Why ‘Lead Worker’ Service?
“The Lead Worker contract is with Birmingham City Council and it’s to support all young people aged 16-24 who are vulnerable and living in precarious housing. Vulnerable young people in Birmingham receive what is termed ‘wrap around support’ from a number of different providers and our role is to lead on co-ordinating that support and ensuring they are getting what they need from the various different professionals involved such as social workers, mental health workers, probation workers etc.”
“We also act as an advocate for young people and ensure the accommodation and support being provided is up to scratch. We can liaise with landlords on their behalf and take steps should improvements need to be made”.
City wide support service
“We do get internal referrals as well but our remit is city wide. Our role is to travel out to where a young person is currently living. This is often a temporary accommodation scheme or shared house. We’re a bit like ‘Crisis intervention workers’. We offer a year of support and it’s our job to help them with any problems or issues they’re experiencing to ensure they don’t become at risk of homelessness. It’s also to prepare them to move onto independent living.
We usually see 2-3 young people per day and spend up to 2 hours with each young person. There’s 8 workers in our team currently and around 80 young people on our books, but more workers are being recruited so that’s set to increase soon.”
Young Person’s star
“We receive a referral and meet up with the young person, and fill out a risk tracker, management plan and GDPR permission form for advocating on their behalf. We also fill out the ‘Young Person’s Star’ with them. It helps them to articulate where they feel they’re at, to identify goals and help them visualise the steps to take in order to get there -we come up with a plan together about what steps they need to take in order to achieve positive outcomes in each area.”
There are 8 points on the star and the young person rates where they’re at from 1 (stuck) to 5 (independent) in each of these areas; accommodation, work & learning, people & support, health, how you feel, choices & behaviour, money & rent, practical life skills.
“We review these every month. ‘How you feel’ is often a good conversation opener.”
There is quite a lot of crossover between the areas and there’s no such thing as a typical day as it’s a bespoke service tailored to each young person’s needs.
We asked Steph and Nabeel to give some examples of how they’ve helped young people.
Accommodation, Money & Rent
“With accommodation we cover anything like understanding conditions of the tenancy, avoiding and addressing rent arrears, ensuring council tax is paid, supporting the young person to obtain household items i.e. white goods, cutlery, furniture etc. If they’re in debt we help them set up repayment plans as well.”
“I have one young person with Autism and ADHD. He had a lot of questions about his housing application and seemed very anxious about it, he rung and messaged me frequently. I explained that it’s a process and is not achieved overnight but what really helped him was when I printed off the allocations policy and highlighted all the key parts that needed reading. He gave me some really good feedback on that, that this had really helped him, as now he understands the rules, he understands the process much better.
“I had a Young Person living in a supported accommodation scheme but he was avoiding paying the service charge. He was ready to access independent accommodation and when I was doing his move on form which looks at a number of independent skills including budgeting. I spoke to this young person and said ‘if you can manage to clear these arrears it will be in your favour’ and he agreed that we could look at coming up with a plan so that he could pay it off which he did successfully!”
“I’ve applied for a grant to help one young person with household items and bedding but generally we stress budgeting more and to put money aside as there are no guarantees. Luckily the Youth Hub had some donations of household items and long-life food so I took these over. I applied to the COVID-19 resilience fund as well for another young person who had been furloughed from her waitressing job but the money didn’t cover her bills. I got some additional money that way to help her pay her arrears. It was good she could get that at least.”
Work & Learning
“This is another area where we work closely with other agencies providing opportunities including our in-house Employability Team.”
“There’s a young woman I’m supporting at the moment who is very keen to find employment in a caring type role. She has been working as a waitress and doing shop work, but she’s now wants to get into a line of employment that will actually be a career. I’ve been working with our Employability Team here and I helped her with her application for our own NHS apprenticeship and we’ve just heard she’s got an interview!”
“I had a young person who we identified together had a language barrier. I suggested a college course to help with this and managed to interest him in doing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). I took him down to South & City College and helped him complete his application. Then COVID-19 happened so it’s been put on hold but we’re hoping he will be able to go soon when classes resume.”
Health, How you feel, Choices and Behaviour
“Supporting a young person to manage their health involves talking to them about healthy living and ensuring they’ve registered with their local GP and have access to any support or medicines etc. that they need.”
“Most of the young people we work with have mental health diagnoses and COVID-19 has made this worse for a lot of young people as it’s an anxious time for them while support has also been more restricted.”
“For some of them, they also have drug and alcohol dependencies so we make referrals to and work closely with other professionals at Forward Thinking Birmingham and CGL (Change Grow Live) to help with that.“
“Quite a few of my young people shared with me that they were feeling anxious in lockdown. It was tricky though as a lot of the usual services weren’t operating and for 3 months we were unable to do home visits, we could only contact them by calling or messaging. Trying to provide reassurance in this way was much more difficult. A colleague had shared an online resource specifically for young people about dealing with anxiety so I circulated that round which they said they found helpful.”
People & Support
“It’s great that this is included as a point of discussion on the Young Person’s Star because as well as all the professionals we know about providing official support, it’s good to know who else is supporting a young person. Everyone needs a support network so sometimes through these discussions we find out who else the young person feels supported by, be that family, friends or people in their local community… or as with one young person I had recently, a therapy service from a local charity she’d accessed through her church.”
Practical Life Skills
“This is about ensuring young people have the skills to live independently and is another area where we work closely with our in-house Employability Team and St Basils Life Skills programme. A lot of this is about building confidence so young people feel that once they are living independently they will be able to sort out any difficulties themselves and they will be able to cope.”
“I have one young woman who seems confident and has a full time job but when it comes to ringing up people to sort out her own affairs she really struggles with anxiety and doesn’t believe she can do it, so this is something I’m working on with her at the moment”.
“Our job as ‘Lead Workers’ is to support young people to prevent homelessness, prevent crisis and support them onto independent living. It’s also to advocate for them and co-ordinate all the other professionals providing ‘wrap-around support’. We’re constantly reminding the young people that we’re here for them and want to help them achieve positive outcomes. Covid-19 has made it all harder at the moment but it can still be a rewarding job when you see that you’ve got them from a position where they were ‘stuck’ to being ‘independent’ and achieving their goals.”