Cara is just 18 and came to live at one of St Basils parent and baby schemes in Birmingham in July 2016 when she was in her third trimester of pregnancy. She had been living with her dad and three siblings in a two-bedroom flat. Her baby daughter is now a few months old.
She says: “The support from the staff at St Basils and particularly my key worker has just changed everything for me. I used to be really nervous, I had really bad anxiety, I struggled to communicate at all and that made things extra hard once I was about to have a baby! The thought of living on my own was really worrying but I couldn’t stay at home as it was already overcrowded.
My anxiety started about three years ago and it affected me being able to stay in school. I used to have panic attacks where I struggled to breath, but the support from St Basils has helped me see I was often over-thinking things. Ringing people on the phone was my biggest phobia. I used to get my Dad to make all my appointments with the doctors and so on because I couldn’t do it myself.
Since coming to live at St Basils that’s all changed. I can make eye contact now! I can hold a conversation and I can ring people up and make my own appointments.
My support worker has really helped. At first it was just knowing I could come and talk to her about anything that was worrying me and tell her how I was feeling. If something had happened, I’d know she’d be there to help me through it.
But she’s helped me practically too; she helped me phone people until I could do it myself. She’s helped me communicate better with people generally too. I used to avoid my appointments, now I go to all of them. I never used to take part in any of the workshops at St Basils even though there were some I really wanted to take part in and thought would be useful such as a First Aid course but the thought of having to speak to or in front of the other young people was just too worrying for me. It took months for me to speak to the other young people here, but I can do it now and I’ve just started going to some of the workshops.
She’s also helped me with Life Skills including paying my bills, budgeting and cooking. I could cook before but I wasn’t very confident. I also did a Life Skills module on pregnancy which helped a lot!
Without the support from St Basils I think I would’ve struggled as a mother. I would’ve just carried on being disengaged from life, avoiding appointments and people and having panic attacks. It took me ages to get used to independent living.
I worry for other young people as to how they’d cope if they didn’t have support. I’ve seen what a difference the support has made to the other young people here too.
I feel much more in control and really confident about the future now; I’m ready to move on and I’m going back to full time college in September. I’m hoping to be a health visitor or a mental health worker after I’ve graduated.
I think I’m more of a role model now for my daughter. I never want her to be the way I was”.
Cara’s Support Worker Lorna Davis said:
“I think Cara’s been on an incredible journey since she’s come here. She’s so different now. She couldn’t make eye contact at all at the start and struggled to interact. She found group situations completely overwhelming. We put an action plan together and agreed with her we’d do some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and we also instigated some of the PIE Techniques (which all staff learn as St Basils is a Psychologically Informed Environment) and that’s really worked for Cara. Cara’s done a lot of reflecting on what made her withdraw originally and she’s able to stop and think now and reflect on her own behaviour and what to do to overcome these barriers.
What St Basils can offer young people now really works. Once they’ve got a home and feel safe we’ve got the support services that can really help them tackle the underlying issues which can make the future so much better for them so they won’t have as many problems going forwards. It’s the combination of a number of support services that really is a winning formula – the Life Skills, Learning, Skills and Work and the PIE practices.
We’re seeing a lot of young people from the younger age category at the moment, mainly 16-18 years olds. They haven’t got much confidence or the Life Skills and these support services are really crucial for them.
I think Cara’s done fabulously well. She’s tenancy ready, about to move on to independent living and going back to full time college in September. I’m really proud and pleased for her”.