Tag: gateway

Goodbye from our Chief Executive

Today is my last day at Gateway Family Services, after a wonderful and inspiring eight years.

I am enormously proud of my achievements helping Gateway to become a capable and trusted provider of community services.


Making the decision to leave the NHS and start Gateway Family Services in 2006 wasn’t a hard one. I believed strongly in what we could do and achieve and that we had an opportunity to do things differently.

We started small, but by our first birthday Gateway had over 60 staff and had developed the Pregnancy Outreach Worker and Healthy Heart services. We learned as we went along and we believed in ourselves. By the end of the fifth year we were still running those services as well as apprenticeship programmes all over the Midlands.

As Gateway has grown it has adapted to changing environments and, after a difficult time in recent years, it’s now in a great place.

Thank you

My last eight years have been filled with magic moments, of inspiration, awe, admiration, and pride.

VF-leaving-pic-largeGateway is something to be proud of. It is made up of so many things and, in an Oscar-like fashion, I want to acknowledge those now.

Starting a company is easy – it’s 15 quid to register and there you go! Building an organisation with an identity, a personality, opinions and ambitions, however, is much more difficult. What gives a company its strength is its people, its beliefs, its principles, values and commitment – and that comes from the staff, the partners, the stakeholders and the clients.

I am only able to shout about what Gateway does, and how well it does it, because of the work done by everyone involved. If the commissioners didn’t pay Gateway to deliver; if the staff didn’t deliver, or if the partners didn’t support it, none of it would be possible.

But it’s the staff who are at the core of this organisation. People will always need help, but Gateway’s staff don’t stop until they know people have got the help they (sometimes desperately) need.

It was the staff who came up with the company’s core values, which are at the heart of everything Gateway does:

We do what we say we are going to.
We invest in people.
Everything we do has a positive social impact.
We work hard and never stop learning.

I spend a lot of time (sometimes obsessively) reading the Impact Assessment App – in particular the clients’ responses to the question “how have we helped you” – and I can see first hand what an incredible job the staff do: the lives they change and the difference they make. Every day, I can truthfully say I see all the things I hoped for eight years ago.

I started by wanting to make a difference in people’s lives. The difference they made to mine was an unexpected bonus.

What’s next for me?

vicki_300x225If the decision to start Gateway in 2006 was easy, the decision to leave, eight years on, has been much harder. But it does feel like the right time to move on.

Gateway has been an enormous part of my life. But now that I know it can flourish without me, it’s time for me to find new challenges.

When I joined the Third Sector, I was determined not to whinge about how hard done-by we were. I believed that the power to influence lay in providing good services. Eight years on… well, I probably have become a bit of a whinger – I still believe that good services have the power to influence, but I have learnt that it needs dedication, investment and a systematic approach.

At Gateway I have focussed on evidencing the impact of what we do; capturing, recording and analysing how the organisation can measure its worth.

I have realised that I love doing this and that also it’s the fresh challenge I was looking for. So I have set up a company (for 15 quid!) and I am going to work with Third Sector organisations, providers and commissioners, helping them to measure outcomes and demonstrate the worth of community-led approaches.

What’s next for Gateway?

I’m very pleased to announce that Gateway has a new Chief Executive starting on 30th June 2014 – and it’s a familiar face.

Managers Photos for Website 030Katherine Hewitt has worked in the Senior Management Team for the past three years, setting up new services such as the interpreting agency and the Train to Care team. She knows all there is to know about Gateway, having led the Health and Wellbeing teams to new heights. She is a very safe pair of hands.

I know that being a Chief Executive is challenging at times, but I have great faith in Katherine’s ability and I know she will get all the support she needs from the staff, managers and the Board.

Gateway will always be special to me – it’s given me the skills and courage to make this next brave step. I hope to see everyone again soon in my new business.

Pregnant asylum seekers – more at risk?

We know two things that are proven ingredients to a healthy pregnancy are early booking and continuity of care (that’s regularly seeing a midwife – and ideally the same midwife). The absence of either of these things is seen as a risk.

Women who have recently arrived in Birmingham, such as those seeking asylum, are far less likely to be able to book quickly, due to them not being able to navigate the system in a new country – so being a late booker makes continuity of care even more important.

But continuity of care during pregnancy is difficult when asylum seekers are moved around so often.

The UK Border Agency’s policy of “dispersal” spreads asylum seekers around the country on a “no choice” basis, often moving people many times.

As well as the medical risks for pregnant women, there are the social risks of being moved away from their support networks. This can be socially isolating, but can also have an impact on their ability to get to appointments and understand what they’re being told.

Winta’s story

Winta – a refugee from Eritrea – had only been in Birmingham for six months, but this was long enough for her to have formed relationships and make friends. She had joined a local church and her 11-month-old daughter attended a nursery. Winta had a regular midwife and had been going to antenatal classes, where she’d met other mums-to-be.

She shared a house just north of the city centre with another woman, also an asylum seeker. However, just three weeks before Winta was due to give birth, her housing provider decided to shut the accommodation down and move the two women elsewhere.

Under the policy of dispersal, asylum seekers are accommodated wherever there is “a ready supply of housing”. In Winta’s case, she was told that she’d be moving to Wolverhampton – a place she didn’t know at all.

She would have to leave all the support networks she’d formed – and instead start from scratch, finding a new GP, new midwife, new antenatal clinic and new nursery for her 11-month-old, in a city where she knew no-one and struggled with the language, when the baby could come at any time.

“She was due to move on the Monday, but I only found out on the Friday,” says Winta’s Pregnancy Outreach Worker, Jacqui. “So I had to move fast. I phoned the Refugee Council and explained the situation: she was three weeks from her due date – could they help me to find a way for Winta to stay, at least until the baby was born? They said they would do what they could.

“I explained to the housing provider that we were appealing the decision but, initially, they insisted that the move would still go ahead. It was quite a battle to get them to wait for the process to complete. Meanwhile, the Refugee Council had phoned the UK Border Agency, to be told we’d have to appeal in writing. So the Refugee Council had to write a letter and fax it over to them. Once that was done, we just had to hope the UKBA would take it from there. It was a stressful weekend.”

Why did this happen?

A recent report from the Refugee Council concluded that “the UK Border Agency’s dispersal policies are putting the health of pregnant women and their babies at risk. By moving them to accommodation around the county, women are uprooted from essential healthcare and their support networks, leaving them isolated and vulnerable.”

Guidelines introduced by the UKBA last year already stipulate that pregnant women should not be dispersed within a protected period; normally from four weeks before the estimated date of delivery until four weeks after the birth. However, it doesn’t look like this is communicated in all circumstances.

Luckily for Winta, Jacqui’s intervention meant that the UKBA were able to act quickly enough to save her from a stressful move. The housing  provider told her she could stay in the house until the baby arrived.

A few days after the baby was born, the housing provider told Winta that they still wanted to refurbish the house. But instead of moving her to Wolverhampton, they found her another shared house, just a couple of miles away. Winta now lives with another woman who has a baby – and has been able to keep in touch with the support network she already had.

“I’m so pleased for her – they get on brilliantly,” says Jacqui. “I’m glad she was able to get the continuous support she needed.”

The Dignity In Pregnancy campaign

The Refugee Council has produced a short film about the risks facing pregnant women in the asylum system in the UK: Dignity in Pregnancy for Asylum Seeking Women.

Coping with post-natal depression

Veronica talks about coping with post-natal depression.

Pregnancy Outreach Workers help with practical things but also offer emotional support too. Veronica suffered from severe post-natal depression. It can be hard work to deal with a new baby, but post-natal depression can make life seem impossible. Because Veronica felt unable to deal with anything at all, things piled up. Bills weren’t paid and important letters were ignored. She also had two other children that needed looking after.

I helped Veronica sort out her finances, fill in forms and make the phone calls she felt she couldn’t manage; I also helped her find a child-minder which made a big difference – and I tried to keep her outlook as positive as possible. Sometimes I even made her laugh!

All together I supported Veronica for seven months, and eventually she was able to manage much better by herself, and her baby girl did well too.

Strictly Not Rehabilitation

Our new out-patient service offers cardio out-patients and their families the chance to work with a “befriender” to progress their recovery  plan.

The befriender will be a first contact point for any aspects of the recovery  programme and could assist with  going to the shops, getting to the planned dance classes.

Part of Strictly is an invitation to attend a weekly dance class – whether to improve your dancing skills (!), meet with other patients or one of our  team, or simply socialise.

The Strictly dance session will be held weekly, at Selly Oak Methodist Church in Langleys Road .  At this class the patients and their partner/friend, if you choose to bring one,  will be invited to get up and dance. Dances will be available that don’t need a partner.  Professional instruction will be provided! If people don’t want to dance and just prefer to just sit it out that’s fine too. The idea is to have fun!

The programme is free and will last 12 weeks during which you will be asked to complete questionnaires so we can get an idea of how the programme is doing.

Here, one of our volunteers, Jim, explains why he has decided to give up some of his time to volunteer within his local community after being made redundant