Leanne Delahunty, Operations Manager at our community-based centre in Bradford, was reminded recently of the extraordinary lengths our key workers are prepared to go to support the young people and families under their care.
I’ve have always known how hard our key workers work to support the families and young people they are assigned to. They have a hugely demanding job and one that can’t be done in half measures, but even so I am still blown away whenever I am reminded, first-hand, of all the hidden extra things they do and how these combine to bring meaningful change to people’s lives.
Here’s a recent example: We’ve been working with a large family of eight; a single mum with children aged 11 to 24. The mother had been a victim of domestic violence and had been forced to flee from the family home taking all the children and their much-loved family dog. The key worker looking after them was Kirrin. She did everything possible to get them back on their feet and was responsible for organising counselling for the mother, as well as some of the children who’d witnessed the physical abuse. She sorted all the practical issues of securing housing, liaising with schools and helping the family to access wider public services.
But it wasn’t until I received a note from the eldest son that it really brought home to me the hours that Kirrin had invested in the family, over and above her contracted role and all with the genuine heartfelt commitment of someone who can’t help but care.
The eldest son had made a list all the things that Kirrin had helped him with – and this was for him alone, in addition to the mental health support she had already given his mum who’d suffered a mental breakdown, alongside the endless practical day to day tasks she’d done, like buying and washing clothes for his brothers and sisters; finding the right professional help for one of his siblings who was suffering from an eating disorder, and contacting the extended family to arrange for the younger children to visit their Grandma.
As for the eldest son, this is what he said:
Kirrin was so calm and collected and offered practical help and advice to tackle some monumental changes in all our lives. Here’s a list of the things she’s helped me with, and this is just me: helping with my bank account, applying for my provisional driving licence, taking me to my appointments, helping me to get medication, fixing me up with a brilliant counsellor, helping the family dog get fostered, getting my younger brothers and sisters onto fun programmes so they’d leave me alone, helping me to get food from the food bank, taking me and brother out for nice food, and helping us find new accommodation. And that's just the stuff I can remember. I’m positive she’s done more and will continue to help us out for as long as we need help. Kirrin always answers my calls, whatever the time of day.
Wow! It’s a long impressive list yet I know for a fact that Kirrin would see it as part and parcel of her doing her job. I value it as far more than that, for without such genuine kindness our programmes wouldn’t have the long-lasting impact that they do.
In another recent example, a young man called Liam and his partner and baby received practical help to apply for vital housing repairs. A visit from Green Doctors was arranged and they were given advice about energy tariffs. It’s just one small but hugely significant example of the difference we can make. Liam joined our Stronger Families programme where his key worker also sorted out an apprenticeship day, took him to a careers fair, gave him mock interviews, and arranged for a work placement for him at a local restaurant. Two weeks later he was offered a permanent job there.
I think it’s important never to underestimate the building of trusting relationships that goes on between our key workers and our families. Without this trust, the practical help our key workers can provide would be refused hands down and we’d have far less positive outcomes.