Partner profile: Laura Heaven, Blackburn REACH worker

“I support those that need me in Blackburn town centre.” 

Laura Heaven has been a REACH worker in Blackburn town centre since July. But what does her role entail?

Following a successful pilot scheme around two years ago, Laura’s role is to engage with people with medium to high risk needs who are hard to reach or have disengaged from support services. 

The role was created following a questionnaire led by Blackburn BID that identified crime and substance misuse as two of the areas of priority for the town centre.

Led by CGL Inspire and supported by Blackburn BID, Laura works with vulnerable people who don’t know where to go for help and support.

“My aim is to get any vulnerable person into a position where they receive the support they need to move on and rebuild their lives independently, with the right support around them.

“A lot of the time these people are overlooked. They are almost dehumanised. Rather than helping them to deal with their issues, they are seen as the issue. It takes time to gain their trust but by taking the time to talk to them, they feel like their voices are finally being heard.”

Laura said she advocates for those who need support. Rather than the individuals just being seen as chaotic people, their issues are being recognised and dealt with. 

She said: “The referrals tend to be people that need additional support, whether that mental health services or additional support. It could be those presenting as street homeless or have openly said they are suffering from a substance misuse issue. 

“We can find them the right help with the right channels. It’s about breaking down those boundaries.”

Laura works with numerous organisations – from the police to credit unions, local HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupancy) and other support services. She has also been instrumental in reinstating the CGL Inspire drop in at the Thomas soup kitchen.

Laura said she has witnessed some great outcomes.

“We had someone presenting as homeless and reports of him begging daily. He’s now housed in a HMO with no concerns about his behaviour. We have helped him to get back in touch with his family and they are rebuilding a relationship again. His substance issues have reduced and because he can see a brighter future, he is applying his own stability. He has done all the hard work, we have just opened doors.” 

Laura said businesses can refer people to her – even if they don’t know the name of the individual.

“People can refer individuals if they have concerns over their behaviour – such as how they’re dressed, or anti-social behaviour. I conduct outreach daily and I want to be able to support the businesses and residents, to make Blackburn town centre a safer place.

“I’ll happily step in and advocate for them and see what their issues are and how we can help. I’m never more than a phone call or an email away.”

Referrals can be submitted to Laura.heaven@cgl.org.uk or by contacting her on 07827 859 267.

©2022 Blackburn BID

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