Keith's Story: I'm a Wise Dinosaur
My passion is working with families, but Centrepoint was actually another challenge for me; the 16-24 age group wasn’t one I’d really worked with before. I had worked with the younger age group of 0-11 or adults over 30.
I’m nearly due for retirement and when the opportunity came up to work with this age bracket, I thought to myself, do I really want to put myself through this? But you know what? Three years down the line, I’m still here and still smiling. I just hope that I can make a difference to the youth of today because they’re living through a really difficult time – the way the world is moving so fast. Too fast in my opinion.
Some people call me a dinosaur, but I’m a wise dinosaur. I’ve got a lot of knowledge. I think raising three children myself, I understand the trials and tribulations, the good times and the bad times. I still have passion and energy so I can still offer that energy to other young people who aren’t my children – that’s why I’m here.
My first contract with Centrepoint was with young men, then I was in a mother and baby unit with three young mums. Then when I came over to Greenwich I was given twenty units of young mums with children. These are families. You’re not working with just the mother and child, you’re also working with the father, if he’s around and engaging. The dynamics can be complex and the workload is difficult. It’s certainly challenging, but I don’t think about it – I just get on with it. If I can make a difference then that’s great. But it can take a long time; it’s a process. You can’t fix something in a day.
Supporting them the best way possible
I’m clear from the very beginning with the young people on how best to support them. I’m very open and transparent – communication is key no matter what you do in the world. I always clearly communicate what I am doing so there’s no misunderstanding. Ultimately, I let them know that they are my boss. It’s a collaboration and we work together. Most importantly, it needs to work for them. I want them to come to me rather than the other way round. If it’s that way around, they will engage more.
I give advice and guidance, but it’s important to be open and honest and not to give them false hope.
Covid has really slowed things down. People can get impatient and want to know when they are moving on, but I just tell them they need to be patient. I ensure that I give feedback so they know how things are progressing. I will still communicate even if I haven’t managed to achieve the ideal outcome yet.
The effects of the pandemic on the young people and their children have been varied, I’ve had some domestic violence issues and some urgent safeguarding issues.
Some of the young people I support have felt anxious and isolated and I’ve tried to see if there are people they can be with.
Lockdown has had an impact on employment too. Quite a few of the young people I support who were employed are no longer in work.
Those young people who had children at nursery have been extremely isolated and are worried about sending the kids back to school or nursery and can feel afraid to go out.
Food poverty was also an issue for some. When you’re on a low income, you tend to go to a bigger supermarket because it’s cheaper, but some were having to shop more locally during lockdown and some of the shops were putting their prices up.
I tried to help with this: I went on a hunt begging and taking donation letters to the big supermarkets and I got some food donations from them – they’ve been providing readymade meals, dried food and baby products. I lay everything out for them at the hostel and they can take what they need.
I’ve also organised some donations of extra freezers so that young people can store more frozen food, which has also helped.