MHA Week 2022 – Seeing the Whole Person – Interview with Christine who uses Together’s Benham Court and Brookview Supported Accommodation Service
Posted on 10, May 2022
Our theme for MHA 2022 is Seeing the Whole Person looking at ways our staff work with people with complex circumstances that can contribute to mental distress they’ve experienced or impact the support they receive. We felt this theme would provide us with an opportunity to raise awareness and demonstrate the way our staff work alongside people who use our services. We aim to ensure we always consider every aspect of an individual’s experience, including mental, physical and social factors as we work alongside the people who use our services to lead their own care and support.
One of the issues that can be a barrier for people who’ve experienced mental distress is finding housing that is appropriate for them and that is something Christine, who has used our Benham Court and Brookview Supported Accommodation Service, volunteered to tell us about in an interview.
Christine is also one of the people who uses our services whose personal circumstances are impacted by physical health needs as she is one of our older residents at the age of 76 and so requires a bit of support to maintain her independence and mobility. We asked her a series of questions that she was kind enough to answer with a bit of help from her Together support worker Miriam Lawes.
We started by asking Christine about how she came to use our Benham Court and Brookview Supported Accommodation Service. She explained that when she was 25 she was accepted for a place with her local mental health services to live in a supported accommodation service in Northamptonshire that was a different provider to Together. Christine said that home felt like a very institutionalised type of service. Considering it she said:
“I don’t mind me telling you, I’m 76 now, so we’re talking about 51 years ago. It was a very different type of place compared to my living setup now.”
Christine spent a lot of years living in that previous care and support service and moved on again to another one eventually with a different well known service provider. Sadly she had a very bad experience there which was worse than before. She explained that while staying there her money and benefits were taken away every week and she was just given a small amount of pocket money. The meals there were poor quality and Christine didn’t receive much which meant she was often hungry. Again, the service there was an institutionalised type of support.
Christine has been living at Benham Court for the past 12 years and says she’s very happy here. The service allows her to live independently which is important to her and she also receives support from Together staff with a weekly check in usually or sometimes more often depending on what’s needed. Christine has a support plan that she completed with the staff team at Benham Court and within that she has been able to make clear her wishes around her lifestyle. Part of that includes a risk assessment and that helps ensure she’s safe and well. The working relationship with staff is well established and Christine feels she trusts them. At points the staff team will work with Christine specifically to increase her wellbeing.
In speaking to Christine we wanted to look at the different ways the Benham Court and Brookview Supported Accommodation Service helped her to live independently. On that, Christine’s support worker Miriam was able to provide more detail explaining how the service will help with organising the housing tenancy and booking appointments with her doctor and psychiatrist. The service will also work together with other agencies such as Age Concern to navigate the benefits system and to support if budgeting loans are required. They will also step in to help with any medical calls or to facilitate social chats and coffee meet ups or anything Christine makes clear she needs and may be struggling to organise herself. At this point Miriam is keen to stress though:
“On the whole Christine is very independent and actually spends a lot of time supporting the needs of other people who use the service. She is what I would call a very kind hearted neighbour.”
Christine and Miriam have a one to one session booked in for the same time each week but they say very often they’ll see each other in our just outside Christine’s flat as its very near the team’s office. That means they can have quick chats at any time which is something that works well for Christine and which Miriam enjoys too.
We asked Christine about how Miriam and the team at Benham Court and Brookview Supported Accommodation Service help her in dealing with other types of organisations or institutions she needs to deal with. In that regard Christine described how they might help by making a doctors call with her or on her behalf if a specific issue isn’t being addressed as an example. Miriam and the team will keep Christine up to speed with any tenancy issues that arise and deal with the organisation managing that. They will also help manage payments and deal with any maintenance problems that come up while Christine’s daughter manages her direct debits. Miriam commented that:
“There can be a lot of the issues at different times but we keep Christine up to date and on track with finances and home repairs. This bit of support is what she has told us she wants and it enables her to have an independent lifestyle that is important to her.”
In the main though Christine says chatting with people and having personal emotional support has been important as she has been going through a lot of family issues through Covid. There have also been other very demanding health situations and the focus of their one to one catch up will be on whatever has occurred at the time.
We want to say a big thank you to Christine for taking the time to talk to us and sharing her story and also to Support Worker Miriam for helping to put the piece together.