The London Housing Foundation is helping to sponsor the 4th conference to be run by the London Network of Nurses and Midwives Homelessness Group. The conference, which will be held on 12th May in London is looking at how integration is needed to make services for supporting homeless people work. When it works well, clients get good support. Rachel’s story shows how this can impact…
Rachel was 5 months pregnant and had addiction and mental health issues when she was first placed in a bed and breakfast by a London Housing Options team. She lost her previous accommodation after benefit sanctions. However she was placed out of area, separating her from the workers that had supported her to access this new accommodation. This meant she was left isolated, and a long way from her health support – and was then exploited by new neighbours.
Fortunately a peer advocacy organisation was able to continue working with her, and got her registered with a local GP. Rachel was lucky: many people would not have received this support. The peer advocacy organisation then supported her to attend 24 appointments after this. During this time Rachel was moved to 4 different bed and breakfasts, and saw a variety of different professionals. Rachel was a victim of sexual assault which had resulted in her pregnancy, and had no family support. Despite 24 appointments Rachel did not access mental health support during this period.
Rachel was assigned a social worker to work in the interest of the unborn child. Communications between her social worker, support worker, drug worker and midwife were disconnected, with no one agency appearing to take the lead. The peer advocacy organisation ended up brokering the relationships between these agencies and Rachel herself.
At 8 months pregnant the peer advocacy organisation was asked to take Rachel to hospital on a Friday afternoon to have her pregnancy induced. When they picked her up, the peer advocate was told by B&B staff that Rachel would not be able to return. When this was challenged, the peer advocacy organisation were told this was because a decision had now been made that Rachel was intentionally homeless. Despite protests the peer advocacy organisation was told that if she was discharged from the hospital over the weekend, she would need to call the Local Authority out of hours number.
Rachel was eventually induced on the Monday, and gave birth on the Tuesday. Two days after the birth an interim care order was obtained by Children’s Services. Rachel was separated from her baby and discharged from hospital that day at 7pm. She had nowhere to go and returned to rough sleeping. Rachel did not receive any post-natal care because the community midwife was unable to contact her. When a midwife did get in touch with her by phone Rachel told her she had been sleeping rough and was having suicidal thoughts. The midwife called the police who went to look for her, but they were unable to find her.
The peer advocacy organisation attempted to make a referral to a specialist Women’s Project to find Rachel appropriate accommodation and support. However the referral was not accepted, due to a lack of some of the ‘essential’ referral information required. Instead Rachel was placed back in a bed and breakfast by Housing Options. Rachel does not currently have access to her child, and we are worried that a revolving door situation is likely.
This conference considers how services can better integrate to support clients with complex needs, and give people like Rachel a fair chance of recovery.