Simon’s life changed when he was made redundant in 2007 and then became unfit for work due to a series of falls. The doctors were unable to identify the cause, and without a medical diagnosis he was still classed as ‘fit for work’. He found himself struggling to live on a job seekers allowance of £73 a week and was unable to apply for further benefits until his condition had been identified. The Department for Work and Pensions then told him that if he didn’t apply for work, he would be sanctioned. Simon was in a desperate way and tried to commit suicide.
After several tests, he was finally referred to a consultant who diagnosed him with vertigo. He was relieved that he was able to claim his full benefit entitlement (and backdate the payments) but still couldn’t afford to eat every day due to bedroom tax. He’d previously lived with his brother after their mum passed away, but his brother had since moved out, leaving Simon to pay the shortfall. He became withdrawn and began hoarding. He was also terrified of bailiffs coming around because of outstanding rent and kept his windows shut, even on hot summer days. He’d only ever leave the flat to get food and was living day to day, only able to cope with 24 hours at a time.
Help from Connection Support
Simon was introduced to our Housing Support Service in Oxfordshire after the local Citizens Advice Bureau put him in touch. Although he was nervous at the first meeting, his Support Worker Rhonda built-up a good rapport with him. First on the agenda was food! Simon was not eating properly, so food parcels were arranged from the local food bank.
Within three weeks, Simon allowed Rhonda into his flat – the first person to have entered in nine years! She became aware of this hoarding situation and learnt that he had received an eviction notice as he hadn’t been allowing the housing association to access to conduct gas checks. Simon needed to clear his flat quickly to avoid losing his home. Rhonda had to act fast and managed to arrange funding for Aspire to help.
The next challenge was convincing Simon to open a bank account as without one he couldn’t apply for Personal Independent Payment (PIP) or make any benefits changes. He was very reluctant, as he had been terrified for years that debt collectors would get hold of his money, but with a lot of persuasion, Rhonda encouraged him to take that step.
What’s Simon’s Life Like Now?
Since clearing out the flat, Simon has more living space and it has motivated him to keep it tidy. Looking forward, Simon wishes to move to a one-bedroom flat and is applying for PIP now he has a bank account. He aims to get out every day and makes it part of his routine. He goes on his bicycle everywhere (as he cannot walk unaided), and regularly rides for miles. He says he feels calmer, more focused, and able to plan his days. He feels more positive and in control of his finances as Rhonda has taught him how to budget and manage his money. He is now looking ahead and is feeling optimistic about his future.
Simon explains: “It’s like looking through a slit in the curtain which is getting wider, and everything is getting better. There is no way I want to go back to the way things were.”
Do you need help?
Our Housing Support Service in Oxfordshire provides support if you are at risk of becoming homeless, or living in inappropriate/unsuitable housing. Our Team offers advice on housing law, can accompany you to court hearings, and guide you through the benefits maze.
You can self-refer to access this service (you need to be aged 16 and living in Oxfordshire) or be by your GP, social services, housing association or another support service. For a self-referral form and further details please click here.