Keyworking to support young parents

“You have been a passionate support worker who does more than just support.  You have instilled qualities that will remain with me for life.”

Last year, the outreach team worked on a one to one basis with 51 pregnant teenagers, 102 young mothers and 40 young fathers, in addition to running open weekly groups at Children's Centres around Lambeth.

The young parent support service based at St Michael’s head office offers a holistic service to young parents and their children and expectant young parents up to age 24. We offer one to one and group outreach support tailored to parents’ personal needs and their children’s developmental needs.  We also work with Lambeth agencies and the voluntary and community sector to train professionals to work effectively with young parents.

A one stop shop

One to one works on a key worker model. We know how the parents we work with loathe having to tell their story over and over to different people. Offering a ‘one stop shop’ facilitates proactive contact and a supportive, open relationship. It’s a far more efficient way of working and it makes it easier to see the whole picture. If it’s safe, we conduct a lot of individual support in the mum’s and dad’s own home. This means we see the family in their own environment and get a fuller assessment.

If it’s not safe to meet the mum or dad at their home, we meet outside, at their place of study, or in a children’s centre.

Multiple issues

Young parents will have multiple issues – housing, accessing benefits, employment and education, getting hold of basic household items and baby equipment, relationship support. The key worker coordinates all this support and makes sure things aren’t missed or repeated. We’re working with more Child Protection and Children in Need cases – each member of staff has Child Protection parents on their case-load which involves attending case conferences, core group meetings, Children in Need meetings and Team Around the Child meetings.

Where they don’t have a supportive family network, young parents need extra help around parenting, caring for their baby, making sure they attend the health clinic, checking they understand their baby’s physical and emotional needs. If they have complex issues, as many of our young parents do, they’ll need additional support around leaving a violent relationship, learning needs, mental health or substance misuse.

Knowledge of Lambeth

We’ve been working with young parents in Lambeth since 2000 and know the specific issues of the borough, including high levels of violence against women and girls, gang membership and knife crime. We are sensitive to the individual needs of young parents, recognising the diversity within Lambeth. Our young mums and dads include care leavers, those living independently for the first time, asylum seekers, refugees, those with no recourse to public funds, those not in education, employment or training (NEET), non-resident fathers, women who have been trafficked, parents whose first language is not English, families where there is a child protection plan, victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse and unaccompanied minors. 

It emerges that three quarters of the young women we work with have been or are in an abusive relationship. The mums don’t always recognise that they are in an abusive relationship. What they disclose to us may be recognised by staff as evidence of being in an abusive relationship. We’ve developed special services around young domestic abuse, including the DiVa group and the Caring Dads with young fathers programme.  Attending the DiVa group may be part of a Child Protection Plan.

A holistic family-centred approach drawing strength from local partners is a highly effective and efficient way of working, as our young parents tell us.

“Not only did you give me hope in become a better person for myself and for my daughter but you also put your faith in me. Just having a very, very small group of people believing in me the way you did was everything I needed at the time and yet you did far more than just that.” Young father


St Michael’s also uses the keyworker model in our residential and community work. We’ll be writing more about this shortly.

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