edgbaston on 0121 456 7821 or email earlyhelpedgbaston@gatewayfs.org to talk to our team.

*All the family’s names have been changed

Social Prescribing case study: Kurdish connections

Throughout the pandemic, our Social Prescribing Link Workers have continued to support people – usually patients referred by their GP – with social or other non-medical issues. This is the latest in a series of blog posts highlighting their work; you can read more Link Worker case studies here.

The job of the Link Workers is to help people make connections: to help them navigate the city’s statutory services, to put them in touch with specialist advice and support, and to suggest groups and other activities that might help them improve their health and wellbeing. If a Link Worker can’t help, they will know someone who can!

Osman (not his real name), a Kurdish man living in Birmingham, knew what he needed – but had so far been unable to navigate the system, or even communicate his needs to his GP fully, due to the language barrier.

Creating confidence and connections: Osman’s story

“Osman” was referred to the Social Prescribing service by his GP surgery. However, although he had multiple needs, he doesn’t speak English, so wasn’t able to communicate them in detail.

He was allocated to Sadaf (pictured), a Link Worker based in Small Heath. The first thing Sadaf did was to contact a local interpreting agency that specialises in patient liaison.

During a three-way call with Sadaf, Osman and a Kurdish interpreter, Osman told Sadaf he had three main issues.

Firstly, problems with his physical health mean that Osman has difficulty with steps and using the bathroom at home. He asked how to access equipment to help him get around the house. This was clearly Osman’s most urgent issue. He said that his physical problems affect his mental health, which impacts his day-to-day life, and described feeling stripped of his independence.

Sadaf explained that Osman would need to be assessed by the Council’s Occupational Therapy department to find out if he was eligible for equipment. For this to happen, he would need to be referred, and he readily agreed to this.

Next, he said he was struggling to keep up gas and electricity payments. He told Sadaf he would like to change to a pre-paid meter but, because of the language barrier, he felt unable to call the utilities company to arrange it. This, too, was causing him a lot of concern.

Sadaf assured Osman that all the utilities companies have interpreters, and that they would be pleased to help him. He was reassured and said he felt a lot more confident about calling them.

Finally, Osman said he wanted to find a solicitor to help him with a medical negligence case. He reiterated that his physical health was at the core of his problems, and explained that it had deteriorated during a hospital admission. He felt he had not been medicated correctly during his stay, and that this had left him immobile. PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) had recommended seeking legal advice, but he had been unable to find a solicitor himself.

Sadaf explained that Link Workers cannot give legal advice or recommendations, but said she would try and connect him to a Kurdish community service that can.

After the phonecall, Sadaf made the referral to Occupational Therapy, and then began the search for more specific help. However, after hours of online research and phonecalls, she found that support for the Kurdish community in Birmingham is limited. Instead, a Community Connector at Family Action, which works with hundreds of groups and services, said they would work with Osman in the longer term to arrange further support that would help with his claim.

Occupational Therapy have since contacted Osman and, although his referral has been received, there is a backlog due to the pandemic. He will be assessed, but it could take a while.

Despite the setbacks, Osman has told Sadaf he is already feeling happier because someone reached out to him and offered to work through issues together. Although he understands that it will be a lengthy process, and that this is just the start of his journey, the reassurance and guidance that Sadaf was able to give him has already helped a lot.

Edgbaston NNS and Early Help Edgbaston – Focus on Assets: Love Your Neighbour

The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme newsletter goes out to members every two months, and we’re delighted to report that it now includes the latest news from ENNS’s sister service, Early Help Edgbaston.

Early Help is the Birmingham Children’s Partnership model of connected support for families and children across Birmingham. In Edgbaston, this work is led by Gateway Family Services, and so the team naturally works closely with the Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme.

In each edition of the ENNS newsletter, we showcase great community assets within the Edgbaston constituency. So for this issue, we asked the Early Help team to get involved – and they told us all about the Love Your Neighbour food bank.

Love Your Neighbour helps Early Help Edgbaston to reach more families

By Marc Baggott, Edgbaston Early Help Coordinator

Love Your Neighbour, part of Gas Street Church, started out as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. I asked Martha Goshawk, the Love Your Neighbour Co-ordinator, to explain how the project started.

“As a church we wanted to play our part in our local community and provide practical support,” Martha says. “We started small; delivering emergency food parcels and providing a telephone befriending service. Since then we have grown and expanded our work and reach and now run a foodbank, provide a financial advocacy service, have opened a CAP Debt Centre and CAP Job Club and work with children and families. We’re also just about to open our food pantry called The Community Shop, and a new cafe and soft play centre. In all we do, we want to bring light and hope to the city and that’s what Love Your Neighbour is all about.”

I first learnt about the Love Your Neighbour Foodbank just after Christmas. The start of the new year is when lots of Early Help clients have food needs, partly because families tend to spend what little they have at Christmas, but mainly because support services are reduced over the holiday period. I met Martha at the Food Justice Network meeting, and she helped Edgbaston Early Help to register so that we could distribute food parcels through their food bank.

Since then, we have come to rely on Love Your Neighbour and the Gas Street St. Luke’s team. As well as helping us to meet the most urgent needs – distributing food to families living in temporary accommodation in Edgbaston and Harborne – we have been able to expand on our collaborative work by helping to deliver Family Fun Sessions directly to families.

Martha explains, “Recently we’ve loved going into the Cobden Hotel and running craft sessions for children and families currently living there. From painting and bracelet making, to making vast quantities of slime and hundreds of biscuits, we’ve loved getting to know people, spread the word about Love Your Neighbour and just having fun! One girl described it as “the best day ever” and we couldn’t ask for a better report than that!”

I totally agree with Martha that the craft activities were very impactful – the families were engaged and happy to be part of something. It’s a great example of how we can build on our connections to reach more families and provide wider support. I hope Early Help can continue to work with Martha and the team on future projects.

For more information about the Love Your Neighbour project, visit the Gas Street Church website.

If you’d like to subscribe to the Edgbaston NNS and Early Help newsletter, and get it straight to your inbox every two months, simply fill in your details on the newsletter signup page.

Helping a family in crisis to build a new life

Early Help Edgbaston Community Connectors Adwoa and Justin with Link Worker Abeda
After last week’s post about the Early Help team’s hard work over Christmas, we thought we’d share the story of one of the many Edgbaston families they’ve been supporting.

The Early Help system was set up by Birmingham Children’s Partnership as part of their COVID-19 response. Ten Early Help teams — one in each of Birmingham’s ten ‘localities’ — co-ordinate help for families and children across Birmingham. Gateway Family Services co-ordinates the Early Help response in Edgbaston.

Since then, Early Help Edgbaston has directly supported over 340 families, providing them with emergency food and financial support, and connecting them to Edgbaston’s local services.

“Tanya” (not her real name) was one of the first people to access support.

Tanya’s Story

In May 2020, Tanya* was given the number for Early Help Edgbaston by a member of staff at her children’s school, who felt the family needed extra support. When she called, she told Gateway’s Early Help Co-ordinator Marc that she had left her partner due to domestic abuse, and that she and her five children were now living in a hostel.

After listening to Tanya’s concerns, Marc began to connect her to local services which could support the family. First, he contacted The Active Wellbeing Society to start getting regular food parcels delivered to them. He also referred Tanya to the Karis Neighbour Scheme, which runs a baby bank. The charity provided Tanya with nappies, baby clothes and wipes to help her care for her two youngest children.

Toiletries, clothes, mobile data… and a place to live

A week later, Marc called Tanya again to see what other help she needed, and she explained she was finding it difficult to afford some essentials. As well as toiletries and children’s clothes, she also needed mobile data so that she could contact friends, family and other support from home during the lockdown.

So Marc contacted the The Active Wellbeing Society again and arranged for the family to receive some clothes from their ‘Wear and Share’ project. He also put together an application for a small amount of money from the Birmingham Children’s Partnership Resilience Fund, which Tanya could put towards data.

With some of her anxieties now reduced, Tanya was able to focus on finding a more permanent housing solution. With the help of her Social Worker and Birmingham’s Housing teams, the family were able to move into semi-permanent accommodation within a couple of months.

A happier Christmas

Although the family was now living in a different area, Tanya’s Social Worker and the Early Help Co-ordinator for that locality stayed in touch with the Early Help Edgbaston team to keep them updated.

In December Marc learned that, although the family was doing better, it was unlikely that Tanya would be able to afford Christmas dinner or any presents for the children. He therefore arranged for Tanya to be included in Gateway’s Christmas Campaign – a series of events to support families over the holidays.

Each family hamper filled the boot of Marc’s car
With support from Tesco, who donated food, and a toy drive co-ordinated by InUnity and Birmingham Forward Steps, Early Help Edgbaston was able to give Tanya and her family a Christmas hamper, which included a Christmas dinner, a board game and some toys for the children. When Tanya saw how much was in the hamper she seemed shocked and very grateful.

The Early Help Edgbaston team was able to support Tanya’s family through a crisis by connecting her to local services and giving her specific, practical help. Now, with fewer worries about their basic essentials, she is able to start building a new life for herself and her children.

*Tanya’s name has been changed

More information

If you are a family in need of support, or an organisation helping families during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Early Help Edgbaston pages on our website, call Early Help Edgbaston on 0121 456 7821 or email earlyhelpedgbaston@gatewayfs.org to talk to our team.

Edgbaston Early Help Scheme: Food for a family in crisis

Because of the Covid-19 crisis, Birmingham Children’s Partnership has accelerated their plans for “Early Help”, a new model of connected services and communities to help families across the city.

It means that families and children who need emergency help during the crisis can get it in a timely way, from a network that includes schools, health services, the local authority, and voluntary and community organisations.

In the Edgbaston area, the Early Help response is being co-ordinated by Gateway. Programme Co-ordinator Marc has been seconded to lead the project, and is already working closely with schools and children’s centres in the area to provide support for dozens of families.

We have found that even those families who were previously doing well are starting to struggle now, due to the impact the crisis is having on income and health, but the Early Help scheme is designed to make sure schools and children’s centres can refer families in and get them the help they need as soon as possible.

Here, Marc tells us about a family he supported a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fairly typical example of how the scheme works and how the joined-up model is providing urgent essential support.

Food for a family in crisis

By Marc Baggott

Marc Baggott
Marc, who is usually our Straight Talking Peer Education co-ordinator is now leading the Edgbaston Early Help work.

On Wednesday 6th May I had a call from Sarah*, a Designated Safeguarding Lead at a local secondary school, with concerns about a family.

She explained that two of the teenagers she works with are currently living in temporary accommodation with their dad after being made homeless. Their dad Jason* is a single parent and, although he usually works, he had been off sick for three weeks with Covid-19. Because he holds a zero-hours contract, hadn’t been paid for his time off sick, so they had no money coming in.

Sarah had contacted Edgbaston Early Help because she could see Jason was struggling, and was worried the family was low on food.

After speaking to Sarah, I phoned Jason to find out more and we talked in depth about the support he needed. His main concern was their lack of food, but he also highlighted that they were unable to do any cooking at the hotel – although there are some shared cooking facilities, they are dirty, and utensils and equipment go missing.

The first thing I did was to contact St Germain’s Church in Edgbaston, which offers freshly prepared hot dinners on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It meant that Jason and his children wouldn’t go hungry that evening.

The following day, after some more research, I referred Jason to the Four Dwellings Foodbank; usually it opens on Fridays but because of the bank holiday it was open a day early that week. Jason would be able to visit the foodbank himself that day and pick up food for the whole family.

The lack of cooking facilities at their accommodation was still an issue, though. Even if Jason had food, there was no guarantee they would be able to prepare a meal. So I made an application to the COVID-19 resilience fund for £75, through BVSC, and helped him find a microwave and some tupperware storage containers within his price range.

That afternoon, I received a call from Jason thanking me for all the support he had received. He said that the support really helped him when he was struggling, and that the food and microwave meant that his children could now cook snacks and a lunch when they needed it. He sounded over the moon.

I asked if there was anything else they need, but Jason said they were OK now they had food. I have told him I’ll be back in touch in a few weeks’ time to see how the family are getting on and to check they have access to the things they need.

*Sarah and Jason’s names have been changed.

Working together to provide a ‘lifeline’

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and we thought we’d mark it with a story from one of our Social Prescribing Link Workers, Becky (pictured).

Becky is one of 15 Link Workers employed by Gateway in partnership with SDSmyhealthcare and The North Solihull Collaborative. Each one is attached to a PCN (a group of GP surgeries) and, in ‘normal’ times, would be working from surgeries to provide support to patients at face-to-face appointments. Link Workers are there to help with people’s social, rather than clinical, needs: listening, understanding, and connecting people to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support. Currently, all of their support is done over the phone or via video calls.

Last week, Becky told us about Brian*. We thought that the story, although sad, was a reminder that “support” can be as simple as being there for someone, and noticing if they go quiet. It’s also a really good example of the importance of good relationships between our Link Workers, local community groups, and the patient’s GP.

Brian says Social Prescribers have been a ‘lifeline’

By Becky Cuthbert, Social Prescribing Link Worker

More than six weeks into lockdown, and it’s starting to take its toll. We are all feeling it and so are the patients I’ve been supporting.

I had been phoning one patient, Brian, every other day, but one day I just couldn’t get him to answer. This was a cause for concern because during previous conversations Brian had gone into a lot of detail, sharing his mental health struggles over the years, previous suicidal thoughts, chronic anxiety, drug use, insomnia and what he described as his ‘mental breakdowns’. Why wasn’t he picking up, or messaging me? What if he was relapsing?

I phoned a contact from the local art-based social prescribing group who had referred Brian to Gateway’s Social Prescribing service. She had not been able to get hold of him either and had similar concerns. This confirmed that it was time to get in touch with his GP and ask them to do some follow up.

I’m grateful that, of the various practices I work with, Brian belongs to a surgery where the Practice Manager and GPs understand my role and value Social Prescribing’s contribution to holistic care. I emailed the Practice Manager and the Clinical Lead about the safeguarding concerns I had.

The next day I received a reply letting me know that they’d been able to contact Brian. He had apologised for the lack of contact and shared that he had been retreating into himself more and more, telling the GP that my colleague (from the art project) and I have been ‘lifelines’ for him recently.

Brian has decided that he needs more support for his mental health and the GP is now working that through with him.

This shows our system working and joining up to provide a safety net. Most importantly, Brian knows he is cared for and that he hasn’t been forgotten – and that means a lot for his mental health.

Since then, Brian has texted and had a long call with me. He says, ‘you don’t know what it means that you care and that you notice’.

It is wonderful to contribute to a very caring, human network of care. Brian can see that I work closely with other partners and with his GP, and that we have a high level of trust and a shared vision between us: a ‘community of care’. I believe that our patients can perceive this and it all helps convey the important message, ‘you matter’. We are not claiming that a few phone calls are enough to bring full health and wholeness to Brian’s complex mental health issues, but they could have been enough to prevent deterioration, and been the start of him getting more help. Like he said, it’s a ‘lifeline’.

I often say to people that Social Prescribing is simple really, there’s nothing very big or clever about it. It’s about doing small things, but doing them well. It’s a challenge when working from home, but going forward I know I need to continue to invest in my relationships with all the Practices I work with and to spread the vision of the big impact that Social Prescribing can have.

 

*Brian’s name has been changed.

What a difference a year makes: Social Prescribing Day 2020

Today is the second ever Social Prescribing Day, highlighting the importance and significance of social prescribing within healthcare.

What a difference a year makes

This time last year, we celebrated the first Social Prescribing Day with a story from Healthy Futures. We told how Wellbeing Navigator Ralph had helped Alia and her disabled son to meet new people and put down some roots when they moved from temporary accommodation into social housing.

Healthy Futures was a social prescribing service that we funded ourselves and this was a typical client story, showing just how much a Social Prescribing was needed in Birmingham. However, although Healthy Futures was highly successful from a healthcare perspective — supporting over 200 people with tailored non-medical support, and saving time and money for local GPs — eventually, a lack of external financial support made it unsustainable.

Since last year’s Social Prescribing Day, though, we’re pleased to say that things have changed considerably.

This year, the concept of Social Prescribing is much more widely known and understood.

NHS England have rolled out Social Prescribing services nationally, funding PCNs (Primary Care Networks, which are groups of GP practices) across the country to offer a model that is very similar to Healthy Futures. Many GPs, practice staff and other primary care providers can now refer patients to a Link Worker, who works one-to-one with the patient to offer direct support and signposting.

Now, people in Birmingham like Alia will be able to once again access support from a trusted para-professional, trained to support people with all sorts of social, non-clinical needs. Gateway is working in partnership with SDSmyhealthcare to deliver a Social Prescribing Link Worker service to 11 PCNs across Birmingham and Solihull, and our new Link Workers are already settling into their surgeries.

Gateway Social Prescribing Link Workers

We have a team of 11 Link Workers, all of whom have a wide network of community contacts and experience and knowledge of their local area. You can meet the Link Workers and read more about them here.

Each Social Prescribing Link Worker works from a number of different surgeries throughout the week, offering patients one-to-one, person-centred support.

GPs and Practice staff can refer anyone who needs non-medical help, and the Link Worker will work with that person to help them take control of their own health and wellbeing and increase their active involvement with their local community.

  • People with social rather than medical needs
  • People needing help to access or navigate services
  • People experiencing social isolation or poor mental health
  • People with issues relating to advice, housing or income

“Sure, we can walk with you through a door – but ultimately it is your door.”

Zeshaan is one of Gateway’s new Social Prescribing Link Workers. He works with GP practices in the NSAR Primary Care Network, covering Nechells, Saltley and Alum Rock. Find out more about his role, and how he feels about social prescribing, in this short video.

Meet our MVP Chair: Chloe

In the summer, we welcomed a new Chair for our Maternity Voices Partnership: Chloe Cadby.

The role of Chair is a busy one, and we’re happy to say Chloe has thrown herself into it over the last four months!

Last week, a team from the MVP visited Solihull Maternity Unit to take the “15 Steps” challenge and feed back with their first impressions

The Maternity Voices Partnership is made up of maternity professionals (like midwives and doctors), and service users (women who have been pregnant and given birth and their family members) and it’s Chloe’s job to speak on behalf of services users in these external meetings.

So as well as attending the regular MVP sessions, which are once a quarter, she has also been attending focus groups, quarterly meetings with Bump, meetings with us here at Gateway, and other events like the “15 Steps for Maternity” walks we’ve organised.

As a mum of two children, who each had very different births, Chloe has had experience of the local maternity services herself. She’s also experienced in helping new mums, thanks to her work in Children’s Centres over the last few years. But she’s also very interested in making things better for others, as she tells us here.

“I love anything maternity. A few years ago I started volunteering in my local Children’s Centre and as part of that I’ve done lots of training, including a 12 week breastfeeding course, which means I can give new moms really useful, practical, help.

 

 

“When my baby was about four months old, I found out about the MVP meetings. At first, I wasn’t really sure what it was all about but I went along anyway because it sounded interesting and I could take him along with me.

 

 

“I continued going, and found myself reading up on everything we talked about, and learning more and more. So when the chair position came up, I went for it.

 

 

“I really like the idea of being able to feed back into the system through the MVP. I love hearing people’s birth stories, and at the MVP meetings we don’t just get to talk about our maternity experiences, we can share important opinions with maternity professionals, and they listen. We’re working together to make things better for other women and families.

 

 

“Eventually, I want to go back to work, and I’d love to work in this area if I can, so working with the MVP is a good foot in the door. Having children, you sometimes feel like your brain has gone to mush, but this is helping me to stay challenged and feel like I’m really using my brain. I love listening to others, learning more, reading up on what we talk about at each meeting. It’s a chance to really be me, not just a mom!”

 

Want to get involved?

If you have personal experience of local maternity services, we welcome all “service user” voices and we aim to make all meetings accessible and child-friendly. Call Reshma at Gateway on 0121 456 7820 to find out about the next MVP event.

“I love that it’s giving women a voice!”

Hear from Chloe in her own words in this short video.

Social Prescribing Day banner

Happier, healthier, and housed: Alia’s story

To celebrate the first Social Prescribing Day, we wanted to share a recent story from Healthy Futures, our social prescribing service.

Social Prescribing Day aims to highlight the importance and significance of social prescribing within healthcare. Created by the Social Prescribing Network, a collaboration of doctors, colleges and the NHS, it’s a chance for services like ours to share stories about a way of working that has become a social movement.

In just over two years, our Healthy Futures “Wellbeing Navigators” have worked with over 200 people in Birmingham to support them with social and other non-medical issues. People are usually referred into the service by their GP, and then we work with them to provide a range of tailored interventions.

Those interventions might be as simple as a cup of tea and a chat, or — more often — help applying for the benefits people are entitled to, help bidding for social housing, understanding and filling in forms, calling the utilities to sort out bills, travelling with people to appointments, finding social groups people might enjoy (and going with them, if needed), and signposting to other organisations and agencies. Sometimes, as Alia’s story below illustrates, our staff are the only support workers available to listen at a time of crisis.

How Ralph helped Alia and her son to put down roots

Ralph, Wellbeing Navigator
Ralph, Alia’s Wellbeing Navigator
When Wellbeing Navigator Ralph first met Alia* last summer, she and her young disabled son were living in a homeless centre after moving away from her abusive partner. Socially, they were very isolated, with no local family and few friends. Alia cared for her son 24/7 with very little respite, and told Ralph she was suffering from depression and anxiety.

Alia’s risks were recorded as:

  • unsuitable accommodation
  • social isolation
  • caring responsibilities (disabled son)
  • low wellbeing
  • domestic abuse

Alia told Ralph she was looking for social activities so that she and her son, nearly two, could make some friends – important not just for her, but for her son’s development. And of course, she was keen to move out of the homeless centre. With support from Shelter, she had applied to move into social housing and was waiting for a decision.

Ralph was in the office one evening when he received a frantic call from Alia: her housing application had been rejected. Extremely upset, she hadn’t been able to speak to anyone. They talked and Ralph changed his plans so he could meet her the next day.

The following day, Ralph found Alia feeling very low. He explained that the next step would be to appeal against the decision, then called Shelter to arrange a visit from her support worker for the following week. Worried about her mental and physical health, he asked her to consider going to her GP. When he left, he told the Centre staff his concerns and told Alia that he would be available over the weekend if she needed him. (Later, Alia admitted to Ralph just how ill she’d felt that day, and that she had been considering self-harm, but that his friendly advice encouraged her to seek help.)

Since then, things have started to look up. Alia’s Shelter support worker and their legal team made the appeal against the social housing decision, and Ralph helped to arrange an Occupational Therapy assessment for her son as part of that appeal.

Ralph also found lots of activities for them to get out and meet people. Alia’s son likes animals, so he told them about the local nature centre and farms, which they have since enjoyed visiting. He referred them to their local Children’s Centre, and a support team helped them access free nursery care and activities. Alia’s GP surgery offered her a stress management course which she took up and really enjoyed. And, although Alia had originally refused Home-Start support, she changed her mind and began to receive support from volunteers providing temporary at-home respite.

Three months on, Ralph was overjoyed when Alia called to say the appeal had been successful. Now, they live in their own temporary accommodation. Alia’s making new friends and her son’s doing really well at nursery. They still have a long road ahead, but they’re happier and healthier – thanks to Ralph, Shelter, and her new support networks.

*Alia’s name has been changed

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.