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Our Money Advice Project Manager, Suzie Shepperson, talks about her experience of helping a service user to resolve his housing and debt issues, and to begin to manage his finances.
James was referred to me from our Wellbeing Centre as a highly vulnerable adult who was struggling financially. He had long-term mental health problems and had been forced to move from his home of 18 years to a new home that had various maintenance issues that were causing him additional stress. He was struggling to sleep or be in his property, and at times was sleeping on the street. He also had bailiffs visiting him for a debt he was confused by. His mental health was deteriorating and his anxieties so overwhelming he had made several attempts on his life.
After our first meeting, I arranged an initial crisis grant of £300 to help James with his heating and food bills. However the funds were delayed as James’ mental health further deteriorated and once again he was hospitalised.
On looking into the bailiff activity, it came to light that this was linked to his housing situation. Although James was moved by his housing provider, they held him liable for two properties for 11 weeks causing rent and council tax arrears. The bailiffs were acting on behalf of Richmond Council to collect his council tax and he had been issued a court summons for these arrears. During the course of over 60 contacts via phone, letter and email, the council and his housing provider finally agreed to come to an arrangement so that he was no longer liable for the rent or council tax for his first property and the court hearing and charges were dropped.
I also supported James with his benefits appeal. James had been placed in the work related activity group. Despite his long term enduring mental health problems and deteriorating mental health - he had been hospitalised on over 12 occasions in the preceding 12 months due to self-harm and high risk of further self- harm - he was still expected to attend the job centre for job interview skills and demonstrate his job application activities which was exacerbating his anxieties and distress. I successfully appealed this decision. He is now in the correct support group and additionally in receipt of a support group allowance.
James now appears to be managing his finances. I supported him with his Personal Independence Payment application which was successful and has provided the additional financial support he needs to pay for his home care needs. I secured James an annual local assistance grant of £85 from Richmond Council which is payable to vulnerable people to help towards heating costs over the winter; and initiated a request for a Freedom Pass which was issued, giving James the confidence and freedom to travel around Richmond.
I also registered a complaint with his housing provider and their maintenance team as they continuously failed to make agreed appointments and complete scheduled works. The maintenance manager personally assured me that this work will now be carried out.
Whilst James still has some ongoing matters we are helping him with, he seems in much higher spirits and is again socialising within our Wellbeing Centre.