Senior Project Worker – Katie Johnson

When I explain to people what my job role entails, I am often met with “I bet that is challenging … But rewarding”, now I would say “Rewarding with challenges” as every job role is challenging in its own right. The biggest challenge we face at The Gingerbread Centre as a registered charity is funding for the teenage parents and babies/homeless Families we support. However recently we have received funding from Lloyds bank foundation and at Catherine Court we have been donated garden toys from the local fire station which is fantastic in encouraging the parents and their baby’s to enjoy outside life together, helping with confidence, involvement and growth & development, each of which we work on with the families living in Catherine Court to help prepare them for life in their chosen local community.

As a Senior Project Worker at Catherine Court, every day is different as we face new challenges and new milestones whilst we help support and prepare them for independent living. One thing that remains the same is the person centred way in which we work. Undertaking weekly key work sessions comprising of emotional, educational, parenting support etc. or a general conversation to provide a listening ear, which is sometimes just what is needed to help lift spirits. We also undertake Outcome stars with the residents every 8 weeks, which effectively assists in devising individual support plans that are realistic and achievable and help guide them through the early stages of pregnancy or parenthood right through to the resettlement work we provide once they have their own safe and nurturing home for them and their children.

Working closely with staff and the teenage parents and babies that live in Catherine Court, it helps me to understand and acknowledge the positive changes that are made in each of their lives, it also helps myself and staff to see the difficulties they face, allowing us to tailor support as new challenges arise, such as Domestic abuse or Child sexual exploitation both of which are often not spoken about nor acknowledged until it is too late. As we become aware of this we are able to incorporate sessions around DA and CSE into the life skills work we do with the teenage parents. The life skills work helps provide guidance, brief knowledge and acts a protective factor, especially when the teenage parents have accepted a property and are now ready to move into the community. Life skills work ranges from basic DIY to basic first aid and everything in between such as budgeting support and obtaining the correct benefits.

We support the teenage parents and their babies for up to two years within Catherine Court and up to 6 months after they have moved into their own home to ensure they continue to thrive. Working closely and effectively with all other professionals involved in their life’s (health visitors, GP, Mental health support) allows that support to flow in continuation throughout their time here and once they move. Encouragement and support to attend activities at Catherine Court and outside of Catherine Court helps build confidence and self-esteem to allow them to continue to access groups / community centres in their local community. Being involved in their local community is important to reduce isolation, create independence and help safeguard.

Safeguarding the teenage parents and their babies is paramount in this and all other roles within The Gingerbread Centre. Safeguarding is always at the forefront of my mind when carrying out initial assessments, completing support plans, completing risk management plans and within the day to day running of Catherine Court, always ensuring that our residents and children are safe and secure benefiting from their time with us.