Brendan Ross, who heads up the London-based Peer Circles Project helping adults facing severe and multiple disadvantage, has been one of our busiest colleagues at St Giles since the start of the pandemic. The small team have helped 992 people since the project started in April 2018. Many of them are socially isolated and experiencing mental health issues – Covid anxiety, lockdowns and restrictions have hit them particularly hard. However, with the help of the Peer Circles team, they are coping and in many cases making steady progress. Here Brendan describes a day in the life of his small team.
17 December 2020
“It started with getting a fridge for a lady fleeing domestic violence;. Our women’s specialist is supporting the family to reunite with a child in care. Kate, our Compliance Officer, has completed our employment and sustainment stats and worked out that 50% of our employment figures are evidenced as sustained i.e. clients who have held down their jobs for at least three months. On our training stats show that just shy of 50% of our full cohort had started training.
The Team Leader Olu has referred four clients for in-house mental health support. The Senior Caseworker Kapil has secured a laptop for our new Peer Advisor and Saul, our Digital Worker helped the Peer Advisor set it up. Amber, our Trainee Caseworker, hunted down and purchased a table and chairs for a family she is supporting. At last, the family can eat together.
Senior Caseworker Rashpal did a sterling job of liaising with an employer and getting three vacancies specifically for his clients who had been released from prison. Rashpal also helped the three men to get clothing and food for their families this Christmas. He secured gym memberships to sustain their mental health and supported them to obtain passports as these were needed to show their new employer.
We work in partnership with charity Evolve who held an online pamper party for the women we support. It was co-produced by our Peer Advisors with workshops around skin care. 20 women turned up to the party – a great turnout.
We tried to deliver the 12 days of Christmas in an afternoon – here are a series of relatively small but potentially life changing interventions the team carried out:
- A client was identified as in need of assessment for dyslexia by our Digital Skills worker and was referred for assessment
- Another was helped to access our emergency hardship fund as she is living in a hotel with her daughter
- Two clients were helped onto long-term courses to build their skills
- Another two were supported into health and safety courses in the construction environment
- One Peer Advisor celebrated completing his Level 3 Information, Advice and Guidance course
- Two women were signed up for online Zumba and reading groups
- We helped one man reinstate his benefits after they were stopped
- And a partridge and a pear tree…
And just as I’m about to log off at 6.15pm I get a call from our Trainee Caseworker. One of her clients who has very complex needs and was told by the authorities to sleep on the streets is now in emergency housing for the night.
This is just one working day on Peer Circles and only some of the team have had the time to give me an update on what they were up to today. There were a handful who were simply too busy so this is not a complete picture.
What’s the saying – the impossible we do, miracles take a little longer…”