Pause Plymouth update from Practice Lead, Shirley Sinclair
I am the Practice Lead for the Pause Plymouth team and have been in this role since the service started in April 2019. When we started there were 5 of us: Dyl, our Coordinator, and Helena, Elaine and Larrah, the Pause Practitioners. By the end of last year, there were 7 of us: with Ria, Pause Practitioner and Aerron, who is developing the Next Steps service, joining us.
We offer an intensive, relationship-based service for women who have had children removed from their care and who, should they become pregnant again now, would be very likely to have that child removed too. Many of our women have had several children removed, and, often, many pregnancies. Their own upbringing will have been difficult and traumatic, almost 50% of them are Careleavers.
The aim of our work is to provide these women with the opportunity to have time for themselves and to address some of the difficulties which have resulted in the removal of their children.
We do this by reaching out to them and offering a meaningful and trusting relationship with their Pause Practitioner. We give them time to ask questions, get to know us and test us out…..we go the extra mile to find them and keep going back to try to make sure that even if the woman says no to the opportunity, then she understand what we are offering.
In 2020/21 we reached 64 women. Combined, the number of children they have had removed is 203. The outcomes for women involved with our Pause practice include:
- 40% report improvements in their physical and mental health
- 63% report improvements in their emotional wellbeing and resilience
- 44% report improvements in managing loss
- 60% report improvements in their housing situations
- 20% report improvements in their relationships with children
We are now working with our second community of women. We have 2 women who we couldn’t quite get to work with us when we were gathering our first community, who are now part of Community 2.
The Practitioners have time and flexibility as they only have caseloads of up to 8 women. However, the work is busy and intense and sometimes the women will be seen several times a week, particularly if there is a crisis.
Often, the women do not trust services and professionals, they find it very difficult to keep appointments and understand processes and procedures. They may struggle to make sense of the loss of their children and the reasons for it, and are grieving this loss with no one to listen to them or help them.
The services will disappear when the children disappear and when we find them, they have very little, or no, support. Our role is to help them ‘pause’ and focus on themselves, so we do require them to use contraception while working with us. We support them to attend the Sexual Health services and have an assessment appointment to look at the most suitable form of contraception for them. We help them to refer to other services e.g. mental health, substance misuse, adult social care, housing, money advice, PDAS, First Light to name a few. We don’t just give them a phone number and tell them to refer themselves… we explain to them, rehearse with them, take them, explain to them and debrief… we encourage, praise, challenge supportively and applaud.
We also give our Pause women experiences to remember and be proud of: we have taken them to the cinema, horse riding, kayaking, up to London and to Bristol to Pause National events. We have got some to join a gym, we have arts and crafts events and encourage hobbies and interests.
The other very important part of Pause is for the women to be helped to move on from the intense first relationship with us to becoming more self-reliant and able to use the other appropriate services. The hope is that they sustain the changes they have made… and this is with the support of the Next Steps Practitioner who understands their journey.
Some of our women are able to use the Sunflower Women’s Centre – where we are based – and we refer into the variety of groups and training opportunities on offer.
We are now in the third year of our three-year contract. We are working hard to provide the evidence to prove this service is unique for Plymouth, transforms lives and produces better outcomes for women and their children. And should be funded for another 3 years at least!