Zahid (not their real name) came to Access to Care as an emergency placement and had been referred to us by the local safeguarding team with multiple concerns; Zahid had been identified as being at risk of Child Sexual exploitation after a number of missing from home instances where Zahid had been associating with older adult males from the local travelling community and going away to work for them. Zahid reported to social care that a relationship had started with one of the men; Zahid was only 16 at the time.
Professionals had additional concerns through observation of a change in Zahid’s mental health and chaotic life style, thought to have been caused by additional issues of alcohol and drug use. Zahid’s home life had been unsettled for many years with the family having long term social care involvement.
It’s fair to say that on arrival Zahid did not agree with the need for this disruption in their life, not wanting to stay and struggling with the change, which became an additional source of stress for Zahid.
Over the coming days Zahid would avoid attentions of staff and efforts to start support. For two to three weeks Zahid would go out early and return late from socialising. During this time there were instances of Zahid returning having been missing overnight. Zahid would often struggle with being intoxicated when returning to service. These episodes became quite worrying and would result in Zahid having full breakdowns, crying and screaming and even hallucinating and exhibiting challenging behaviour towards staff and other young people. This period prevented any meaningful direct support or progress.
Over the next couple of weeks, staff continually worked to support Zahid with developing self-reliance and self-worth. Staff also worked on developing trust and respect in their professional relationships with Zahid.
Through their focus on reinforcing and expressing their commitment to Zahid, staff were able to encourage positive behavioural change. They arranged and supported Zahid to attend external agencies for drug and alcohol services, sexual health services and access to a GP.
Zahid later commented during a support plan review that what was important during this time was the staff team’s continued unconditional positive approach and persistence. As Zahid would say “You never gave up on me” and “you never stopped nagging me, why did you put up with my behaviour?”
Zahid acknowledged that they had made deliberate efforts to push Access to Care staff away in the past and to make the placement fail and breakdown, just to prove a point.
Soon, the staff team observed real organic change; Zahid showed real emotional investment in the placement and relationships with the staff team continued to develop. Friendships within placement with other young people started as well. Drug and alcohol use stopped and Zahid began to cook fresh food, which quickly became the norm as they cooked for others and created a great family feel in the placement.
Zahid took great pleasure and pride in announcing the days, then the weeks, then the months without any cannabis use. They maintained home management, observing regular laundry and room cleaning routines. Zahid’s short term goal was to eat better, put on weight and develop health benefits from living well. These changes became clear to see as did their genuine smile. Their pride in their achievement was heart-warming. It’s important to point out that nothing would have been achieved without Zahid’s commitment to change.
Access to Care staff are well trained and have developed practical real world skill sets through years of experience. When working with so-called ‘hard to reach’ and ‘challenging’ young people, they employ tenacity and intuition; set good, strong boundaries and work as a team for consistency and continuity. Our staff team are all local to the service and understand the culture and the community; this is key to our success.
Zahid remained with Access to Care for a further six months before turning 18 and leaving as set out in their support plan for a more independent setting. Zahid left at the right time and was in a good place. Everyone at Access to Care misses Zahid.
On leaving Zahid said,
“I’m going to college to do health and social care them I’m coming back to work here”.
Zahid keeps in touch and is now living fully independently with their own property and has employment in the town centre.
Being part of a young person’s transformation and developmental journey is always a real privilege for staff at Access to Care. In Zahid’s case, there was enormous development and change.
Brought on by the persistence from the staff team, their innovative approach, local knowledge and established links into other local services and professionals, Zahid was able to want to accept help and change in their life, agreeing to appointments or to look at different solutions that would help them. Tenacity, persistence and never giving up is what worked for Zahid.