How do you reach the hardest-to-reach people?

Posted by on 19 December 2012 | 1 Comments

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The Equinox Wandsworth service is one answer. Muneer Butt and Paul Thomas are the Equinox Floating Support Outreach Workers in Wandsworth with a mission to find and support some of borough’s most vulnerable people. They were voted best performing team of the year in Wandsworth’s Housing Department in 2012, working in conjunction with voluntary staff from various departments in Housing.

Paul and Muneer explain the two sides of the Equinox Wandsworth service:

Street outreach

“Firstly, we do street outreach work with homeless people in Wandsworth. These are very hard to reach clients, who often have a multitude of ailments including diagnosed mental ill health and drug and /or alcohol dependence.

“We try to encourage people who are homeless to come with us to the Housing Department, as they are recognised by London Borough of Wandsworth as high priority – but there can be a lot of resistance. For example a mother and daughter we work with here – the obstacle in this case is a strong religious conviction that they are doing God’s work from the street, so they camp out. Other reasons people give are that they don’t want to be on benefits or they don’t want to be part of the housing system. This can be due to a bad experience in the past. It takes time and commitment to effect change.

“There are 205 entrenched rough sleepers in London. These are people who have been on the streets for years. Five out of this 205 in London are currently in Wandsworth – and Equinox are working with them all.  At the last review by London Borough of Wandsworth, they were all deemed as being successfully managed by Equinox.”

Floating support

“The other side of our work at Equinox Wandsworth is the floating support service – we work with service users in their own accommodation, whether that’s temporary or permanent.

“We are based in the Housing Department at London Borough of Wandsworth because they refer their tenants rather than evict them – eg for non-payment of rent, antisocial behaviour, drug or alcohol use. It’s a 12 week programme we operate with each service user and every client is different, so we create a very personalised structure. This programme is very flexible and can be extended for the most vulnerable and those who need more support.  Some people we see multiple times a week. We are currently working with 42 people in Wandsworth.

“One of our main roles is to offer pathways for our clients into services – for example treatment for alcohol and drug dependence, health services etc. One man we’ve worked with recently was suffering from an alcohol-related disease called Korsakoff’s Syndrome, (thiamine deficiency in the brain which results in memory loss, induced by chronic alcohol dependence). There were no treatment services who were willing to engage with him – as they said he wouldn’t be able to follow group work or benefit from 1-2-1 counselling. We worked with the GP and social worker to push his case and we managed to get him into detox and then into a rehab – to this day he is clean and he is now able to hold a conversation, he recognises us when we meet up, he is getting better.”

What skills do you need as a worker?

“As workers, it’s essential to have passion to do this – there are obviously the qualifications that we have, for example NVQ 3 in Health & Social Care and Substance Misuse. But you need so much more than this. You must have compassion for the service users – they are so often targeted as bad or antisocial people by society. We are talking about empowering people who are some of the hardest to reach. We are trying to help them make major life changes – which is no easy task, even with the most motivated of people. We need patience and flexibility. We work all year round in all weathers at times of the day or night to suit our service users. We meet in cafes or parks. We take care always to use people’s names and treat people with respect.”

“Another really critical part of our work is communication with partner agencies such as the police and social services – it’s about sharing information as quickly as possible. One recent example was to do with a person we weren’t actually working with but there were lots of sightings of a woman looking dishevelled in the area. We didn’t know her name or nationality, but there was a concern from all partners to find her due to a tragic incident occurring in the area. We have a system called CHAIN, a national database where we share information. The information that Equinox put on to the CHAIN resulted in her being identified and now the Safety Neighbourhood Team (SNT), the Anti-Social Behaviour Division and social services are involved to help her.

“We do also supervise trainee social workers – they come from organisations like West London University, Holloway University, Lambeth College. We also have volunteers and NVQ students too. We are training to be NVQ assessors to get more out of the service. It adds to an extra 100 days into the service.”

Visit the Equinox Wandsworth service page for more about the service and how to get in touch.

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  • Hey, glad to hear you're both still carrying out the good work!!



    Posted by Sandra Waters, 19/08/2013 10:26am (4 years ago)

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