When we talk about the people our Pregnancy Outreach Workers (POWs) work with, it’s often in terms of their “risk factors”; the risks associated with a poor pregnancy. These are the issues the POWS are supporting clients to deal with, and these are the outcomes upon which the service is measured.
But the risk factors on their own don’t tell the whole story. So in this blog post we’re going to look at one of the real life stories behind the data.
In the file for Amy*, a POW client, the risk factors that Gateway POW Rachael (pictured) addressed were:
- historic mental health issues
- historic drug and alcohol use
So what were Amy’s actual circumstances, and how did Rachael support her to reduce all of these risks?
We’ve also included some quotes from Amy herself, because she logged her thoughts on our Impact Assessment App after every appointment.
“I helped Amy and Carl to build a new life together”
Case Study by Rachael Harris, Pregnancy Outreach Worker
When Amy* was first referred to me, I spent two weeks leaving voicemails and texts to no avail. Eventually her midwife passed on my details and we arranged to meet at the hostel where she and her partner Carl* were living.
At the visit, Amy explained that she and Carl had been homeless – in Carl’s case, for 13 years. After being in a relationship for two years, they’d decided to get into a hostel so that they could start building a life together. Then Amy discovered she was pregnant.
The hostel where I met them for that first visit mainly houses men who have drug and alcohol addictions, and Amy was the only woman there. Both Amy and Carl were clearly finding it a very stressful environment.
They told me they wanted to build a future for their family, so during that visit I supported them to complete a housing application. They didn’t have ID so I told them about the CitizenCard. I also booked an appointment at the Jobcentre for them to have a benefits check.
Amy told me she pawns her phone every couple of weeks to buy essentials, which is why I couldn’t get hold of her when she was first referred. She told me she wasn’t eating much, and that the only food they had were some vegetables that would soon go off, so I arranged to bring a food parcel the following day.
Over the next two weeks I wrote a supporting letter for the homeless team, helped the couple to apply for CitizenCards, and referred them to the local children’s centre. I also liaised with the midwife who’d referred Amy in the first place, as well as a specialist mental health midwife. Between us we decided to initiate a CAF, particularly because of Carl’s methadone and alcohol use. The couple agreed this would be helpful for them.
By week nine, Amy and Carl were becoming very down about the lack of progress with housing. Carl explained he found it difficult to live in a place surrounded by so many triggers for alcohol. Amy was finding it hard to chase up the housing application as she rarely had phone credit, which she found stressful. Money was being taken out of their benefits for loans and fines before they received it so, after rent and bills, there was very little left for food.
I did what I could by writing a supporting letter about the hostel conditions, giving them vouchers for a local foodbank, and bringing baby clothes from Gateway’s own baby bank. We also talked about the idea of breastfeeding when baby arrives. Amy was pleased, saying that the idea of being a mother was starting to feel more real.
“You brought me a moses basket and baby clothing and nappies. I’m so happy because I would definitely not be able to buy these things and I was worrying about it.”
Three months after initiating the housing application, it was still in progress. Social services were now involved, as midwives had expressed concerns about accommodation and the couple’s history of addiction and rough sleeping.
“I just want out of this horrible hostel. I’m annoyed I have to see a drug and alcohol specialist midwife, as I haven’t had a drink since December and not touched cannabis since becoming pregnant. I don’t intend on ever going back to my old lifestyle. I feel like I’m being treated unfairly by my midwife.”
A child protection conference was arranged.
Today we spoke about the child protection conference and you said you will come with me for support. Thank you.
Eventually, during the child protection meeting, which lasted five hours and involved many agencies, the couple were found temporary accommodation in a hotel. They moved that evening.
You came to see me today in [the hotel]. There is only me and one other pregnant girl living here so far and it’s like luxury.
Amy gave birth about six weeks later and the family moved to a two bedroom house shortly after that. Baby is doing well and Amy is breastfeeding. I helped her to apply for Child Benefit, Healthy Start vouchers and welfare provision, and referred her to a family worker at the local children’s centre for ongoing support.
Baby has remained on the child protection plan, but Amy and Carl have been praised for their engagement and the way they’ve worked together to turn their lives around.
*names have been changed
This account shows how hard it can for vulnerable people to get out of difficult situation without support, even when they really want to. Well done Rachael and all the POW’s who do a great job.
This is such a good story to illustratre how POWs reduce need for other services and help to give babies the best possible start in life.What could be more important? This intervention will have avoided much human misery and almost certinaly reduced costs for the public sector. Well done!