It’s an interesting day for news. The justice committee have revealed today that probation officers spend just 24% of their time interacting with offenders. This has been blamed on a “tick box”, “bean counting” culture. But the question is who sets the targets that create the culture? … A rhetorical question – it’s the civil servants responding to the MPs. But, it’s not the same MPs as the news reports today are pointing out, the current government are blaming the last lot! This simply doesn’t stack up, not least because ‘the current lot’ are in control when the other news story of the day was about the new policy for inspections of social workers. Surely something like this is going to send teams into the offices to ensure all the boxes are ticked and beans are counted…
It’s really tough getting the balance right, but the way to get the best out of people is to put the most you can into them. One of the reasons we don’t take government funding for our work is to ensure we spend as much time as possible supporting people and keep the paperwork to a minimum. This is crucial with our service users – click the empathy exercise at the top of the page to get an idea of why people need some really intensive support to change their lives.
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Posted in emotional support, motivation, Poverty, rough sleeping, Service user stories, tagged cause, emotional support, engagement, homeless, Homelessness, rough sleeper, rough sleeping on July 26, 2011|
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Today we are going to the funeral of one of our service users. In the ten years that I have been involved in this kind of work I have been to far too many of these. As with any other funeral it is a time to reflect on the good memories we have, which really helps us to forget about the challenges people face and ensure we bring their humanity to the fore.
The guy whose funeral it is today was a fantastic story teller; and he had some great stories. What I’ll remember about him is the way in which he always told his tales in such hushed tones that you had to lean in to hear him properly, it created fantastic anticipation for what you were about to hear…
The other side to this for us is how the other people we support cope with the death of a friend. For many it is a double edged sword, not only is there the grief of a lost friend to deal with but also the reminder of how fragile their own life could be. We aim to use this fragility as a way to power motivation to change, but sometimes it pushes people deeper into their feelings of hopelessness.
That’s why we can never lose hope!
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According to a report out today: “The gap between the poorest pupils and their better-off peers in struggling schools in England is wider than in other schools, research suggests.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14082644
In schools below the national average standard a Sutton Trust study found that primary school children eligible for free school meals were half as likely to achieve their targetted standards as other pupils and by secondary school this had dropped to one third as likely. The BBC news report commented that “these attainment gaps are significantly larger than the gaps between free school meals-eligible pupils in all schools and their peers who are not eligible for free school meals” .
It seems, from the news report, that this is to cause a high level of focus on these underperforming schools, and through them target the children who are struggling. Although this is a necessary measure there is little or no mention of interventions outside of school. From our experience of working with adults who have been undeperforming poverty stricken children it seems obvious that support needs to be offered in the homelife to give any chance at all of positive changes in the school life. It’s a bit like focusing on achieving housing for a rough-sleeper without taking account of any of their other issues. But sadly it seems by the time someone has ended up sleeping-rough or similar they are fairly used to having their life divided up into silos of support need instead of being treated as a whole person.
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Posted in addiction, emotional support, Health, heroin, homeless, mental health, motivation, Poverty, problematic behaviour, rough sleeping, street homelessness, tagged addiction, alcohol, children, emotional support, engagement, homeless, Homelessness, offending behaviour, rough sleeper, rough sleeping, street homelessness, support work on July 12, 2011|
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The Children’s Society yesterday reported on the numbers of pre-teen runaways increasing (link below) and the risks that these young people face once they have fled their home or care. The report noted that a child runs away from home every five minutes in the UK and one in three of these will go unreported.
As a society we seem easily able to understand the impact that this type of thing has on children and how unacceptable it is that they are left in such a vulnerable position. The report also said:
“Agencies are unaware of the scale and nature of the problem and often fail to see runaways as children in need. Yet the report reveals that a quarter of them are forced to leave, often fleeing violence, abuse and chaos at home.”
For us we know these young people who miss out on a good start in life and then slip through the net of services all too often end up as adults with some fairly challenging support needs. The tough bit for us to swallow is when these people aren’t children anymore ‘as a society’ we seem to think differently. But they are the same people with the same traumatic pasts, they simply can’t be seen as ‘helpless’ anymore even though they are officially vulnerable adults.
A few hundred years ago these people were known as ‘sturdy beggars’, and were punished for begging when they were physically able to work. Today society is still obsessed with people’s physical ability to work and blames ‘choices’ to become drug or alcohol dependent adults or their irrational and problematic behaviour as the reason for their situation. As the above shows we have to get away from the physical and have more capacity to work with the emotional and psychological state if people in this situation are to find a way to reach their own potential.
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According to a BBC report today:
The UK performs poorly in an international league table showing how many disadvantaged pupils succeed “against the odds” at school.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has studied how pupils from poor backgrounds can succeed academically. It says that “self-confidence” is a key factor in whether such pupils succeed.
The UK comes behind Mexico and Tunisia in the table – with the top places taken by Asian countries. Among leading economies, the UK is in 28th place out of 35. Among a wider range of smaller countries and regions, the UK is in 35th place out of 65.
The full news report is at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13794591
This report cites ‘self-confidence’, ‘expectations’ and ‘internal motivation’ as factors that can help more disadvantaged children have more educational success. So with the topic of child poverty on the radar we must concede that financial positioning is not solely responsible for the factors that then go on to lead to poor chances of social mobility.
Does all that mean an ‘I blame the parents’ response is acceptable? Most of the people we support have low self-confidence, expectations and motivation; usually to the most extreme degree. However, with the right approach many people can and do develop and flourish in these areas. Feeling sorry for children and blaming parents simply leads to tomorrows parents repeating the habits of the past.
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Posted in Bradford, emotional support, homeless, rough sleeping, street homelessness, tagged Bradford, emotional support, homeless, Homelessness, outreach, rough sleeper, rough sleeping, street homelessness, support work on June 13, 2011|
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There are three main strategies that we employ to engage with the group of people we support who have real challenges engaging with support services. They are a regular and committed presence on the streets, to approach people with simple human kindness and a patient / never give up attitude.
Our worker in Bradford, Mat has been in post for a few months and is now starting to see the benefit of this approach:
There’s a guy I know only as Paul. I’ve seen him quite a lot as I’ve walked round Bradford, at projects or just walking round town. During street outreach sessions I’ve been up to him to say hello, offer him a chat and a coffee and predictably he looked quite uncomfortable and left as quickly as possible. Whenever I see him he’s usually on his own and almost always appears to be under the influence of alcohol. Last night when I was visiting a project that offers free food to those who are homeless he came up to me, I didn’t even see him before he touched me on my arm and told me he had an appointment at a hostel, and if that didn’t work out he’d contact me. I told him who I was but he said he knew.
Reflecting on it with Jon, it’s difficult to attribute what has been important in getting Paul to want to do that. The seemingly ineffective first meeting, the times he has seen me talking to other service users, or just being out there, are all important. It demonstrates we are there for people and can be relied on and also means you catch opportunities like this when they arise. Felt good though.
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Posted in addiction, emotional support, Health, homeless, mental health, offending behaviour, problematic behaviour, rough sleeping, Service user stories, street homelessness, support work, tagged addiction, alcohol, death, domestic violence, emotional support, engagement, homeless, Homelessness, Huddersfield, offending behaviour, outreach, problematic behaviour, rough sleeper, rough sleeping, street homelessness, support work on June 3, 2011|
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Jon, one of our support workers shares the experiences of a day ‘at the office’ in Huddersfield:
As I was walking down to the Mission to meet Tim I bumped in to Julie who I have been doing some short term work with regarding her abusive relationship and domestic violence. She had blood on her coat and clothes and what appeared to be a cut on the side of her head. I spent some time talking to her and tried to get her to either go to the doctors’ or to let me call her an ambulance due to the fact she had a head injury. She refused to go seek any medical help and insisted she was fine. While talking to her she informed me that she had been stabbed in the leg with a screwdriver repeatedly and had been attacked by her husband but she still refused to see a Dr or to have an ambulance called.
As I had an appointment to go to and I could not get anywhere with Julie and she insisted on staying in the park I went to meet Alan. I managed to book him an appointment at the Doctors’ in order to talk to the Dr about his mental health and the options available to him for treatment. While waiting for the appointment we managed to phone and restart a benefits claim for him and he is now just waiting for the statement to be posted ou.
I also called the addiction service for Alan to talk to his worker there about his community order. When I managed to talk to his worker there she told me that he had not been engaging, as we knew, and that all efforts on their part from home visits and outreach that they had been unable to re establish contact. His worker was keen to help me to help Alan re engage with herself, his
CPN and probation and gave me the names and contact details of his probation officer and his CPN. On contacting these I managed to establish that Alan has been discharged from the mental health team due to non engagement, however they are willing to re asses him if the need arises. I was also told by probation that if Alan re engages with either the addiction service or probation or both them he would not be in breach of his community order and they could work to sort things out for him. I made an appointment for Alan at Lifeline tomorrow at 10am, his worker agreed to contact me to let me know if he did or did not attend so that we can discuss ways to help him to engage.
At the doctor’s appointment Alan was told that he needed to start re engaging with the addiction service as his short to medium term problems were best addressed by them and that once engaging with them more medium and long term solutions could be considered for his mental health. Alan gave the doctors’ permission to share his information with me and to contact him through me. From this I learned that when Alan was discharged from hospital his assessment was that there were no mental or psychological needs and that he was not in need of any medication. I am not sure if this diagnosis/assessment is still accurate as Alan talks about hearing voices and has told me he is a paranoid schizophrenic. He does exhibit signs of increasing paranoia and has been very agitated since the passing of a friend of his.
Later on when I went back to the mission I was told that an ambulance had been called for Julie as she was looking to be very sleepy and people were worried about her injuries. I talked with the paramedics and because she refused to be taken to hospital there was little they could do except to inform us of the signs to be aware of with head trauma. After this Julie wanted to go to a housing appointment we had booked previously and so we went up and presented at housing.
Initially they processed the application as a domestic violence application but after going through the interview and checking details the only places they could offer were in Keighley or Rotheram, neither of which Julie wanted to go to for differing reasons. As she had been sleeping rough for 2 nights we managed to go down the rough sleeper process rather than domestic violence. Once this was done they found her some temporary accommodation in until such a time as they can give her a temporary flat. Julie was over the moon with this and was very thankful that I had managed to get her somewhere to stay and said that although she still felt scared she did feel safer. I called into the mission with her on the way back in order to make a referral for clothes as the only ones she had were the ones she was wearing and they were all covered in blood. Julie appeared to be ok when I left but I’m still worried and will catch up with her again as soon as I can.
Jon, Support Worker
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