This is the second in a series of Real Life Stories, the experiences of BHT clients in their own words:
“I am at last writing to you to inform you of how Homeworks has helped me over the past 18 months.
“In September, 2010 I experienced a period of severe clinical depression which necessitated me leaving my job, and therefore the accommodation that was tied to that job. I had minimal input from the Mental Health Teams despite two suicide attempts in a week, but I was given a Homeworks leaflet.
“On contacting Homeworks, I met Mandy, who instantly facilitated looking into my options. She linked me in with Housing Benefit and Employment Support Allowance, which was something I had absolutely no prior experience or knowledge of.
“I quickly moved in with relatives, after my landlady staged a break-in at the cottage I was soon to vacate, in order to encourage me to move out quicker than the four week notice period. I eventually moved in with my Mother, with my 2 children, to a rented house in Eastbourne and thanks to Mandy’s advice added my name to the tenancy which then permitted me to claim Housing Benefit, facilitating a level of independence. She also suggested applying for Disability Living Allowance, which was granted. I used the first payment, which was back-dated to September, to pay for a week’s respite at Forresters in Southampton, again Mandy’s idea, which was a really useful break.
“Mandy helped me to navigate the Mental Health Teams, which was something I just could not manage, and liaised between the acute and community services, which at that time did not appear to communicate, in order to find out where I was on the list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and which list I was on; a list I had been added to at least a year earlier before I became acutely unwell.
“I saw Mandy weekly and provided a huge amount of emotional and practical support. She sorted out all my Benefit applications, which was further complicated by divorce proceedings and imminent sale of my part of the marital home. We used the Eastbourne Advice Centre on a number of occasions to clarify matters relating to Benefits. I would not have been capable of any of this without Mandy’s help and support.
“At this time Mandy also supported me through making a complaint to the NHS regarding the lack of mental health care I was experiencing. Having written to the NHS Trust and getting no reply, I eventually wrote to my MP, Norman Baker, detailing my experiences, who contacted the Trust on my behalf. Mandy and myself subsequently attended two meetings, one with an Acute Services Manager and one with the ‘Adult Mental Health Recovery Team’ Manager, and ultimately received a written unreserved apology from the Trust.
“Since contacting my M.P. the care I have received has been good, with regular support from a Clinical Psychologist for several months, followed by a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and regular follow up with a Consultant Psychiatrist.
“Again, Mandy’s support was instrumental in pushing to get the mental health support I needed, and which was not forth-coming until I complained. She helped me to stay calm enough to get my point across when I was finding everything very difficult.
“In March 2011, my Mother needed to move on and I became homeless. Mandy supported me through submitting a Homeless Application, which was accepted by Lewes District Council. I moved to a series of Bed and Breakfast accommodation, to Seaford for a weekend, to Jevington Gardens, Eastbourne for a couple of months, then to Hanson Road, Newhaven, for three months. Mandy supported me through all these moves, which were stressful, unsettling, expensive and a bureaucratic ordeal, as each move required a new Housing Benefit application, requiring new evidence etc. At Hanson Road, I managed to persuade the Council to allow my 2 cats to be returned to me, by supplying a “cat reference” and supporting letter from my GP, which again were Mandy’s ideas.
“At each step Mandy’s gentle insistence that all the options be looked at, gave me the feeling that I could make the decisions regarding my future, which was very difficult due to my mental health problems at the time. She facilitated my independence when I felt very low and unable to mentally juggle all the issues that were immersing me.
“In October 2011, I moved to a three-bed house in Newhaven, and am currently on a starter tenancy, with the full likelihood of going on to a secure tenancy. I have a house that suits my family’s needs, is affordable, and close to my children’s school in Seaford. Mandy’s support at every step of the way has enabled me to get to a point where I am again living independently and in receipt of Benefits that are enabling me to recover from my mental health problems.
“I cannot thank Mandy and Homeworks enough for the help and support that I received during a very difficult time. Without that help, I have no idea where I would be.”