When I sat down to write this post, the project workers and I were dealing with some very, very depressed and distressed young people and parents. Referrals to the project before Christmas were off the hook, a great deal of them were people in crises. Any time we did get to reflect on things, the same questions came up: why were things so “heavy” at Safe and Sound this quarter.
We wondered was it pre-Christmas anxieties followed by prolonged post-Christmas blues, or maybe it was the relentless battering of snow, rain, ice, snow, rain, ice starting to wear away at the soul? Maybe it was the fact that no matter how much folk seemed to be scrimping and saving, a stable, debt-free life was getting further and further out of reach. Or was it the impending stresses and difficulties that our young people, families and workers are starting to face in relation to the welfare benefit changes which are almost certainly, uniformly, not going to benefit those that need them most? Or was it maybe (as we all suspected) a combination of all of these things in addition to the difficulties these families were already facing which meant that they’d been referred to us in the first place?
Then, bizarrely, writing the project’s annual report cheered me right up. It was specifically the section about our Successes and Challenges. Some of the challenges were pretty much what you’d expect for a young project in such high demand but with limited resources. Other challenges were around project workers having to become on-the-spot experts in suicide prevention or child protection, or having to take on mighty local authorities armed only with the knowledge they were in the right and a tenacious desire to dramatically change the quality (and direction) of life for their young person.
As project leader it’s easy to get caught up in data collection, network meetings, and accounts etc. The real buzz comes when you’re reminded of the significant impact this project can have turning young people’s, and their families’, lives around, and in a relatively short amount of time too!
Here’s a snapshot of what the Safe and Sound project workers considered to be some of the victories that made it worthwhile getting out of bed each day:
Successes for Quarter 4 (names have been changed):
- Lindsay’s pregnancy was unexpected and she was told she could not stay at home once the baby arrived. This had caused her real distress and she didn’t know what to do. The project worker supported her to access a counsellor who was able to talk through her options with. Lindsay was able to make a decision which she was comfortable with and the project worker is now supporting her to make housing applications and make practical arrangements for the baby’s arrival.
- Recognised Ashley’s mother was feeling isolated and struggling to cope with chaotic home life. The project worker made referrals to counselling and a befriender service which has had a very positive impact on the mother’s well-being.
- Made contact with David’s homeless officer to advocate on his behalf. Due to concerns for his physical and mental health, project worker requested David be moved from an all-adult hostel to a hostel specifically for young people. David was moved to a young persons’ hostel.
- Supported Robert, who was living on the street, to confront and deal with a number of issues. This resulted in Robert returning home to his family.
- Identified past trauma was still affecting Rebecca’s ability to cope at home. Project worker referred her to counselling, which has lessened the pressure at home, This means she can stay at home while she finishes her college course.
- After sofa surfing, and living in temporary accommodation, Jane was allocated a flat. Project worker supported the move and has continued fairly intensive support. Jane is now settled in her flat and is enjoying having her own space to call her own.
And so, as we get ready to celebrate our first birthday it’s been, well, cathartic to remind ourselves of the good that we’re doing and how important The Safe and Sound Project is to so many young people and their families.
I’d like to end this post by expressing my gratitude to the project workers at Safe and Sound who kept their heads down through the blizzard (pun intended) of referrals over the festive period, remained cool, calm and collected (relatively) and most importantly, remained professional, consistent and approachable for the people that were relying on them over a very difficult time for many families.
The Safe and Sound service is based in Dundee, and is a partnership between Shelter Scotland and Relationships Scotland. We have received almost £700,000 from the Big Lottery Fund. The aim of the project is to reduce the risk of homelessness for young people in Dundee and across the greater Tayside and Fife areas, facilitate family mediation and the safe return home for those who have run away, or
where this is not possible, help them to find and keep
suitable housing of their own.