Picture this – it’s the day before Christmas Eve, your spouse has not long passed away, you have no family nearby, you can’t get around very easily, you’re all alone in a top floor flat with no food in the house – all you have is your flat and you are scared that if anyone knows you are struggling, they may make you leave.

This is the kind of thing our community team sees everyday.  They work with people who are struggling with physical, mental, financial and other issues to get back on their feet.  These people don’t qualify for services from social care and they don’t always have a great deal of money to pay for help themselves, so our community workers have to be creative, contacting local churches and voluntary groups or sometimes neighbours or local businesses.

This lady came to our attention through the housing association at her flat in Bloxwich.  She didn’t seem to have any food and wasn’t leaving her flat.  A social worker popped along for a visit.  To help alleviate any anxieties, she introduced herself as a community worker because if a social worker knocks the door, many people are frightened to let them in.  The woman, who’s in her 70s, looked malnourished and wasn’t very willing to share any information about her family or her health.  This is a common reaction to a social worker visiting – many people are frightened that this may mean they could be asked to leave their flat to move into a care home.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  We want to help people to stay in their own homes for as long as they can and get help from within their communities, as this is usually what people want and it keeps pressure off of social services meaning that we can focus our help on people who have the most intense, severe needs.

As it was Christmas Eve the next day, we were concerned that this lady would be without any food over the holiday period.  We contacted the Church@Junction 10 who provide food parcels and arranged to pick up some donated food later that evening.  It was hard not to worry overnight about this poor woman in her flat alone, as once you see someone struggling you feel a duty to help them.  We couldn’t get into her flat to deliver the food the next morning but we dropped the food at her door later that day as she didn’t want to let us in.  The housing association told us that they could see she had taken the food into her flat so at least she wasn’t without a meal over Christmas.

Long and winding road

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Hopefully this simple act will help to build up a bit of trust and this lady will begin to see that we are here to help and she doesn’t have to be frightened. We’ll keep popping in for a chat and try to become a familiar face.  Our next step is to try to help her get the right benefits.  We’ll make sure any help we give is on her terms. This can sometimes take weeks or months, but that’s what we’re here for.