A pilot set up during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the health needs of vulnerable children and young people living in homeless accommodation has been shortlisted for a Nursing Times Workforce Award.
Named as a Finalist for the Best Social Responsibility Programme category, the pilot deployed school health nurses from Newcastle’s 0-19 service – who would normally be seeing children in schools – to support families who have found themselves without a home during an extremely traumatic time in their lives.
These children and young people would not normally be seen by the 0-19 service unless there were safeguarding concerns or additional health needs yet it quickly became clear that many of these young people did have health needs which were not being met.
Despite a challenging start, the initiative has now developed into a permanent service with rotational nursing input and collaborative working with colleagues at Newcastle City Council and Your Homes Newcastle, Homeless Accommodation.
Rebecca Humphreys is a Specialist Health Visitor for Complex and Vulnerable Families at Newcastle’s 0-19 service. She explains how the pilot was established.
“When our school nursing service was unable to work into schools with the first COVID19 lockdown it had quite a negative impact in particular on staff morale. Whilst technology allowed us to keep in touch with many people it couldn’t replace the power of offering face to face support and we thought long and hard about how we could reach out to and support the most vulnerable families in the city.
“Whilst we maintained a service supporting new mothers and their babies across the city, we were aware of families with young children living in homeless accommodation who would not necessarily be considered vulnerable if they did not have a social worker involved in their care.
“The focus for homeless families tends to revolve around the parents leaving children and young people without a voice – we wanted to change this, to make sure that their basic health needs could be assessed and addressed.”
Setting up the pilot
Rebecca recruited two school nurses who were keen to engage in the pilot and they worked in collaboration with a health visitor who already visited the homeless accommodation, and housing officers from the local authority.
They worked together as a team using a whole family approach and began to see young people’s needs being identified and assessed with plans being put into place. The team could see their sense of vulnerability change as they saw they were valued in a time of crisis. Health and wellbeing improved and there was an opportunity to give advice and share key public health messages.
It was great to see the staff feeling like nurses again – they thrived on being able to reconnect with young people and being able to meet their needs.Rebecca Humphreys, Specialist Health Visitor for Complex and Vulnerable Families in Newcastle’s 0-19 service
There is a now a team of six nurses who take it in turns on a rota system to offer support to those living in temporary homeless accommodation. They also introduce themselves to families who chose not to have health assessments so that they know how to contact the service should they need help or advice in the future.
There are weekly meetings involving a school nurse where families are discussed, in particular those in need of support to attend health appointments – in a 12 month period 50% of young people seen had dental health needs, 30% required optician input, nearly 20% advised about healthy weight and 10% were supported with immunisations.
The service is so successful now that many team members have asked if they can be involved in any other up and coming projects and staff who are new into their post also ask to support these young people. It’s been a great success.
Marie Huscroft, Matron for Newcastle’s 0-19 service said: “I am extremely proud of Becky and the team who have been innovative, dynamic and always tenacious in supporting children and young people’s health and social well-being of Newcastle, especially to those who are living in extremely difficult circumstances and can often be overlooked by services.
“I wish them all the luck for tonight and enjoy every moment to celebrate your hard work and professionalism.”
Newcastle’s Homeless Accommodation has evolved since the pandemic and the 0-19 service will continue to offer health assessments to all families in temporary accommodation across the city, continually adapting and changing to meet their needs.
Nursing Times Workforce Summit and Awards 2022
The Nursing Times Workforce Summit and Awards aims to bring together peers to tackle current workforce challenges as well as recognising best practice from organisations that have made a positive impact to the profession.
The awards recognise the brightest talent in workforce planning and highlights those making a difference in recruitment, staff retention, wellbeing and inclusion.
Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony, taking place on Tuesday 22 November 2022 at the Hilton London Metropole.