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.
We 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
Simone* 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
It seems strange that social services were willing to remove the baby because of her precarious position at a huge cost to the Social Services department when giving her some financial help to furnish her home would be so much cheaper in the long run.