A social work student who has just completed her 100-day placement with the New Futures Project can look back on the time she spent with the charity with some pride.
Ethel Patel says one of the final cases she dealt with – a desperately scared woman who was homeless and heavily pregnant – brought home to her just how much she had learned during her time here and the vital importance of the work.
“She came to the project and said she’d been staying with someone but had been kicked out because she couldn’t pay her rent,” Ethel says.
“It was the end of the day and I was on outreach, so I stayed with her and got her something to eat and drink. We agreed we needed to get her into a hotel for the night.
“She came back the next day and I brought her into the building and again I got her some food and drink. Then I asked her to tell me more about herself.
“She said she’d been given leave to remain in the UK three years ago. Then she told me she was seven months pregnant and that her boyfriend had left her.
“She was depressed and very scared and told me she had no family or friends in the UK. She’d been going from place to place. There were some would let her stay for a day or two, and others who wouldn’t.
“She was not fluent in English and she told me she didn’t know what to do. After we’d spoken I left her to sleep because she was so tired and scared.”
Meanwhile, Ethel contacted the local housing authorities to alert them to the woman’s urgent need. They told her, rather vaguely Ethel thought, the woman was known to them and they would contact her.
Meanwhile, Ethel and the New Futures outreach team helped the woman find a hotel place for the evening and told her to come back next morning.
“She came to us in the morning and I brought her into the building and stayed with her all day while we waited to find out what was going to happen.
“I rang the housing people five times that day and they told me she would have to wait,” Ethel says.
She persisted until she was certain the woman was assured of a place to stay, initially at least in a hotel, while officials looked for a more permanent home.
“They told me they had booked her into a hotel and had a plan for her. I did everything in my power to make sure she had somewhere to sleep,” Ethel says.
Having left the housing issue in the hands of the local authorities, Ethel turned to simpler but still essential matters of her welfare as a mother-to-be.
She says: “She had nothing, so I contacted a charity called Baby Basics and told them about her situation. They responded really quickly and said they would be able to help her.
“I didn’t tell her what I’d done, but I asked her to come to the project the next day.
“When she got here I gave her a Moses basket, clothes for the baby and for her, bottles and blankets.
“She went into a hotel and that was the first time I saw a broad smile on her face.
“Ultimately, that is not a suitable place for her or the child when it comes along. The baby will need stability, a place to grow and develop.
“I hope the person who takes her case on will make sure she has a decent home to raise her child.
“I wonder if she would have ended up lost and on the street if she hadn’t come to us that day.”
Ethel is just one of the dozens of social wok undergraduates who spend anything between 70 and 100 days on placement with New Futures every year.
The project welcomes social work students from universities in Leicester and further afield.
Each is placed under the supervision of a qualified social worker and is responsible for a caseload of up to 12 women or young people.
This gives them invaluable real-life work experience before they resume their studies. In their time here, they are confronted with the realities of the women’s lives – including the corrosive effects of poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, mental ill-health and social isolation.
“University teaches you the theories and legislation, the values and ethics of social work but when you come to New Futures you are confronted by reality and learn to apply all the things you’ve learned with real people,” Ethel says.
“You never know what to expect. You have to work so fast and think on your feet. I have loved it here and I am so happy that I have made a difference to people’s lives.”
For further information about what to expect during a placement with us, visit this page on our website.
New Futures was set up more than 20 years ago to support women involved in sex work.
However, we have evolved into a welfare and counselling service for women and young people dealing with sexual abuse or exploitation – frequently involving domestic violence, trafficking, poverty and debt, substance use or mental ill-health.
Call us on 0116 251 0803 or send us a message at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find us at 71 London Road, Leicester, LE2 0PE.