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Having a home is key to stability

As part of our 'Day in the life of...' series, it's the turn of starting well coach, Debbie Hall to talk us through her day.

My day starts at about 5am – I know it’s the middle of the night for some but I like the peace and quiet that the early morning offers. I like to read journal articles - I’m fascinated by psychology – and my reading helps to put me in the right frame of mind for the day ahead ( the four coffees that I have also help me to come round).

At about quarter to seven my 15-year-old daughter, Mary Kate gets up and makes herself an omelette and a cup of tea, not a word passes between us, just a little wave to say ‘good morning.' Half an hour later and Callum -my 14-year-old son - appears after being shouted at least three times. Fifteen minutes later they both leave for school.

At the moment I’m covering Wolverhampton and West Bromwich which is pretty much on my doorstep. My first appointment is at 9.30am so I log on to my iPad from home as there’s no point driving to the office only to come back. After checking my emails I set off to meet Jane.*

Mental health

Jane is 18-years-old and has recently moved into one of our properties. Throughout her childhood she suffered domestic violence from both parents; her mum had poor mental health and her dad used drugs regularly.

When she moved into the property, Jane had nothing and so we have helped to apply for a grant and she was awarded £100 to buy a new cooker and she has also had a fridge donated from one of our older peoples’ schemes but the 'starting well' service is a lot more than just helping our customers to get ‘stuff.'

Unsurprisingly, Jane’s upbringing has had a detrimental effect on her mental health and she is in need of professional help with this but first of all she needs to register with a GP – something that I’m working with her to do. It would be easy to do it for her but my role is to help Jane to take control of her life. During her childhood her parents were extremely controlling and Jane would happily let me do everything for her.

With no family support, a large part of my time with Jane is spent trying to motivate her. Today I encourage her to join the local library which will be vital for her future independence and communication with us and a whole range of other agencies and support. She is one of my most vulnerable customers and, as such, there is a higher risk of her tenancy failing without our help. By joining the library she will have internet access which will allow her to log in to her account on our website where she can report repairs and monitor her rent account – another way of gaining control over her life.

Our session today consists of a conversation that we regularly have around the importance of her tenancy – she understands that her home is key to her stability and security and that she has an opportunity to move forward with her life but, being so vulnerable, this message needs reinforcing whenever we meet.

Jane is currently working on a zero-hours contract and when she’s not needed to work, she claims Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) but this can cause her problems. If she’s offered work on a particular week and then is told she’s not needed she has to make a rapid reclaim from JSA which can also have a knock-on effect to her housing benefit :through no fault of her own, her rent may not be paid. I take the opportunity to ensure she is explicitly clear that responsibility for informing JSA of any changes lies solely with her.

Today’s appointment lasts nearly two hours leaving me just enough time to type up my notes in the car before seeing my next customer.

Domestic violence

Today is my first meeting with Lisa* and so is a bit of a ‘getting to know you’ session and for the next hour or so I listen to her story.
Lisa, who is 31, tells me that she has moved into the property after living in a hostel since fleeing an abusive ex-partner. With the help of Women’s Aid she has just come off medication that she has been taking for the last year for anxiety and depression.
She has very little to move in with – she needs a fridge and a cooker but luckily she has a steamer and single hob burner so can get by until she can apply to charities that can possibly help.

We talk about her money situation and I encourage her to use the budgeting tool on our website to help her to manage her money. I also show her the benefits calculator. This is a tool that I always use with my customers as their circumstances can sometimes change on a daily basis and by encouraging them to use this can help them to get back on their feet.

Rather than always focusing on negatives, we aim to find out what people want to do and what they are good at. Lisa tells me that she was self-employed and ran an art and crafts business before having to put it on hold due to the abusing relationship. I advise that one of our skills coaches may be able to help her to get her business up and running again through a business enterprise scheme.

Pit stop

After leaving Lisa I grab a couple of sandwiches (tuna and mayo on wholemeal bread today). I check my messages and reply to them whilst drinking a coffee and typing up my notes from the session with Lisa. I head off to my next appointment.

Salvation Army

Rashid* is miles from home. His marriage broke down after he told his family that he is gay. He was rejected and had to move away. I meet him at the Salvation Army where he has been living whilst waiting to be allocated a property.

Today is my first meeting with him after he was identified by our lettings team as being potentially vulnerable. I’m joined by his housing manager who goes through the tenancy agreement with him before my work begins.

Rashid explains that he had been offered a property with another provider but decided to move into a Bromford property because of the help and support that we offer.

From our conversation today it’s apparent that he needs professional help. He told me that he currently taking medication for anxiety and depression and says that he has multiple personality disorder but because he had moved areas he doesn’t have a GP or mental health professional at the moment. The first goal that we set together is for him is to get registered with a GP with a view to being allocated a new community psychiatric nurse. During the conversation it's obvious that Rashid was struggling with his sexuality and had never really spoken to anyone about his feelings. I explained that there is help and advice available from organisations such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) and various helplines and left him with the details.

I leave Rashid at 4pm – just time to get back to the office for a catch-up with my manager before leaving for the day. A bit of classic dance 80's and 90's – singing along to ‘I got the key, I got the secret’ on the way home – still sounds good!

The kids and my partner are already home so we all sit down together for fajitas before the teenagers disappear to their rooms and we settle down for the night in front of the TV – I fancy watching a little bit of Luther tonight.

*Names changed


If you enjoyed this insight into Debbie's day, why not take a look at what some of our other colleagues get up to on a daily basis:

Community connector

Health and wellbeing advisor

Home sales


Communication specialist - My days are spent telling stories, networking, copywriting, posting on social media and delivering training to colleagues - a bit of everything really! 

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