Molly, 10, is the eldest in a single-parent family of several children. Her mother is a heavy drinker, and Molly often has to look after her younger siblings. Molly’s behaviour has become difficult for school to handle, and all the children were at risk of entering the social care system. Barca-Leeds was able to tell school about the heavy caring responsibilities that Molly has to shoulder at home. We also arranged for Molly to meet Barca-Leeds’ youth work team. By spending more time with her peers, away from home and out of school, and with on-going, intensive support, Molly was able to cope better, and she and her siblings were able to remain out of care.
Emma, age seven, never smiled. The oldest of four children, she had witnessed a lot of domestic violence. Her siblings looked to her to parent them. When her mum started going to a domestic violence support group at the NSPCC, Emma and the other children were referred to Barca-Leeds. For six months, Emma wouldn’t speak to or look at anyone. She aggressively rejected any approach by play workers, and her body language was negative and insular. At Christmas, the children went to a pantomime. Afterwards, Emma approached one of the play workers and made a comment about one of the characters. It was the first time she’d spoken to any of the staff. Three years later, Emma has blossomed into one of the most charismatic children in the service, a change that has had significant positive impact on her siblings.
Luke, 13, kept falling asleep in lessons and being rude to teachers. When we went to see Luke and his family, we found that he and his siblings were sleeping on the floor – the family had no furniture. We were able to help them buy carpets and source furniture from a local charity. We also instigated a Common Assessment Framework (CAF) so that we could refer them to other agencies to meet various other needs, including support for Luke’s mum’s mental health problems. This helped the whole family settle into their new routines and neighbourhood, and Luke’s performance at school improved.
Andrew, 15, often attended a local youth club. One day, he approached one of the youth workers to ask whether they might get together elsewhere instead. Over the next few weeks, Andrew and his friends, with the help of the youth worked, planned a day trip to Scarborough. They had to check train times, work out a budget, research what to do there, do a risk assessment, arrange permission forms, hold meetings and make decisions as a team. The Scarborough trip came and went; the skills Andrew picked up are permanent.
When the youth work van began to park up and open its doors in her neighbourhood, Sarah, 16, came along to say hello to the youth workers. Sometimes she would sit inside and have a chat. On other occasions, she would just watch a DVD or play a game. Sarah’s self-confidence was very low. ‘I’ll never get a job,’ she would say. ‘I can’t do anything. I’m rubbish.’ As Sarah’s trust in the youth workers grew, they were able to challenge her negative view of herself. Sarah eventually asked about volunteer work, and the workers were able to arrange this. Later, they helped Sarah apply for college. Sarah now works as a nursery nurse.
The detached youth workers first came across Josh when he was 13. He was identified as one of the top 50 most vulnerable young people in the area. Josh, who was easily influenced by his peers, was associating with known offenders, and so was at risk of moving into the criminal justice system. The detached workers slowly but steadily built up their relationship with Josh. Eventually, Josh allowed them to help him apply for a building apprenticeship, which he got. Now that Josh has skills ranging from carpentry and joinery to brick work, his prospects are much more positive. This process took the best part of eight years.
When serious health problems began to affect several members of his family, Max, a bright and stable 18-year-old, struggled to cope. He began to rebel; his behaviour suffered, as did his education. Not knowing where or whom to turn to, Max began to take a range of legally prescribed and illegal drugs. A counsellor and mental health nurse from Platform worked with Max and his family to help them find ways to get through this very difficult time. The tailor-made education work they did with Max helped him to make sure he was safe, and he reduced his drug use. The family’s health issues haven’t gone away, but Max, who is now in work, has found other ways to cope.
Jennifer panicked when she found cannabis in her son’s bedroom. She worried that he would drop out of school and move onto harder drugs. We met Jennifer and talked about her concerns. We gave her the latest information about drugs and young people, and offered her strategies about how she could talk to her son about drugs. We also met her son and heard his side of the story. After several weeks of mediation work with the whole family and on-going support, communication between them improved enormously. Jennifer’s son was able to make some decisions about his behaviour, based on the educational input we offered, and Jennifer felt more confident about supporting him.
Eddie, a professional with a full-time job, family and a mortgage, first came to CDTS in 2007. He was smoking around £30 of heroin and £20 of crack cocaine every day. Eddie heard about CDTS from his doctor. After a comprehensive assessment of his needs, the CDTS team worked with Eddie on the many aspects of his drug use, from his physical addiction to wider issues around his family and finances. Eddie was prescribed methadone to help him stop using heroin, which he eventually succeeded in doing. Throughout his treatment, Eddie lapsed occasionally with crack use, but thanks to unwavering support from Barca-Leeds staff, Eddie stopped using all illicit drugs three years after first contacting the service.
Darren, 29, had been using heroin since the age of 16 and had been in and out of the criminal justice system. He had just finished a prison sentence for armed robbery when he knocked on our door. He was using heroin and crack cocaine every day, but was keen to stop. After exploring Darren’s motivation in depth, we then moved him into treatment with an opiate substitute (Subutex). Darren had previously experienced the unpleasant effects of withdrawal, so he was extremely worried that he wouldn’t be able to cope with detox and would revert to heroin. We decreased his medication very gradually so that he could see for himself that he could cope. With extra support from his family, Darren was eventually able to leave the service drug-free nearly four years later. He now has a young family, no longer offends, and hopes to find meaningful employment in the future. ‘You never put me under any pressure,’ he said. ‘Instead, you gave me loads of support. I could come off the medication at my own pace.’
Denise, 41, had a history of living rough, domestic violence, ongoing significant health problems and a serious addiction to drink and drugs. She rarely kept her appointments. ‘She was so vulnerable, we were very worried about her,’ says her key-worker. ‘I just kept turning up at her flat to check on her. She’d be unable even to look up. The flat was a mess and her partner was beating her up. There were drug users in and out all the time.’ Over a period of more than a year, the key-worker managed to gain Denise’s trust. ‘It was always going to be a long process: this was someone who had only ever known betrayal. It was all down to consistency and being persistent, constantly telling her that she had options and support – that we really did care.’ Nearly two years later, Denise realised that, with the support of her key-worker, she could escape both the drugs and her abusive partner. Her motivation rocketed. To the amazement of Barca-Leeds staff, Denise asked to be put on a rapid de-tox programme, and then she began to prepare for going into rehab, working closely with the team at Barca-Leeds. ‘I was blown away: she just suddenly pulled it out of the bag,’ says her key-worker. Denise also worked with Multiple Choice, which helps people get into rehab. On a pre-arranged day, Denise walked out of her flat for the last time. She took nothing with her, to ensure no one would follow her. She met her key-worker, who gave her a coffee, a suitcase of donated clothes and a one-way ticket to a clean bed (and safety) in rehab in another city. We hear that Denise continues to do really well.
Lewis first came into contact with the Harm Reduction team through their outreach work: he would come to the van to pick up clean needles. Over time, he came to trust the workers, and eventually decided to move into structured treatment. Lewis was then diagnosed with pancreatitis. The only way to control the pain was with morphine, which meant stopping his methadone. So Lewis left treatment and moved back into Harm Reduction. Because Lewis’s health needs had changed since they first met him, the team then assembled a full, detailed picture of all of Lewis’s care needs, and created a community care programme for him. From arranging minor repairs to his flat to helping him fill in forms, the team has made sure that Lewis isn’t left to cope with a serious illness, drug addiction and social needs on his own.
Marianne was already involved with social services, Barnardo’s and other services. We gave Marianne intensive, one-to-one support to help her get back into structured day care. This involved taking her to the centre until she had settled in and was able to make her own way there. After that, Marianne was ready to join a group that helps people develop important life skills. Marianne began to talk about leaving her abusive partner and the possibility of treatment. After we helped her move, our colleagues from St Anne’s took over Marianne’s care. We have since heard that she successfully completed a de-tox programme.
Nancy, who is in treatment for drug addiction, won’t go to the doctor. As a result, her mental health problems have never been officially diagnosed. One day, Nancy’s cooker broke, and she became distraught. The Harm Reduction team gave her an emergency bag of food to get her through the next four days, when she was able to pick up her benefit money and buy some food. As a result of this single incident, Nancy slowly began to trust one of the workers. She has now asked the worker to accompany her to the doctor. Walking to the surgery with someone seems like an insignificant gesture. But it will result in a mental health referral. Nancy will finally get the treatment and support she so badly needs. The impact on her future could be dramatic.
For five years, Alistair had shouldered the burden of care for his wife, who suffered from mental health problems, and for their three children. ‘When I came to Reaching Out, my confidence was at a very low ebb,’ he says. ‘But with the help of the sessions, I have gained a side to myself which I never knew existed. My confidence has grown with each session, and I now look forward to the challenges in my life with relish. None of this could have been done without the help of Reaching Out. I consider the moment I started my sessions to be the turning point in my life, when I started to rebuild my life. Thank you.’
Charlie, 16, was frozen with anxiety. He couldn’t answer the phone. He didn’t dare walk to school. And he’d never been to the shops alone. With our support, Charlie picked a specific goal: to catch the bus to college – alone. Over many sessions, we gradually broke this down into steps that Charlie could cope with. We talked through his many fears (the bus could break down; the driver would have a heart attack; he’d get lost etc). He identified someone who could accompany him all the way, then only part of the way, and so on. Eventually, Charlie was able to catch the bus alone. The confidence he gained from this has had a dramatic impact on the rest of his life.
John had successfully come off heroin thanks to Barca-Leeds’ Community Drug Treatment Service. They had referred him to Reaching Out, because, like so many others, John’s drug use stemmed from trying to make sense of a history of trauma beyond his control. It took many weeks of therapy before John had enough emotional resilience to talk about what had happened to him: he had suffered years of sexual abuse. Weekly sessions gradually helped John to understand his behaviour. ‘In my darkest hours, you have been – and continue to be – my bridge to the future,’ he told us.
Susan used to bring her small children to the luncheon club at Fairfield Community Centre. One day, she mentioned that she’d be interested in doing some volunteering. She wanted to do a bit more with her life. After a few more conversations, we invited Susan to join the Fairfield Partnership group. Susan went to the meetings to express her opinions as a local resident. As her confidence grew, her leadership qualities began to emerge, and Susan began to organise local events and peer groups, as well as contribute to the Partnership’s strategic plan and helping to find funding. She continues to develop transferable skills that could help her find a job when her children go to school.
During a conversation with a community development worker, Reg, 71, mentioned that he’d recently been drinking a lot of water. The staff member suggested that Reg look his symptoms up online. Reg balked at this, saying he had no idea how to use a computer, never mind the internet. He hasn’t set foot in the library for 20 years. But he agreed to drop in the following week, just to see what all the fuss is about. Within an hour, Reg had browsed the NHS Direct website, learnt about the symptoms of diabetes and asked for someone to accompany him to the GP.
A family of five teens generates a lot of laundry. So Danielle would use the community centre laundry facilities every day. While she was putting in a fresh load, or folding the load out of the dryer, she’d chat with any of the community development workers who happened to be passing. As her relationship with them grew more comfortable, she would sometimes mention some turn of events at home. Danielle never made any appointments. She never directly asked for help. Yet time and again the highly experienced staff, who are always alert to an expression of need, however it is presented, were able to respond.