My Week: Rosie Backhouse is coping with an increasing workload

The head of adult programmes at the charity that supports people affected by HIV in the UK recounts her week

Rosie Backhouse
Rosie Backhouse

Monday: I'm planning for tomorrow evening's support service for people affected by HIV. There's lots to cram into four hours, so preparation is crucial. In the evening, I train some of our volunteers in basic case-work skills. Recent welfare changes have led to a big increase in our workload, so trained volunteers are vital.

Tuesday: I arrive at our office in Farringdon, London, at 1.30pm. This evening we'll have four workshops and up to 14 therapists, counsellors, solicitors and case workers conducting one-to-one appointments, so I spend the afternoon preparing for everyone's arrival at 4.30pm. I conduct 21 informal one-to-ones, covering legal, social, practical and personal issues. At 6pm, we have dinner, which gives the people we support a chance to socialise and relax. At the end of the evening, we have a volunteer debrief.

Wednesday: The phone rings non-stop all morning. Prioritising case work is difficult: the challenge is whether to go for immediate impact - for example, by writing a hardship grant application - or to spend hours working on a longer-term solution, such as pushing social services to provide better accommodation. At 11.30am, we have a debrief about last night. We saw 118 adults and 53 children. But our service is under increasing strain: we've had 35 referrals in three weeks.

Thursday: I visit an HIV clinic in Southwark, south London, to talk to the team about our work. I then head back to the office to devote time to some of my more complex cases, but not long after I arrive a young adult drops by needing urgent support, forcing me to abandon my initial plan.

Friday: A mother of three in need of immediate assistance drops in. She has no immigration status, no money for food and no idea of her children's rights. I refer her to our monthly immigration clinic and for food parcels. At 4pm one of our service users calls to say he's been evicted. He's also alcohol-dependent, so it's hard to find him accommodation. Just in time, I find him a temporary hostel.

Rosie Backhouse is head of adult programmes at Body & Soul

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