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Isabel* has been a Bromford customer for years but we’ve not always had the best of relationships with each other. So when her neighbours complained about her anti-social behaviour Sinead, neighbourhood coach(ASB) it didn’t go down too well when we went to see her. Here, neighbourhood coach, Sinead McDonnell takes up the story.

“Monday to Friday everything seemed to be going along okay, but as soon as the weekend came, complaints of loud music and arguments had become the norm so I went along to see what was happening with Isabel. It’s safe to say that we didn’t get off to the best of starts. There were tears and tantrums and I was eventually asked to leave the flat… but my job is all about seeing beyond the immediate and looking at the potential. Even in those early, challenging days I could see that Isabel had something about her so I quickly arranged to go and see her again.

“The next time we met I explained that I understood she hadn’t always got on with Bromford but that things were changing. I told her all about my role as neighbourhood coach and that it was important to start our relationship from a position of trust. I explained that I had both hers, and her neighbour’s, best interests at heart and that we needed to be honest with each other.

“It’s important to be able to build a rapport with people and during the conversation I noticed a couple of huge speakers in the flat. I shared with Isabel that I was a DJ for years as I asked about the speakers. Isabel gave me a knowing smile and eventually admitted that her partner brought his stereo round at the weekends and plugged it in to them. This broke the ice a little and I was able to encourage her to think how she might feel if her neighbours were using them to blast music out at all hours – especially as she has a couple of young children of her own.

Building trust

“Over the coming weeks Isabel opened up to me more and more, admitting that she had been reported to environmental health because of the noise, and that children’s services were also involved. She told me about the constant disputes with her partner that were fuelled by alcohol. We talked about her lack of confidence and how this had led to her taking anti-depressants to cope when things around her were going wrong.

“When we first met, it was all about the ASB but she’d also built up rent arrears of around £700 and her relationship broke down, leaving her worried, isolated and lonely. As the trust was growing between us, we were able to work together to get Isabel thinking about budgeting and setting up a plan to clear her arrears. I also suggested that she find some new friends by going along to the local children’s centre.

“Isabel wasn’t keen at first and her nerves nearly got the better of her when it was time for her to go. But she was brave and pushed herself to make the effort. Instantly, she made a couple of friends, setting up play dates for her children and after a short while she made friends with Theresa. Theresa worked at the Job Centre and, after finding out that Isabel was trying to build her confidence, invited her to do some work experience one morning a week.

“Whilst working at the Job Centre, Isabel started to learn more about the impact that Universal Credit (UC) would have once it’s introduced. She was putting the information packs together to give out to those affected and became a bit of an expert on the matter – sharing her knowledge with friends and neighbours in her local community. This knowledge also prompted her to make sure her own rent arrears were cleared before UC comes into place.

“Over the next few months everything was going really well for Isabel. She stopped drinking and her mental health really improved. A real transformation was taking place and, although she and her partner got back together, their relationship was far happier and healthier. The ASB case was closed and the relationship with her neighbours was completely repaired. Children’s services and environmental health no longer needed to be involved and Isabel was well on track to paying off her rent arrears.

“I hadn’t seen her for a little while so called round to see how Isabel was doing one day, only for her to tell me that she’d got herself into a little trouble financially. She explained that she’d overspent on a recent holiday that her parents had paid for. She’d treated the children a bit too much and she’d also had to buy new uniforms ready for their return to school. She told me that her arrears had gone back up to £235 however when I offered to sit with her to work out a new plan, I was pleasantly surprised. Isabel had already done it. She had worked out how much she needed to pay to make sure that they were paid off (and her account in credit) by the time UC is due to be introduced in her area.

“This was incredible – and exactly the kind of resilience that our coaching approach is designed to encourage. I’m so proud to see the journey that Isabel has been on over the last 12 months. Before we met she didn’t even think about her rent, never mind planning ahead and paying off more to get herself in credit. I love the fact that Isabel felt equipped to sort out her finances herself. She didn’t need me – and that’s precisely what we’re aiming for with this new approach.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been – it’s all about where you’re going.

“By her own admission, Isabel was stuck in a bit of a negative cycle but now she’s confident, resilient and is on the look-out for a job to fit around her children. She’s been thinking about possible barriers to getting into work and has done the research into free childcare herself. She loves cleaning, finding it really therapeutic, and is possibly looking for work in this area. Her confidence has grown that much she’s even thinking about setting up on her own.

“When I asked Isabel what her plans for the future are, she simply said: ‘Now I just want more.’ Isabel says that she doesn’t really know what ‘more’ is at the moment, but now that she’s seen a different path, she never wants to go back. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been – it’s all about where you’re going, and what Isabel has done in a relatively short space of time is massive and so inspirational.

"She has proved that if you want to, you can change. Her future looks so much brighter now and I’m so pleased for her and her children. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to believe in you, and Isabel is a perfect example of how the smallest of sparks can help change your life forever.”

We asked Isabel if there was anything she wanted to add to the story. She said: "The relationship that I've got with Sinead has had a really positive effect on me. Thanks to her listening to me and spending time with me I feel a lot better about my future than I did this time last year. I can't thank her enough."



*Name changed

Hi there, I'm one of the writers and content creators at Bromford...It's all about storytelling and social media for me.  

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