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Things had reached breaking point for Martin* with bluebottles covering the windows of his ground floor flat and a pile of unopened post littering the door mat.

When neighbourhood coach Jo Baker knocked on the door of his Staffordshire property to alert him that his fuel safety check was overdue, he initially opened his door, before slamming it shut after becoming distressed at the sight of a Bromford colleague standing in front of him.

Emma O’Sullivan, locality manager for Staffordshire, described the situation: “The lady above Martin has an immaculate flat but she had noticed flies in her home and there was a terrible smell starting to emanate from the property. Jo tried on several occasions to engage with Martin before seeing him in the street and arranging to meet him at the local library, but sadly he didn’t turn up.”

Following numerous attempts to engage with Martin and referrals made to health agencies it got to the stage where Bromford were left with little alternative but to take formal action. We applied to court for an injunction to allow access to Martin's home. 

“But this is where our new coaching approach really came to the fore,” Emma explained. “Jo and I got inside the property to serve the injunction and we framed the conversation in a completely different way – we asked him: ‘how do you feel about your property?’ and ‘do you like living like this?’ and he really started to open up, admitting that he had been feeling unwell for a couple of years.

“He fully expected us to be there to evict him and seemed almost resigned to losing his home. He actually said: ‘I’m going to lose my home aren’t I?’ so we responded with ‘no, that is the opposite of what we want to happen’. We explained that we were there to help Martin and as he began to believe what we were saying, the conversation moved from the front-door to further inside his home – where we could then see the full extent of the conditions he had been living in.”

Bags of rubbish, tin cans, pizza boxes and milk bottles covered every available work surface and inch of carpet. Martin agreed to open his front-door every time Jo called round and in the interim a multi-agency meeting was set up where the pair established that Martin’s former support worker Dominic was still working locally.

During the meeting, agencies confirmed that they had closed Martin’s case eight years ago due to non-engagement and Emma recalls the initial hesitance to allocate resources to supporting Martin. Jo was able to explain however that Martin had engaged really well during the last two weeks and encouraged other agencies to try again.


“We were starting to understand more of Martin’s background – we contacted Martin's mother who wasn't comfortable discussing the situation with us at the start. But Jo was able to explain that she had managed to get other agencies on board and that we were able to assist Martin to get back on track. His mother then opened up to us explaining that he had gone through a sustained period of drug dependency due to issues in his childhood including his brother passing away and was now drinking instead. His mum said she thought he hadn’t changed his clothes in six months so he was pretty unkempt,” Emma explained.

“We asked Martin if he wanted use of a skip to start clearing his home but he said he’d feel humiliated if the neighbours saw so we arranged with the skip company for it to be delivered at a certain time when less people were likely to notice. To our absolute amazement, Martin had bagged up much of the rubbish in the kitchen and lounge on the very first day and within four weeks he was leaving messages on Jo’s phone. We are so encouraged by Martin’s progress.”

Three months on and Martin has continued to engage really well with Jo and the other agencies involved. His GP has completed a full health assessment before prescribing him different medication and the local mental health team have completed a psychological assessment. Martin welcomes Jo into his home and now keeps every room in his home clean and tidy. Much to Emma and Jo’s amazement, Martin has also started to decorate and proudly showed off his newly painted bathroom on Jo’s last visit to the property.

Emma added: “He is looking better and says he is feeling better in himself. It's quite remarkable that by asking slightly different questions and framing the conversation in a new way, we were able to form a completely different type of relationship to the one we may have had with him 12 to 18 months ago. There’s a long way to go but to see his trust in us and his confidence grow so much in such a short period of time is just amazing.” 

*name changed to protect identity

Communications Manager - whether it's telling customer stories, proactive and reactive media relations, social media, or photography, I'm your man!

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