This organisation, once known solely as Walsall Pregnancy Help, first opened its doors in November 1992 at the Butt's Community Centre, Walsall. From the outset our aim was to establish a caring and welcoming place where people could "drop in" and find compassionate care, reliable information and emotional support at times of crisis and concern.
Responding at that time to the growing concern relative to unplanned pregnancy rates amongst teenage girls, we initially started as a charity offering specialist support to teenagers who were dealing with these issues, often trying to make important choices alone, afraid and without reliable information as to what options were available. We aimed to make the service user friendly, unbiased, non-judgemental and caring from the outset.
As we do to this day, we offered a "drop in" service for pregnancy crisis issues where no appointment was needed and worked on a first name only basis, helping to make a confidential and relaxed safe space. Our free pregnancy tests with immediate results could quickly inform the user of the situation and offer time and space to explore reactions and feelings and discuss the options and choices available away from any pressure. Our aim then, as it is now, is to help people make their own informed choices, to respect those choices and to support people through their dilemma.
We soon found, however, it was not just teenagers who accessed our service and not only crisis pregnancies that worried people. We also found it not just to be women and girls who needed our help but men and teenage boys also valued our support. At this time we recognised a need to become more professionally qualified if we were going to continue with our endevour to do our very best for the growing number and range of people using our services and bringing to us an ever widening variety of concerns and issues. We therefore decided to embark on a rigorous training and development programme for our staff. It was also at about this time that the Butt's Community Centre was sadly due for closure and our organisation faced a crisis relative to a loss of venue. Fortunately we were offered facilities at the nearby Walsall Deaf Peoples' Centre located in Lichfield Street. From this point we began to develop into a professional counselling organisation offering a broader range of services.
A year after this move WPH Counselling and Education Services was launched to run alongside the successful specialist pregnancy counselling service. We also began taking more referrals from statuatory health professionals i.e. GPs, Psychiatric Nurses, Hospitals, Midwives, Social Workers and other youth and community professionals such as Black Country Connexions and WMBC youth workers. Our out of hours helpline service was also launched at this point and this service many users find to be a good way to make first contact with WPH and can be assured of the quality, range and confidentiality of the service.
As the organisation continued to grow we came to a point where the available space at Walsall Deaf Peoples' Centre was no longer adequate. We had been working around the problem by careful room allocation and working at other venues such Walsall NHS Walk in Centre and the Electric Palace at Bloxwich. Reluctantly, we came to the decision that we must move on again but did not really want to leave our Lichfield Street address. After discussing this problem with our good friends at Walsall Deaf Peoples' Centre we were informed that the house within the grounds, The Haven, would be becoming available for letting and it was suggested that it would be suitable for our needs. We made applications to the Community Fund (Big Lottery Fund) and fortunately they kindly agreed to support our move.
In 2002 as a result of this support we moved to our current location, The Haven, a venue that is ideally suited to the work that we do. Staff and users alike find The Haven relaxed, peaceful and a safe place where there can find the help and support they need in a time of confusion, concern or crisis.
Whilst the charity now runs WPH Counselling and Education Services as a professional counselling organisation offering a range of services and taking professional health service referrals, we continue to offer - as from day one - "drop in" sessions for free pregnancy testing where no appointment is needed. At WPH you will never be pressurised into something against your will, we are here to help and support you in finding your own answers.
Throughout all the changes that have occured over the years the original service that started predominantly for teenage girls has also developed and we now offer a specialist teenage service addressing the needs of all young people borough wide. Not only do they use our provision in house but our services are also delivered in local schools.