‘I used to think I could count the number of wonderful people in the world on just two fingers, now I would need three pairs of hands!’
Margaret enjoys the company of friendly people, but up until last year her social circle was limited to a few family members who she relied on to take her on excursions, such as shopping trips, and this formed her weekly routine. However, earlier this year changes in the way her benefits were calculated had a big impact on Margaret, as she was declared ‘fit for work’. Her benefits were cut, and with the time delay in switching to Universal Credit her income was drastically reduced and things began to feel desperate. She no longer had money for food. Fortunately, during this time Margaret had a chance conversation with a family friend who took her along to the MESH office to ask for a food bank voucher.
Walking into the MESH office was incredibly difficult, but Margaret overcame her anxieties and crossed the threshold. Once inside Margaret received the voucher and was introduced to Skills Connector Donna, who could support Margaret to move towards employment. Learning that her GP had suggested Margaret challenge the benefits decision Donna introduced Margaret to Life Connector Nancy. Nancy worked with Margaret as they successfully appealed the decision, meaning her ill health had been recognised and she was no longer judged fit for work. Nancy introduced Margaret to Training Connector Tim who enabled Margaret to access IT training, so she could manage her online Universal Credit account.
Margaret learned that there was a regular craft club at the MESH office and she began to go along. Knowing that a friendly face would await her there enabled Margaret to leave her house without additional support and she began to feel more independent. She enrolled on the IT improvers course with Tim. Margaret learned about the gardening groups at Community Roots and began to attend those, being at Community Roots reminds her of childhood days spent outdoors.
Nowadays Margaret has a wide circle of friends. If she’s early for one of the groups at MESH she pops into the community cafe for a cup of tea. She says there usually someone to talk to, even if she doesn’t know them. If Margaret feels low she doesn’t shut herself away in her house, she attends one of the groups and spends time with her new friends. ‘you go in feeling like everything’s a bit rubbish, and then you realise what a wonderful world it is, with wonderful people, it gives you a lovely warm glow inside’. A year ago, Margaret could count the number of wonderful people in the world on just two fingers, now she says ‘I’d need three pairs of hands!’
Behind the scenes; Skills Connector Donna’s perspective
- When I first started working with Margaret I recognised that she was quite isolated, so I talked to her about the craft group. She seemed interested but didn’t feel confident to attend a new group by herself so I attended the first two sessions with her, which enabled her to walk into the group feeling supported. As it turned out there was a lady in the group who had been a neighbour of Margaret’s many years ago. It was lovely to see them chatting and catching up and reminiscing about old times. They left together and talked about seeing each other the following week at the craft group.
- Margaret may not work again in the near future but the fact that she is now growing in confidence and sees both MESH and Community Roots as safe havens for her is just wonderful, it’s lovely to see her so happy.