I work for ERS on the Towards Work Program alongside Derventio. I am an Ambassador for the Program and I am a participant being supported by Suzi at Derventio. The aim and focus of Towards Work is to help individuals facing adverse circumstances to overcome these barriers and move forward to lead more fulfilled and purposeful lives.
I was introduced to The Towards Work Program in March earlier this year at a point when I was exhausted and struggling. However, now, my circumstances have much improved and thanks to the help and support from I received my confidence and self worth are being restored. I am no longer exhausted and I am employed.
Towards Work offered me a personal and individual program to help me get back on my feet and move forward. For every participant the help is tailored to their own individual needs. You may think that your needs and circumstances are too extreme? I thought that too.I thought I was beyond help .
I found myself in February 2015 in a run-down rented house, both children were emotionally broken, including myself and their father had left; we had been made homeless twice previously and I had a total of £31, no food and no job. I was faced with an enormous task of sorting benefits, to get us back up to the breadline,along with maintaining an overall calm to enable my children to heal. At that time in February 2015 I had returned from prison having won my appeal.
To help you understand my situation I shall tell you more about my life’s history. I worked hard at school and left with 10 GCSE’s. I briefly attended college before starting work at a Bank where I worked my way up to eventually qualify as an independent financial adviser. I decided to start my own business in 1998 for the main reason of balancing properly motherhood alongside supporting my Family financially. I was the sole income earner for the household. I worked hard to build up my business over a number of years and to provide a comfortable and secure future for my family.
Throughout, the children’s father suffered and still does from mental health issues. He suffered a traumatic childhood which he never recovered from. He had a broken marriage with 3 children and he struggled continuously to cope with that and life itself. However, that aside, he was and is a very loving father so I accepted that I had to do everything at home along with providing. The care and love he showed to the children was more valuable and important to me.
The adverse affects of the economic crisis starting in 2009 created much hard work for me as I had to restructure my business which coincided with the emotional and mental breakdown of my partner. This created an overwhelming amount of pressure and stress for me. I struggled and did not ask for help. Further to this, I made some ill-judged decisions which led to me being made bankrupt and homeless. In hindsight this event signified and concluded years of coping alone and feeling that asking for help was burdening others.
A third party involved with my bankruptcy, then approached the police and I was arrested in August 2012. I was placed on bail and was questioned over 6 months whilst my business records were investigated.The case was presented to the CPS in April 2013. Following their assessment of the evidence collected by the police, they dropped the charge and case due to the lack of criminal evidence against me.
However, the police and the third party pursued the charge over the following 6 months and created a case that was to some extent bias and did not reflect the full true facts and events. My Counsel were split on how I should proceed and plead. Despite my solicitor advising me to plead not guilty I decided against this by pleading guilty to a lesser charge for a suspended sentence. I had by that time, fought for 2 years against the charges brought and I was exhausted.I could not support my family whilst on bail and we were under a significant amount of pressure. Also, should a lengthy battle in court ensue not only would we continue to struggle to survive but the whole Family and individuals involved would be publicly scrutinised.I did not want that exposure in particular for my children.I wanted the whole situation to come to an end so that I could rebuild the family’s security and their lives. I explained the position to probation who were understanding and provided a supportive report strongly recommending a suspended sentence.
Unfortunately, at the court hearing, despite support from the prosecution and obviously defence the judge placed me in a higher charge bracket and sent me to prison for 2 1/2 years.
I immediately appealed. This was successful and I was released after 7 months in February 2015.
Sadly the affect of all this upon my children was devastating as it was to myself. It exposed the difficulties at home regarding the extent of mental health suffered by my partner – the children’s father. He did his best to cope whilst I was in prison, but the disruption to the children’s lives was unavoidable. That is something that I have to live with and it is hard as they are and always have been ‘my life’. Both of my children are receiving help and support to help them now move forward.
I too am receiving help which I never thought I needed. This help has been invaluable. It has enabled me to unravel the confusion,disbelief,fear and shame that has overwhelmed my thoughts and disabled me. I understand much more about what happened and why; in particular it has helped me to understand myself.
I now feel in a privileged position. I see a clearer picture and I am thankful that I have learnt the lessons I have. Mental health is a disability that interferes with activities of the whole person in relation to the immediate environment. If that is not recognised or ignored that damage will spread over a greater area and many more people are affected.
My inability to share a burden and reach out for help, has created many barriers for me which has made it hard to move forward.Barriers preventing people moving forward come in many ‘shapes and sizes and they don’t necessarily link to mental health. Everyone’s circumstances are very different and some more complex than others. This is what the Towards Work Program recognises.
Towards Work will deliver a person-centred inclusive programme for participants who are unemployed. The program’s objective is to help people deal with life and put them on a path to build better opportunities. Towards Work restored my strength and self belief. They created a personal action plan which was personal to me. This enabled me to focus on what I needed to do to get where I wanted to be. They recognised that I needed to remain focused and helped me to move forward by taking one step at a time.
Me and my children now have a stable home and I am working thanks to The Program . We still have challenges but life is so much better and Towards Work has played a big part in that.