In June 2011, St Basils embarked on a 3 year pilot training project in partnership with the DCLG, the London Housing Foundation, Southampton University and the local NHS Mental Health Trust. The project aims to train staff in core therapies to ensure young people accessing all St Basils services develop the emotional and psychological resilience needed to overcome the multiple challenges of being young and homeless.
Research by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in 2010 into complex trauma and homelessness identified that nationally 60% of homeless people suffer from ‘complex trauma’ compared with 10% of the general population. The research revealed that people suffering from ‘complex trauma’ display behaviour which is a reaction to ongoing trauma from past events or difficult childhoods. As a result they are more likely to develop ‘ineffective coping mechanisms’ resulting in a mental health issue or dependent behaviour. Within that group they identified young people as being particularly vulnerable. The report highlighted the value in creating a “Psychologically Informed Environment” (PIE) as the best means of addressing this situation.
This is about creating a holistic and whole organisation approach, ensuring all staff including managers and 'back office' staff as well as support workers are trained in core therapies to ensure they can handle and work to alleviate challenging behaviour. The PIE training programme will help staff to understand the causes of challenging behaviour and they will be better equipped to help young people work through solutions.
This diagram shows our integrated approach:
The first phase of the project, the training programme for all staff, has now been completed. The core theories are being implemented by staff and all support staff are participating in Reflective Practice sessions with local psychologists.
A year on, informal feedback from St Basils staff about the PIE pilot has been largely positive.
Chantel Edwards who has worked at St Basils for 8 years and is now Senior Worker at St Basils Mother and Baby scheme said:
“The PIE training has been really useful, when you’ve been in the sector for so long, it’s good have a refresher but PIE explores new ways of engaging with young people because of the Psychology angle. It helps staff ‘upskill’ to deal with the problems coming in.”
Housing Support worker Justin DaCostaGomez said:
“The PIE training has been very interesting, especially the Cognitive Behavioural therapies. I hope it continues and perhaps looks at further training and alternative approaches”.
Housing Support worker Martin Plant said:
”A lot of what it covered I think most staff were already doing but we didn’t realise it was an actual method. It’s formalised our approach and now even before things escalate, we’re already looking at the method to use to stay on top of things and keep things positive”.
All staff are putting the different approaches into practice; the ‘Chain Analysis’ approach has been particularly helpful. All staff interviewed could provide examples of how they had implemented this approach with their young people, which looks at causal cycles of behaviour. One staff member said: “It’s caused a state of self realisation and awareness with one young person I’m working with. He can see for himself now and he’s pointed out to me that history was repeating itself and has taken action himself to try and change the situation”.
All staff interviewed, agreed that the Reflective Practice sessions had been particularly helpful. Justin said: “The reflective practice sessions encourage joint working between projects and support staff across St Basils to help different young people.” Housing Support worker Maxine Forrester added: “It’s good to find out how other people face challenges and get ideas for what might work with your own young people”.
Staff were interviewed informally for the purpose of this article. St Basils Learning & Development team will be conducting an official survey of all staff shortly, and Southampton University will be continuing to monitor the impacts of the PIE programme over the next 2 years.
Related articles: St Basils to Invest in a Psychologically Informed Approach to Help Young People Break Cycle of Homelessness
Added May 2012