Supporting Portsmouth families in need
Since graduating last year with a BSc (Hons) Sociology and Criminology, Nathan Beattie has been working for the Temporary Accommodation Service at The Roberts Centre, a Portsmouth-based charity offering essential support to some of our City’s most vulnerable people. The Centre also provides valuable experiential learning opportunities to University of Portsmouth students through work placements.
For many families, the outbreak of COVID-19 has added further instability to already difficult situations. The Roberts Centre is a resource for all sorts of people in the community. The temporary accommodation team is there specifically to help families who have presented as homeless and are in desperate need of a place to stay. It’s a collaborative effort with Portsmouth City Council to ensure that these families are housed. The support workers also aim to empower the families to make positive moves toward independent living.
Since the pandemic started, Nathan and his colleagues have been taking on new responsibilities to ensure their service users are safe and supported, working closely with other organisations throughout the city:
“When food stockpiling became an issue during the earlier stages of lockdown, a lot of our clients were struggling with access to basic necessities. We began distributing essential food to all of our families in need as soon as we could. In addition to my usual role, I have been working alongside other local organisations, such as food banks and The Hive, to collect prescriptions, food packages and other essentials to deliver to people around the city.
Usually I meet face-to-face with my clients, putting together a collaborative family action plan with personal goals and targets, in turn helping them to manage employment options, mental health and finances. The pandemic has forced me to adapt the way I work to ensure that all of our families are safe and supported and that the channels of communication remain open and consistent. Some of my clients are homeless due to illness, falling into high-risk categories, and have limited access to online communications. These individuals could have otherwise missed out on essential Government assistance.
Almost all conversations are now on the phone, which is a lot more challenging. Face-to-face contact allows you to build far better trust and rapport. It’s much more difficult to determine what support is needed without personal interaction. I’ve focused on making sure each phone conversation is valuable and productive, and that all of my clients feel like their individual needs are recognised.
The Roberts Centre places a lot of importance on the children of vulnerable families. Over 90% of families looked after by the temporary accommodation service have children. I worry about the long-term effects of this lockdown on those children, without the engagement and socialising that they get from school. We’ve put together activity packs, and we have a large collection of board games, toys, and DVDs to deliver to the families every week, to offer some sense of relief and entertainment. It’s really been a priority for us to address the potential mental health effects of lockdown, whether through loneliness and isolation, under-stimulation, or the possibility of worsening anxiety issues.
COVID-19 has made my job more difficult in many ways, but it’s all worth it when I see my clients safe, healthy and taking positive steps for their futures. We’re all scared of the long-term effects of the pandemic, but seeing the ways it has disproportionately hit certain people in our society is concerning. Our local councils are already severely overstretched and, without charities like The Roberts Centre, a lot of families just wouldn’t get the help they desperately need."
Find out how you can support The Roberts Centre’s vital work.