Real Life Story: How the Accommodation for Work Project helped Eric back into work

biglotterylogo_W300-220x125Eric came to BHT’s Accommodation for Work Project when his relationship broke down. The project (which is funded by the Big Lottery) aims to help homeless people off the streets and into employment and independent accommodation.

His partner had become abusive towards him and he had no place else to go. He was faced with either becoming street homeless or staying with a violent partner. The stress of his relationship breakdown and possible homelessness made him feel anxious and depressed and he suffered panic attacks. On top of that, Eric had a stressful job and it was difficult for him to cope with it when he was in this situation.

He sought housing advice and was referred to the Accommodation for Work Project. He moved into the project and had his own room and weekly support sessions from a support worker. It took him a while to improve his wellbeing and process the traumatic experience he’d been through. He also had to deal with ongoing harassment from his ex-partner.

Eric was keen to make a fresh start and got a new full-time job. He also completed a Level One Accountancy course, which he really enjoyed.
Eric had to claim benefits as there was a delay in his new job starting. When he got his start date he had to sign off from the Job Centre but he wouldn’t be paid from work for 7 weeks. He wasn’t sure how he was going to be able to take the job and wait for 7 weeks with no food, rent money, or travel fares for work.

His support worker referred him to a food bank, which agreed to support him with food until payday. She advised him to ask the Job Centre for help with travel fares to work. Eric asked them, but they said they could only help with travel fares for one week. His keyworker contacted one of the Job Centre’s Social Justice Champions to advocate for him to get more help and it was agreed that they would fund his travel to work for a month. The project was able to fill the gap and fund the remaining three weeks of his travel fares.

The project agreed with Eric that he would pay rent as soon as he got paid from work. If Eric had been in private rented housing his tenancy would have been jeopardy due to accruing rent arrears. Starting work, coming off benefits and waiting to be paid is a difficult time for people who don’t have savings or other resources.

Eric paid his rent in full when he was paid. He enjoyed his new job, which was much less stressful than the previous one. Having a stable place to live and with support, his mental health improved significantly.

The next task for Eric was looking for his own flat. His support worker referred him to the PAAT Project for support with accessing private rented accommodation. She also helped him apply to a charity for help with a deposit. (The PAAT Project, also funded by the Big Lottery, works with individuals with low support needs and provides information, support and practical assistance to enable individuals to develop the skills, options and knowledge to improve opportunities to access private rented accommodation. Assistance is provided individually and in group work sessions).

Eric contacted dozens of estate agents and went on many viewings, but even though he was working full-time it was difficult for him to find accommodation without a guarantor. Several estate agents also said he wasn’t earning enough to qualify for their flats. After months of searching Eric finally found a studio flat and has been settled there for several months. He is still enjoying his work and in the 18 months since he first came to the project his life is in a much better place.

(My comment: Eric’s story shows that in spite of the great work carried out by this and other BHT services, the housing crisis in Brighton and Hove is such that securing suitable and affordable housing is becoming a bigger and bigger problem.  Also, the system operated by the DWP appears to be designed to frustrate and make it more difficult than necessary for people to get into work.  Some greater flexibility from the DWP in helping people back to work would save money in the short and long term.  Without the financial support and understanding from the Accommodation for Work Project, Eric would not have been able to return to work).

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