Home Works is a floating support service funded by East Sussex County Council Supporting People. We work in partnership with Southdown Housing Association to deliver the service in Eastbourne. The service helps people keep their homes and/or successfully move into new accommodation. This is the story of Annie, in her words and those of her support worker:
At her assessment Annie bravely confided in me that in the previous week she had written a suicide note and but for a lack of energy to move, she had planned to walk into the sea. How was it that she now found herself homeless and living in temporary accommodation surrounded by the likes of her 20 year old neighbour who had recently died from a drug overdose? As a 59 year old woman, who had previously held a senior position in the public sector, with schedules and responsibility and a good income, her life was now unrecognisable to her.
In spite of two grown up children nearby and family offering support Annie told me she felt ‘disconnected and alone’, an effect of the depression and anxiety she had been suffering from since her teenage years. “I had a desperate need to change my life and so I referred myself to Home Works who I’d heard good things about from others”.
Initially, linking her in with a referral to the Community Mental Health Team was a step towards her taking control of receiving the psychological and medical support she needed and she went on to be supported by the CrisisTeam and later on the Recovery Team.
Then Annie and I had a gentle discussion about her circumstances and although she identified her need to move she also recognised she had resistance to accepting support from her family to do this. Nevertheless a shift happened and within just two weeks Annie invited her sister to visit, who supported her to find a new flat and lent her the money for deposit and rent in advance. Annie and her two cats moved into a quiet flat in leafy surroundings where she could begin to recover her mental and physical health.
In this new space Annie was coached to read and understand her letters from housing benefit and she gained the confidence to speak on the phone to advisors and organise a repayment plan for an overpayment as well as to keep them updated on her changing circumstances. She also applied for Employment Support Allowance and made a successful challenge against the decision made so that she was placed in The Support Group. This gave her access to increased allowances and time to recover without the pressure of attending the Work Related Activity Group programme of activities. Annie was supported to gather evidence from her GP, mental health team and Home Works to make her appeal and now feels she has the skills and confidence to challenge other decisions in the future.
During this period of financial upheaval Annie accessed The Food Bank charity via Home Works using a food voucher which gave her three days worth of food. “I felt relieved, humbled and that it was a Godsend” she said of this, and when she was in a better financial position herself she contributed four bags of shopping back to The Food Bank to complete the cycle of support that had been so valuable to her in her time of need.
As Annie’s finances stabilised she felt empowered to seek debt advice and after an initial appointment accompanied by Home Works she continued to attend advice appointments at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau on her own. She now had regular incomings and outgoings, was budget planning and able to set up a plan to repay her debts so that she felt “there were no more skeletons in the cupboard!” Annie had gained a real grasp of the benefits system, her rights and responsibilities and had found a voice that could help her negotiate any future financial difficulties head on, with confidence that she could communicate well.
At this point Annie was discharged from The Recovery Team and says “I began to focus on getting a life!” She joined a women only gym that she had been thinking of joining for three years and after three months felt she no longer needed a knee operation she’d been on a waiting list for a year for as the pain was gone. Her COPD breathing difficulties were less of an issue as her peak flow test showed an improvement from 200 to 550 and Annie now walks more instead of using the car, feeling part of her community by often “popping into town”.
Also after initially attending a local centre with Home Works support, she went on to become a member, joining an upholstery class which “is so relaxing and good because you are acquiring a new skill and producing something at the end of it, in an environment where there is no pressure”. Annie also accesses all things digital, using the computers there and will be applying for a grant through them to buy her own laptop!
At the end of her support from Home Works Annie in her own words says “my relationship with my grown up children has changed and I am not ‘Earth Mother’ anymore. They pay me more compliments, ask my opinion and show they respect me more than ever which had created difficulties in the past”. She goes on to say “I am a Gym Bunny, having fun, enjoying a resurgence of my competitive spirit in the gym rowing machine league table; it’s so nice to feel so well. I feel like I was when I was 15 – the time before things began to go wrong”.
Annie had a breakdown when she was 16; she has negotiated depression and anxiety all her working life, suffered the bereavement of a dear father and rebuilt a relationship with her violent (and now elderly) mother. As Annie approaches pensionable age and following on from the support she has received from Home Works she says of the future “I feel like all the shutters have been taken off, I can enjoy my life, enjoy my cats, potter around in the garden – there is enjoyment to be had everywhere that I didn’t get before!”
Annie’s journey through the service took approximately one year, it demonstrates the holistic nature of the support we offer and the many positive outcomes a person can achieve when in a position to embrace support and engage with the ‘coaching’ approach. Annie’s confidence is back, she feels in control of her life and well equipped to face future challenges independently.