The curtains are now opening on a new world for Simon. Read about his housing support story.
Simon’s life changed when he was made redundant in 2007 and shortly after that he became unfit for work. He was falling over a lot and had lots of tests and MRI scan but they couldn’t give his condition a name. The Job Centre kept telling him he was fit for work but Simon couldn’t tell them what he had because the doctors hadn’t diagnosed his condition. He found himself struggling to live on £73 a week for rent and food. Simon was in a desperate way and had tried to commit suicide.
He was told by the DWP that if he didn’t apply for work he would be sanctioned. While this was going on he couldn’t claim the full amount of benefits he was entitled to because his condition had not been identified. He felt like a ping-pong ball going between everyone seeking a solution. He didn’t dare go out of his flat because he kept falling over.
He was finally referred to a consultant who diagnosed Simon with vertigo. As we talk he has to press the side of his head and he maintains that talking exhausts him so he’ll be recovering tomorrow but he knows this and can plan it into his week. After nearly two years of struggling on £73 he was able to claim his full entitlement of £115 a week with backdated payments. Simon couldn’t afford to eat every day due to the cost of the bedroom tax. He took the flat with his brother after his mum died but his brother moved out, leaving Simon to pay the shortfall that he is not entitled to because of having three bedrooms.
He was still withdrawn and hoarded in his flat reducing his living space and creating a tunnel through which he entered. Simon shut down in his flat and stayed in it. He was frightened of bailiffs because of outstanding rent mainly due to the crippling bedroom tax and kept his windows shut, even on hot summer days.
He only went out three times in two weeks to get food otherwise he stayed in the flat. Simon was living day to day only ever able to cope with 24 hours at a time. He felt ‘numb, alone and cut off’. He had lost all family ties after being made redundant a few years ago.
Support with Connection Support
Simon was introduced to our Oxfordshire Housing Support service in Witney after the local CAB office put him in touch with us. Although he was nervous at the first meeting with Connection Support he has come to trust Rhonda, his Support Worker. Rhonda and Simon have built a strong relationship of mutual respect.
First on the agenda was food! Simon was not eating for ten days out of the month so food parcels were arranged from the local food bank.
Within three weeks of meeting Rhonda, at Connection Support, Simon allowed her into his flat. She was the first person who he had invited into his flat in nine years! Partly due to distrust but also due to lack of access as Simon was a hoarder you’d have to tunnel your way into his flat. This situation prevented the housing association from gaining access to the flat to conduct gas checks and had been going on so long they had no option but to issue him with a threat of eviction. So Simon needed to clear his flat quickly to avoid losing his home. With Simon’s permission, Rhonda arranged funding for Aspire to clear Simon’s flat.
Simon’s situation has affected his confidence and he has found it hard to trust people, as he says, “Trust takes time”. Before all of this he used to be a D.J. for 30 years and was quite an extrovert compared to his quiet nature now. He now feels empathy for others who are hoarders.
Simon’s support worker, Rhonda has accompanied Simon on important appointments such as to the GP. He is struggling to have enough money to feed himself due to the bedroom tax so moving to a smaller flat is the solution. Through Rhonda’s persistence and support Simon now gets his bedroom tax paid for.
Simon refused to have a bank account for several months of support which caused major problems -we could not apply for Personal Independent Payment (PIP) or make any benefits changes. After going round in circles for several months he finally admitted that he was resistant to having a bank account because he was so terrified of having his money taken away by debt collectors. Opening a bank account has been a massive turning point and changed the way he can manage his benefits and money.
What’s Simon’s life like now?
Since clearing out the flat Simon has much more room to live in and it has invigorated him to keep it tidy.
Looking forward Simon wishes to move to a one bedroom flat and is applying for PIP ( personal independent payment) now he has a bank account to bring in additional income taking into account the difficulties caused by his condition
Simon aims to get out every day and makes it part of his routine. He goes on his bicycle everywhere as he cannot walk unaided. He is able to ride his bike for miles which he does regularly. He says he feels calmer, more focused and able to plan his days. Unfortunately, Simon still has undiagnosed brain issues which impact on his life. Medical services have given up testing him.
He feels more positive as receiving the right benefits and more in control of his finances. Rhonda has taught Simon how to budget to help him manage the money he does receive.
Simon explains “it is 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.” He is now looking ahead and is much more optimistic about his future.
Talking about Connection Support and Rhonda, Simon says “Hope. Connection Support has given me hope. Before I didn’t have any. Rhonda, you are worth your weight in gold.”
Connection Support Housing Support Service in Oxfordshire
Our Housing Support service provides support to you if you are at risk of becoming homeless, living in inappropriate or unsuitable housing. Our team provides 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 referred to our Housing Support Team by your GP, social services or housing association or other support service. For a self-referral form and further details about how this service can help you please visit the Oxfordshire Housing Support project page.
* To help protect the privacy of those we help names have been changed.