Ali's Story - Young People Programme

Please note that all names have been changed.

Ali was a NEET client, and was referred to us by her mental health practitioner. She had been discharged from this service following a period of counselling and completion of a Resilience course. The Referrer felt she was ready to take the next steps forward in her life.

After leaving school, Ali enrolled on two courses at college but struggled to complete either, due to experiencing high levels of social anxiety. She also suffered from a low mood and poor self-esteem, finding it difficult to leave home at times and therefore difficult to settle into college. When the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions impacted, Ali's anxiety levels increased and she was often scared to leave the house. At the point of referral, her mental health practitioner had been supporting her to challenge herself and go to the local shops. Ali worked on building up coping strategies to enable her to gradually spend a little more time out of the house.

Our Volunteer Project Manager (VPM) initially found it hard to communicate and engage with Ali. She wasn’t comfortable answering the telephone and after a few weeks of texting, their first telephone conversation took place, followed by a face to face call over Zoom. Our VPM learned that Ali had barely left their home in months, mainly in response to COVID restrictions. Her anxiety levels had worsened, she didn’t feel she had any structure in her life or motivation to do things, but she wanted change and wasn’t sure to how to go about this.

[Ali] had very low confidence and self-esteem and had little knowledge of her own likes/dislikes. She was also very reluctant to engage in group/social activity in new situations.

With our VPM’s support, Ali explored her interests and talked about what she might like to get involved in, with a view to volunteering. She was still anxious about going outside and being around groups of people. It was important to find opportunities that would enable her to participate without creating further anxiety. By taking a more holistic approach, we were able to explore therapeutic interventions to help her cope with her anxiety and low mood. With her consent, our VPM liaised with her GP and they signposted her to a Social Prescribing service, attached to the surgery, where Ali could access other types of counselling and therapy to help her deal with her anxiety.

Throughout her childhood, Ali had enjoyed singing and cooking and from this our VPM was able to find both local and national choirs who were meeting up and performing online. This offered the chance to join a group safely, and at a distance, where she felt more comfortable. Although she felt anxious being in group situations, Ali was encouraged to join a weekly online cooking session that our VPM team had set up in Manchester and Bristol. Whilst she kept her camera off at first, she felt comfortable switching this on as the weeks went by and she subsequently became more engaged with the group. As an experienced cook, Ali even went on to lead one of the cooking sessions, which boosted her confidence and gave her a great sense of achievement.

As social distancing measures started to ease, Ali’s confidence was beginning to grow and we focused on finding her a volunteering placement. She was interested in the retail industry, so we started with charity shops that were within a short walking distance from her home. Our VPM accompanied her to the shops and made enquiries about potential volunteering openings and how to apply. Using a pro-social modelling approach, we were able to show Ali how to go about applying for roles; knowing what to say and ask for. She soon realised it wasn’t as daunting as she thought and went off to do this by herself. This led to an application as a volunteer with a local Barnardo’s charity shop, just ten minutes from her home.

Step Together Volunteering offered the perfect course of action for [Ali], as she has been able to take the process slowly, set her boundaries and make progress from there.

Ali was successful and started volunteering at the charity shop, finally reaching the point where she no longer needed Step Together’s support anymore. She has also since been applying for jobs in the retail sector and has become more confident completing application forms and attending interviews as a result of her volunteering experience.

Step Together Volunteering is a vital service for young people now more than ever I suspect, and one that I always feel confident in referring Young People to, in the knowledge that they will get a positive experience out of it.

Ali's Story

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