A Day in the Life of a Thames Reach Trainee

After seven months as a trainee with Thames Reach’s programme, Laura felt confident enough to apply for a permanent role. Now working as a support worker, she looks back at her time as a trainee and outlines a typical day in the role.

A Day in the Life of a Thames Reach Trainee

Laura Mackenzie, support worker, The Waterloo Project

“The traineeship was a fantastic way to start my career in the homeless sector – you are eased into the work very gently. As a trainee, you feel like a student in the best sense. The teams I worked with were so supportive and nurturing, and they helped me grow a lot in a short time. After 7 months as a trainee, I had gained enough confidence, experience and skill to apply for a permanent job. I am now a support worker at the Waterloo Project.”

7am

“Today I am working an early shift – so I arrive at the hostel at 7am.  After making an emergency coffee, it’s time for a ‘handover’.  The previous shift run through our list of clients, letting us know who’s been seen throughout the night. Handovers are opportunities to flag any issues with clients or the building that the next shift needs to be aware of.” 

7:30am

“I do a check of the building – one of the early shift’s ‘duty tasks’. Duty tasks are routine tasks that are done around the hostel every day, mostly relating to health and safety.”

8:30am

“The hostel is quiet, and there’s nothing urgent on emails, so I take the opportunity to work on a support plan. The Waterloo Project has 19 clients – all with complex needs around areas such as mental health and substance use. Support plans take this into account, they include assessments of the client’s risks and needs, as well as relevant goals. They are quite detailed documents, but as a trainee there’s plenty of time to get to grips with them, as you only have one client.”  

9am

“I accompany my client to her 10am probation appointment. On other days I might accompany her to drug and alcohol services, court appearances and doctor’s appointments. As a trainee, there’s plenty of opportunity to see and build relationships with the many different external agencies that clients use.  Sometimes these ‘external agencies’ come to the hostel, such as our weekly nurse clinic.”

10:30am

“My client and I have a detailed ‘keywork session’ – my favourite part of being a trainee. My client and I discuss the progress on her goals and have a think about some of the things she is struggling with at the moment. As a trainee, you have time for frequent and in-depth key work sessions with your client, giving you the chance to build strong rapport and trust. Keywork sessions allow you to build essential support work skills such as empathising, effective listening and maintaining boundaries.”

11:00am

“As a trainee, I was given responsibility for the area ‘service user involvement’. Service user involvement is about encouraging clients to participate in how the service is run. This morning I am helping facilitate a residents’ meeting, where clients can share their thoughts and suggestions about the hostel.”

12am

“It is time for the ‘welfare check’ – I knock and enter each of the bedrooms to ensure clients are safe.”

12:30

Lunch break.

1pm

“Today I have an online training session on ‘Client Support and Domestic Violence.’ All trainees complete a set of Core training courses, but beyond these, there are plenty of opportunities to take on additional learning. My client is struggling with issues around domestic violence and my supervisor supported me in seeking out this specific training.”

2:30pm

“The late shift arrives, and I hand over all relevant information. On alternate Wednesdays, this is also the time we have ‘reflective practice’. This is when our team, including our psychologists, gather for an in-depth reflective discussion on one client. These meetings really show you what taking a ‘team-approach’ to challenges looks like.”

3:00pm

“Home!”

Thames Reach’s traineeship programme is open for 2021. This year’s cohort will start in May 2021, and the deadline for applications is 7 February. Click here for more information on becoming a trainee.  

Traineeship Programme 2022 open for applications

The Thames Reach Traineeship Programme 2022 is now open for applications until 13 February

Traineeship Programme 2022 open for applications

The 2022 Thames Reach Traineeship programme is now open for applications until 13 February. The programme provides a career pathway into the homelessness sector, offering participants with the opportunity to gain the skills and experience needed to work for Thames Reach and within the sector more broadly.

The programme runs for 12 months from May 2022, split between classroom training and two six month work placements at a Thames Reach project, such as a hostel or a day centre. People with a previous history of homelessness are particularly encouraged to apply — 21% of our current staff have previously experienced homelessness, and many started out on their career through the traineeship programme. People with little or no experience of the homelessness sector are also encouraged to apply. Passion, commitment and empathy towards the people using our services, along with good administration skills, are required to succeed on the progamme, which has been successfully starting people off on new careers for many years now. Last year, 90% of those who enrolled went on to secure permanent jobs in the homelessness sector.

You can also learn more by reading our interview with previous Traineeship Programme graduate Ross, who is now a manager within Thames Reach’s Rapid Response Team. You can also read Laura’s account of a day in the life of a trainee.

You can download the job advert, role profile and application form below.

Please send completed application forms, by 13 February, to: thamesreach@wjpfloyd.co.uk

Application Form – Traineeship 2022

Role Profile – Traineeship 2022

Job Advert – Traineeship 2022

How Thames Reach are preventing homelessness in the community this winter

Area manager, Zandi Zungu, talks us through how Thames Reach are actively preventing homelessness in the community this winter

How Thames Reach are preventing homelessness in the community this winter

Thames Reach’s mission is to help homeless, vulnerable people to find decent homes, build supportive relationships and lead fulfilling lives.  The work of our Prevention teams are a key part of our strategy to encourage client independence through the support of rough sleepers, or individuals in temporary accommodation. Area Manager for Prevention, Zandi Zungu, talks us through Thames Reach’s prevention offer, consisting of a wide range of different services which centre around providing skills, employment or accommodation with the aim of preventing homelessness.

Our Peer Landlord scheme will undergo an expansion in Hackney as we will be providing supportive accommodation to individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.  Peer Landlord will be offering accommodation to people who are working, and in a new aspect of the scheme, we will offer rooms to individuals whom have no recourse to public funds.

Within our Greenwich Private Rented Sector (“PRS”) scheme, we have successfully housed 64 individuals in private accommodation over the last year across several London boroughs.  The scheme has a tenancy sustainment rate of 82%.

The Sustaining Tenancies Accommodation & Resettlement Team (“STAR”), works in partnership with Shelter, St. Mungo’s and Stonewall Housing to prevent homelessness across London by supporting people with complex needs to get and keep a home, find employment, build their skills and improve their mental health.  Recently, the STAR team has responded to concentrations of rough sleepers previously inaccessible due to lockdown.  As a result of this work, there has been an increase in the number of service users assisted by the team.

Within the Central European Homeless Assistance Service, (“CEHAS”), we work with rough sleepers within the six North London boroughs to access employment and training including those who might have additional support needs.  A key part of this is helping people regularise their status, particularly where they have a history of working in the UK.  Presently, we have helped 17 clients achieve full settled status, and obtain Universal Credit, thus leading them closer to employment.

Located in Lewisham, Deptford Reach is our day centre within our Prevention offer.  At Deptford Reach, we provide case management, health services, mental health support, and social engagement activities to people who are vulnerably housed.

The Employment & Skills team at Thames Reach provides basic skills, digital skills, work readiness support, job opportunities, and in work-support to individuals who have a history of rough sleeping, or are currently living in hostels.  Throughout the lockdown, the Employment & Skills team has redefined their delivery model to engage with the most socially isolated and vulnerable service users.

Blog: A new normal at Croydon Reach

Support worker George Slater discusses his work at Croydon Reach and how the team have adapted to support people into longer-term accommodation

Blog: A new normal at Croydon Reach

George Slater, support worker at Croydon Reach, tells us all about his service, and his role in helping people rough sleeping across the borough to escape homelessness and then supporting them into new accommodation. George discusses his progression from Thames Reach’s Traineeship programme to a support worker, how the Croydon Reach team have come together to produce fantastic results, and how they feel prepared for future challenges.

I started at Croydon Reach in May last year as a Trainee and have since been given the opportunity to work my way up as an assistant support worker and then support worker.

Croydon Reach is responsible for handling the casework of verified rough sleepers in the local borough; we support our clients from the point of verification and then into temporary accommodation through their local council and back to more long-term independent living. Since becoming a support worker I have taken on the responsibility of overseeing the outreach side of our work and monitoring our rough sleeping population.

It’s been a very interesting year for Croydon Reach. We normally coordinate the Floating Churches Shelter during the winter months but this had to be cut short once lockdown measures were introduced, but all clients were found alternative accommodation that same afternoon! We also suddenly lost access to our daily drop-ins hosted by partner agencies such as Crisis, Salvation Army & Turning Point, as well as the ability to immediately place new rough sleepers into the No Second Night Out and Somewhere Safe To Stay Hubs.

The nature of our workload dramatically changed when the Government introduced the “Everyone In” policy at the end of March. Overnight, we suddenly had all of our rough-sleeping client base in local authority and Greater London Authority (GLA) hotel accommodation, giving us the opportunity to find sustainable, more permanent accommodation options for everyone. On the outreach side of things, we experienced a huge increase in the number of new rough sleeper referrals from Streetlink, and consequently we had a much higher volume of newly verified clients to work with. Thanks to the availability of GLA hotels we were able to accommodate everyone.

Despite the tragic consequences of COVID-19, Croydon Reach have had really positive outcomes in being able to get 90% of our clients immediately into temporary accommodation and placing 80 clients into permanent accommodation, including many of our most entrenched rough sleepers with a history of non-engagement. Although we’ve had to limit the usual face-to-face work that we do, the team has been able to work in the office safely and we’ve had the chance to streamline our workload and become much more efficient. The amount of increased casework we’ve experienced since March has been a positive learning curve for us all and we feel well prepared for the challenges we may face in the near future.

How learning and development has gone virtual at Thames Reach

We spoke with Sarah Jeeves, Learning and Development Officer, about her work coordinating staff training as it moves online

How learning and development has gone virtual at Thames Reach

Learning and development is a crucial part of working at Thames Reach, and during the Covid crisis the ways in which staff have developed their roles and gained new skills have had to adapt. Thames Reach provide a year-round programme of training opportunities including Health and Safety, First Aid, Equality and Diversity and Social and Corporate Responsibility. We spoke with Sarah Jeeves, Learning and Development Officer, about how training has adapted to a new virtual way of working.

What were your main concerns about continuing your learning and development when lockdown started?

At first we were wondering what to do. Of course it wasn’t something we were prepared for, there was no Plan B but I wanted to keep the energy and strategy going despite lockdown. I’d never taught or facilitated teaching online before at Thames Reach, but I realised that we needed to adapt straight away. We still had the annual training programme to accommodate, as well as the Pathways Into Management initiative and the ILM [Institute of Leadership Management] qualification, both of which are training a group of internal candidates to progress in their career within Thames Reach into management roles.

How is virtual training going?

It’s been really well received. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well people have been engaging with everything. Staff seem to be taking it as an opportunity to improve confidence, as they can access training that would usually be done in groups from the comfort of their own home or office, so often will be more comfortable to ask questions and get involved. Across all training, places have stayed fully booked, so people are still engaged and ready to learn. We also have our cohort of trainees, who have come through the traineeship programme which is very popular. They were inducted at the start of May and are now on placement across Thames Reach, adhering to the same social distancing measures as all other staff. It’s going really well, I’ve been in regular contact with lead managers and the trainees’ supervisors and the feedback has been good so far.

How has training adapted?

While it’s definitely nice to have face-to-face interaction, under these circumstances we have to deal with the fact that this isn’t really possible. Now that we’ve gotten used to tech and the administrative side of things, we’re finding that training actually works better online, it’s more efficient. Our Cultural Diversity training, for example, works really well, as everyone can be in one virtual space at once while the trainer is talking, then we can split them into smaller groups once or twice over the course of the day. We do regular Emergency First Aid and Mental Health First Aid courses too, which can’t be done remotely due to the nature of the teaching, so that has been postponed for the time being.

As I said we haven’t been able to do Emergency First Aid as it’s not available from any trainer until lockdown is fully lifted, but it’s been great to see Senior Management get involved with training, and it’s clear that staff really appreciate it. I’ve been making and securing new relationships with trainers and organisers, which has been a big benefit. Homeless Link is one example who have been great to work with; they will be providing training on Managing Conflict, Violence and Aggression, to replace our Working with Challenging Behaviour training that had to be cancelled.

So it sounds like it’s generally been a positive experience. What are you bringing forward into learning and development in the future?

Building relationships with people internally and externally has been really good, I don’t usually get to sit in on training so I’ve learned a lot too. Even just getting to chat with other staff before the training starts has been really nice. I’ve been more hands-on with the tech and administrative sides of training, so it’s been a good learning curve for me. We’re definitely going to make the most of Zoom and Microsoft Teams in the future so training can fit around other work commitments and staff won’t have to travel. I was concerned that ILM and Progression Into Management candidates would lose motivation and momentum but we’ve seen people come together and make the most of virtual opportunities such as webinars, so we’re encouraged by this and looking forward to using these techniques going forward. I also organised Thames Reach’s first Staff Wellbeing Week last September, which was very successful. We’re currently working on doing an adapted version for this year, taking on board everything we’ve learned, so watch this space!

 

NB: Of course, the photo above was taken long before lockdown, from the fantastic Mental Health First Aid training run by MHFA England, which will resume for staff once lockdown is fully lifted

Traineeships – Interview with one of our graduates

The Thames Reach Traineeship Scheme is now open for applications – we interviewed Ross, who graduated from the programme in April 2019 and is now Senior Practitioner in the Rapid Response Team

Traineeships – Interview  with one of our graduates

The Thames Reach traineeship programme provides career pathways into the homeless sector. It offers participants the opportunity to gain the skills and experience needed to work for Thames Reach and within the broader sector. The traineeship programme actively encourages those with a previous history of homelessness to apply, as well as people with little or no experience of the homeless sector. Passion, commitment and empathy towards homeless people along with good administration skills are required to succeed. The programme has seen students and tutors alike incredibly pleased with the experience and future prospects.

Ross Lambert is one of the graduates, who got a job as Assistant Support Worker at Croydon Reach after undertaking his first placement, and 10 months later is now Senior Practitioner for the Rapid Response Team. We spoke to him when he graduated in April 2019.

What’s your background and what attracted you to the programme?
I actually had a very different career before starting the traineeship; I was a glass designer for ten years, and although I really enjoyed it, I wanted to do something that helped people. After a short career break, I thought about how I might be able to do this and did some research. Spending some time travelling confirmed that I wanted to do a job that made a difference in the community. I knew little about what support workers did but knew that it was a step in the right direction for me.

What did you do during your time on the traineeship?
The work we did while training was really close to what we’d be doing as Assistant Support Workers once we finish, so it was good to learn first-hand from the start. I shadowed the Croydon Reach outreach team and followed their work with other agencies.

What did you enjoy the most?
The fact that I can see tangible results from my day-to-day work, and that’s something I’ll continue to enjoy as I settle in my new role and progress throughout my career.

Who have you worked with so far?
I had no experience working with vulnerable people before now but working with service users has been a real highlight, it truly feels like a two-way street, we’re inspiring each other and working collaboratively.

What are your plans for the future?
I got the job at Croydon Reach the same day as my second placement was due to start, so I’m still very new and enjoying learning everything I can about the role. I’m happy to have the experience and use the skills I learned in the traineeship for real-life situations.