The O Family Case Study
The O family first came to our attention two days before Christmas 2016, when they contacted out Executive Chair Peter Mitchell to ask for our help. They explained that they had moved to the UK from an African nation where they have been, and still would be, at risk of persecution. However, despite living and working in the UK for over a decade, with their three children all born in the UK, the Home Office had denied them leave to remain: this new immigration status prevented them from working or claiming benefits, leaving them destitute. As a result, as well and chronic food insecurity, and they were facing eviction from their RSL property due to spiralling rent arrears. They were also unable to claim any ‘passport benefits’ connected to a benefit claim-one of these was Free School Meals for the children, meaning that the two O children in primary school, although they were the poorest in the school, could not access free school meals and would go hungry at school. This was the point that the family were at when they contacted the Big Help Project.
The Big Help Project responded immediately, bringing food and festive items to the family that day, so that they could have a proper Christmas. This arrangement of bringing food to the family continued throughout the 18 months it took for the Big Help Project to appeal, and eventually secure a reversal of, the Home Office decision. In that time, Peter liaised with the children’s primary school to ensure that a way was found for them to receive Free School Meals without a claim for a passport benefit needing to be in place. As the rent arrears led to the unavoidable eviction, the Big Help Project not only secured a new property for the family near to the children’s school, but made sure that it was furnished and equipped before they moved in. Equally importantly, Martin and the whole team provided the family with constancy, support and compassion, building a strong relationship with the family that continues to this day.
The primary outcome for the O family was that were able to survive during a time in their lives when all forms of access to funds were closed to them. The positive effect upon their health-both physical and mental-is incalculable. This intervention also meant that they did not have to face being deported to their country or origin and all the risk to life that would have entailed. Once the family were given leave to remain, they were able to firstly claim benefits, and from there, move into work: as educated professionals, they have brought their skills to the NHS. Eventually, they were able to cease claiming Housing Benefit and now pay their own rent out of wages that also contribute tax and N.I. to the economy. They are still in the house we found for them over four years ago, happy and thriving in a country and a community that they are proud to call home.
The O family have had a significant impact upon the culture of the Big Help Project and the development of our services. It has given everyone on the team a greater understanding of, and empathy with, those who seek haven in the UK and are caught in a system that is complex and designed, by the Governments admitted intention, to create a ‘hostile environment’. It has shown us, in a very immediate sense, the folly and danger of policies that alienate those who seek only to live safely and contribute to a society. Finally, it planted the seed of what is now our Big Help Housing project, which works towards giving those who are marginalised the opportunity to have a decent and secure home, bespoke support if needed, and the chance to make the best of their lives, against the backdrop of an increasingly commoditised and exclusive housing market.
CASE STUDY: MS K
Words cannot express how grateful we are to the team at Network Housing Solutions for ushering our family to a brand new start. When we were told by our council that a move to Doncaster would be the most feasible option, as we could not afford to live in London, we did not know what to expect. It was not the easiest thing to stomach particularly with having four children who had already gotten used to their little world in Dagenham. To make matters worse, we were given very little information from the Council with regards to the moving process. However, everything changed when we received a call from Adieba. Speaking with her really put us at ease. She emailed me a brochure of the property and pictures we would be moving into and explained how that would be the best option for me and my children.
One the day of the move, the team kept in touch with us throughout and made us feel like we were visiting family. Upon arrival we were greeted with the warmest heart and a Home Sweet Home gift and a box of chocolates, We felt right at home straight away!
There was a warm meal awaiting us in a clean home with all our belongings ready for unpacking. We also received our rent agreement, some groceries and a thorough walk through of where and how we could access all the services that we needed such as doctors, dentist, local amenities etc. as well as getting our children enrolled in school.
Since then, Saiqa, our relocation manager, has been working with us to ensure that we settle nicely and are able to access all the services that we need. She is very approachable and always willing to help. It’s always a pleasure dealing with her. She has helped me with applying for my benefits, register with Schools and GP’s and helped with my CV so I can start applying for jobs soon.
We had little furniture so Network Housing gave us beds and some white goods and then helped us to find places where we could buy cheap things for us to make a start. We never felt alone throughout this process. Not only were we impressed with the service received, but we are also very happy with our new home and community. Our home is much more spacious and costs one third of the price of the flat we had in London. The Landlord came to visit and made us feel so welcomed.
Everything in our community is easily accessible and the city centre is just walking distance away. There are lots to do and many places to visit. It is much safer and the air is very fresh and much less polluted. As a result, this has been one of my best spring seasons in years with hardly any hay fever allergies. The water is very clean and compared to London, there is no lime scale build up.
I believe that this is a much better place to raise my children and to my surprise they settled much quicker than we expected. They love their new schools and most of all enjoy walking to school. Saiqa also found a great church nearby and the children look forward to Sundays. We really appreciate the team at Network Housing Solutions and would highly recommend them to anyone seeking to begin a brand new life. This is definitely what one would describe as a service tailored to go above and beyond your needs.
Relocation Address: Wolverhampton
Lotus Sanctuary helps vulnerable women across the black country with supported housing, trauma informed therapy and a wraparound support network for residents. We are a heart centred, compassionate not for profit going above and beyond regular duty of care in order to help each resident to the very best of our ability.
This is the story of one of our residents, 41-year-old woman, S. Her story is not unusual.
Referred to Lotus Sanctuary in January 2019 by another charity in Wolverhampton, S became a Lotus resident following a five month stay in hospital due to heart valve failure, among a host of other issues. She was sleeping rough in a tent in the city suburbs on and off for the last two years before being admitted to hospital after the death of a former partner, prior to this sofa surfing for around two years – never having lived independently her whole adult life, aged 40 years old.
Hospital to home
When we met S she was extremely fragile not only physically but also mentally and emotionally, her life in jeopardy. She was extremely grateful for the help Lotus provided, and for having a safe place she could move into after being discharged from hospital. Having a stable home base allowed S to fully physically recover and continue addressing her drug dependency issues with the help of ongoing therapy, medication and a dedicated support worker. Without this kind of support in place the likelihood of S not fully or recovering was high. S says “I will always be thankful for Lotus. They helped me when know one else could and gave me a home where I can start to recover and rebuild my life”.
After moving S into her new home one of our support workers worked together with her to devise an empowerment plan (a regular procedure for all of our residents) detailing her goals moving forward after her immediate issue of housing had been solved.
The Road to Holistic Health
S expressed a hopeful attitude towards the future, optimistic about continuing along the road to health, free from drugs and alcohol. She was also excited about making steps towards leaving old toxic relationships behind and fostering new, positive friendships in different social circles. S also expressed a wanting to build and nurture her relationship with her 8 children, which she has been doing since moving into her new home.
We have seen an exponential improvement in her health and overall being in the last few months. She takes pride in her home and has made a concerted effort to personalise it and make it comfortable, relishing the chance to have a space of her own. Since addressing her drug dependency, she is also less prone to mental health issues, though is about to embark upon a course of CBT therapy with our clinical therapy service to further strengthen her mental health progress.
S has taken part in various activities (which we provide for all our residents) including rambling, yoga and art therapy, and has an excellent relationship with our other resident she shares a home with. She is feeling optimistic about the future, keen to continue bolstering her physical, mental and emotional health and we are confident in our ability to keep providing her with the support she needs for every step of the way.
Respects the principles and norms