24 Apr 2020

'Lockdown' - Week 5 - from a front line Support Worker

We chat to Jude Holden, another of our Support Workers working on the front line.

In the beginning I was really worried about my clients and how they’d cope, but I’m not anymore. On the whole they’re all doing really well. Every Monday I try and contact each of my clients by phone just to make sure they’re alright because they don’t always have credit so if I were to text they might not be able to text back. Touch wood, they all seem to be responding really well to this contact. The majority of them are doing just as they should be and sticking to the rules and I’m not particularly worried about any of them now. We have a chat every week, not always about the lockdown either which is nice, just what’s going on with them and what they’re going to be doing after lockdown is lifted. I’ve also got some former clients who are quite elderly and I ring them midweek just for a chat to see how they are. They really appreciate it because some of them have nobody else.

I have one client who is isolating at the moment so I take him meals from Noah’s Ark every week. Noah’s Ark have been absolutely brilliant, they’ve worked so well with us and other charities. If I’m going there I take deliveries for them for other people who are either close to where I’m going or close to where I live. It’s been so good to see how much they’re supporting us and our clients. Also, Calderdale Lighthouse - we have a good relationship with them normally in our usual work, but it’s another level now during lockdown.

I’m housing one client next week – he’s 55 years old and has been living in a shed for the past 2 years. He’s going to view a flat on Monday which I’m sure will lead to acceptance. I’ve already put in a CLS application for him to get the basics and I’m really hopeful it’s going to work out for him. He’s not a ‘stereotypical client’. He has no addictions. He’s a hard luck story. He had a failed relationship, lost his home and his job and then went sofa surfing for a while. He was quite OK with living in the shed but I think with all the floods and rain he’d just had enough. We referred him to the Winter shelter so he’s staying there at the moment. Hopefully come Monday we’ll have him housed.

I’m supporting another guy who’s an ex offender and he’s fallen by the wayside. Again, he suffered a relationship breakdown, he has mental health issues, he offended but nothing major – hopefully we’ll get him into supported accommodation in the next 2 – 3 weeks. Everything is running a bit slow at the minute and when an empty flat comes up it needs cleaning etc. The manager at Horton Housing has been really supportive, I spoke to him yesterday and he’s going to process the application. He’s really come through and will ring my client next week with a view to getting him housed as quickly as possible.

I have a 19-year-old client who suffers with severe mental health difficulties and heightened anxiety. He doesn’t really engage as a result, not because he doesn’t want to, but because he doesn’t know how. I’m really struggling to get anyone to house him because of his age and because he doesn’t receive full housing benefit. Its also difficult to house the under 35's with private landlords due to the amount of rent payable each month. Because of the reduced housing element, the top up would be unaffordable. As a result I’ve referred him to other services including YPASS who particularly deal with 18-25-year olds. They’re now going to assess him. It’s not to say he won’t get help, it’s just not turning around quickly. 

All three of these clients want to work and I’ve referred them to Newground looking to get them into employment or on courses but that’s all ground to a halt at the minute. It’s just so frustrating because we could be 5 weeks ahead of where we are at the moment but there’s nothing we can do about it. Universal Credit has been increased and deductions aren't being taken off them so that’s really helping. I’ve told all my clients to keep that extra money to one side as they will have additional expenses once they are housed.

It’s a very different way of working. I’m used to being out and about and visiting client’s homes once a week or fortnight. It’s hard because some of them are really vulnerable and have heightened mental health difficulties so just to be in close proximity with them and have a cuppa makes all the difference. On the whole though we’re doing so well as a team, we work really well together and we’re all there for each other, its amazing, it's basically like having a second family. It’s challenging and it’s pushing us to our very limit but we’re doing it.

I've personally suffered losses since lockdown began and because of this it’s been a really difficult few weeks. Some days have been quite hard but work has really helped me not to think about it too much. If I’d been stuck at home not working it would have been so much worse. I have a  very supportive husband who's also still able to work. We’re both being so careful when we go out and abiding by the social distancing rules. We have five beautiful grandchildren who we can’t see properly. The two youngest really don’t understand it and that’s hard. I just keep thinking of all the fun we’ll be able to have when it’s all over.

It’s a strange and sad time, but I really think it’ll make us all better people and the world a better place. I sit in my garden and there’s no sound other than the birds tweeting and the skies are so clear. It’s nice to see the world having a rest. Being in lockdown has gone quickly so far and the weather has definitely helped. So stay home and stay safe guys, each day is a day closer!