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Rescue Remedies: Frontline Stressbusters
To reduce stress, anxiety and burn-out among frontline staff facing a bleak world
Staff in our advice team are frequently under substantial pressure. Particularly since the implementation of the ‘hostile environment’ for migrants, we are seeing rising numbers of clients facing homelessness and destitution. Solutions to people’s problems are becoming more difficult (and sometimes impossible) for us to achieve. Burnout is a problem. Seeing clients with complex immigration problems in addition to facing street homelessness and possibly other issues such as mental health and substance abuse can result in advisers feeling frustrated, exhausted or depressed. It can be hard to maintain a positive morale.
This idea will provide support for frontline staff – helping us to feel better so that we are better equipped to meet the needs and stress of our clients.
Frontline staff at Praxis have identified the following issues as being highly stressful:
“What I find most frustrating and incredibly stressful is when I have a vulnerable client who arrives on Friday and is homeless. It is so difficult to find emergency accommodation and also it is often not suitable for a vulnerable client. I also find it very stressful when I know that we could help someone by submitting an immigration application but there is no fee waiver and they cannot afford the costs. If they don’t submit the application, then they might lose their status and be in a much worse situation requiring much more work to support them, so it’s incredibly frustrating not being able to submit an application in time just because they can’t afford it.”
“I find it stressful not being able to debrief/rant/talk about clients who are really difficult, especially those who might not be engaging or following advice that you have provided. It helps to talk to other advisers informally, but I think it would help to have proper structured clinical supervision sessions with someone who has expertise in homelessness and understands how we feel.”
“I would like to have someone with specialist expertise and experience in trafficking and gender-based violence to provide external supervision and mentoring so that I can double-check that I am giving the best possible advice in this area, learn more about relevant caselaw and get good ideas on how to improve my casework, make appropriate referrals etc.”
The idea of this project is a three-fold approach to reducing stress, burnout and exhaustion for frontline staff working with homeless migrants. This idea is entirely based on what frontline staff have said makes them feel most stressed. We would:
• Provide frontline staff with a fund to cover 3-4 B&B nights to relieve the stress of dealing with trying to find immediate emergency accommodation for a vulnerable migrant (particularly over the weekend);
• Provide (and try to matchfund) a fund to cover at least some of the costs of immigration applications with no available fee waivers;
• Provide clinical supervision for frontline staff in group sessions to reduce stress and isolation and promote good practice and a supportive environment – we have been recommended Brett Grellier – who used to be a housing outreach worker and has particular expertise in working with homeless organisations and staff.
• Pilot the provision of external specialist supervision/ mentoring for 2 advisers from people with expertise and experience. We have already been in touch with law centres and other NGOs (Islington Law Centre, Rights of Women, ATLEU etc.) to get quotes and we have found that there is huge enthusiasm to carry out this work for us, but that people cannot afford to take it on without payment. This will also reduce pressure on our in-house casework supervisors.