Rachael has worked for Moving on Durham since 2015. Originally a manager in the private sector, Rachael studied for a degree in Health and Social Care after the birth of her children. She volunteered for numerous charities, before starting as a part-time support worker for Moving On Durham. She now supports a team of four full and part-time support workers. Between them they look after around 100 young people at any one time, ensuring they have the support and care they need to make a success of their tenancies, learn life skills and prepare to move into sustainable accommodation. Here she describes her team, her role and how she’s coping with the coronavirus lockdown.

My team is awesome. I meet with them weekly to understand where our young people are in terms of their support needs and the progress they’re making towards independent accommodation. The team is nearly always at or near to capacity in terms of the young people they support, so I tend to particularly support young people with low support needs who require less input from support workers, and those at the other end of the spectrum that are hardest to engage and take too much focus away from other young people. My caseload is always fluctuating, which is sometimes challenging, but I know that it allows other support workers to get on and help new clients and those that are making good progress. My team always go above and beyond. It’s impossible to single out one thing that particularly stands out, because I’m proud of almost everything they do. Whether it’s working over their hours to get a client food from a food bank, knowing how to prioritise their work to support people with urgent and immediate need or working in partnership with other services, their commitment never fails to amaze me.

Seeing young people transition from places of vulnerability or chaotic need, to being able to live independently is the thing that I most enjoy about working for Moving on Durham. I remember one young person in particular. She had been referred to us as a high priority due to her previous living circumstances. She was extremely shy and vulnerable. She often broke into tears and had no friends and no family support. She was very lonely. We were able to provide a property, but it was in an unfamiliar area. She was sometimes scared to leave the house, as her mental health made her anxious around new people. Despite her circumstances she enjoyed studying and wanted to continue her college education. We made a referral into Mental Health Services where she received dedicated support for her anxiety. We found her a new property which was closer to her college to make it easier to continue her studies. We supported her through a bereavement. Now, the difference is amazing. She has confidence. She continued her studies and got good grades. She has secured a place at university and is now ready to move into independent accommodation. I’m sure she’ll do amazingly well, but we’ll stay in touch with her and make sure her progress is maintained after moving out of her accommodation. I’m so proud of her progress and my team for supporting her.

I’ve seen that loneliness and isolation is something that many of our young people experience. They are often referred to us after a breakdown with family, friends or relationships and as such are feeling a sense of loneliness or abandonment. Sometimes they hide their feelings away and it’s not until you get to know them that you realise they’re lonely. With some of my clients I’ve set up a codeword, so they just need to call or text the word and I’ll be around to see them, listen to them, chat with them or just for a cup of tea. Currently, with the Coronavirus crisis and lockdown, it’s going to make that aspect of my job almost impossible. We are still helping, making essential house visits, but not crossing the threshold and maintaining 2m separation. It’s obviously making our work a lot harder and increasing the isolation and vulnerability of our young people, but so far, we are managing. I just hope it ends soon so I can give young people the dedicated face-to-face support they need.

It costs Moving on Durham on average  £1,250 per annum to support each young person. This compares to a total cost of over £20,000 to state services if this person was made homeless. We rely on fundraising from trusts/foundations, public and corporate supporters to maintain our support of young people. Can you help? Please follow the link to donate whatever you can afford to support our vital work.