At the start of this year, the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS) welcomed a new member of the team on board.
We don’t usually introduce new members of staff on our blog, but we thought it would be interesting to feature Chris, as this is the first time in more than three years that we’ve had a male Pregnancy Outreach Worker.
It might sound surprising, but it’s important to remember that our POWs are support workers first and foremost.
On a day-to-day basis, POWs provide advice on housing, budgeting, or the benefits system; ensure women attend appointments with hospitals, clinics or jobcentres; or help families to fill in forms, write letters, or make phonecalls.
It’s not a clinical or medical role; POWs work on a one-to-one basis with each family, providing emotional and practical support that’s tailored for their needs. Often, the fact that a woman is pregnant is really only secondary compared to the other social, practical or emotional issues she’s dealing with.
As we’ve said before, we can’t be experts in everything, however adaptable we are, but if we don’t know the answer, we are experts in finding someone who does. We have extensive networks and know what help is available and how to access it. The POWs aren’t there to do everything for the family but, instead, to support them as they engage with specialist services themselves, and to help them get to a point where they can continue independently.
And this is one of the many reasons we feel that Chris will make a great POW. As well as a strong academic background in psychology, he has a background of working in a very practical way with vulnerable people and families. And so he already has some knowledge of the systems, processes, networks and agencies that he will be supporting people to access.
He’s been here for less than a month, but Chris already has a small caseload of clients. Much of his first month at Gateway has been spent researching the UK’s immigration system, as two of the women he’s supporting are asylum seekers, so he’s already jumped in with both feet!
We spoke to Chris to find out a bit more about how he became interested in the POW service and how he’s been getting on so far.
As the former lead on Maternal Lighten Up I know how tough Chris is going to have it. The advice he will give will be of the highest calibre and he will be sensitive and nonjudgemental, but because he is male he will likely find his words are given less credibility. I know mine were. However, it’s actually quite the learning experience, to be male and the victim of negative societal gender role assignment and sexism is pretty rare, for all of our 21st century liberal enlightenment. Lots of people feel that pregnancy is not something men can truly understand, advise on or empathize with simply because they aren’t biologically capable of bearing a child. As long as we don’t take it personally, and concentrate on giving the best service we can, it can be strangely enlightening.