I grew up with my parents and my sister in the house that I live in now. When my parents died we inherited the tenancy, I really enjoy living there. I also live with my sister who has learning difficulties too. We live independently but we have carers who come and help us.
I was receiving benefits but it changed to Universal Credit. Then it just stopped and I didn’t know why. Because of my learning difficulties I struggle to understand things like paperwork and telephone conversations. I needed some help so I contacted Transform.
I feel really happy at the moment because I know that if I’ve got any problems I can just ring her... She’s great – she’s always there when I need her.
When I knew someone from Transform was coming to my house I was a bit anxious. But my keyworker was really friendly and just went through a support plan with me. We discussed what help I wanted, and then decided what we needed to do first and how we were going to do it.
My keyworker has helped me a lot with so many things; she even got me a washing machine! When I first met her I didn’t have one, I had to go to the laundrette to do washing but because public transport is very limited where I am I really struggled. So my keyworker helped me get a grant for a washing machine – I was so pleased. The first time the carers used it the washing came out smelling lovely – I wasn’t used to it!
An organisation called Optalis was helping me find a job. I had a Job Coach which was funded through the JobCentre but it was only funded for six months. When it was coming to an end and I didn’t have a job, my job coach and my keyworker worked together to liaise with adult social services at Wokingham Borough Council to try and get the funding continued and they were successful.
They also felt that I would be entitled to another benefit called PIP. So my keyworker helped me apply and even came to the meetings with me because I find them difficult. At first they turned me down but after an appeal they finally agreed and I even got it backdated. She did a really good job.
At one point I kept receiving these letters which I didn’t understand so I’d just bin them. But when I showed one of them to my keyworker she realised they were real letters about a pension I was entitled to. She’s now helping me claim that as well! She’s not allowed to give me advice on it though, so she took me to Pension Wise. They explained everything to me but it wasn’t very clear so my keyworker put the information together in a way that I could understand it and I was able to choose what I wanted to do with it by myself. She made it much easier – I don’t know how I’d manage without her.
I feel really happy at the moment because I know that if I’ve got any problems I can just ring her. In fact I’ve got something else that I need to discuss with her at the moment, I need to fill in a form but I know I’m going to struggle to understand it so I will need her help. She’s great – she’s always there when I need her.
Margaret was quite shy when I first met her but very direct when it came to what she needed help with.
I started getting involved when there was as disruption with her benefits. There had been an issue and her benefits stopped coming in so I worked with her to sort them out. Once that was all sorted I thought my job was done but her support with Optalis came to an end which I knew was going to be an issue.
Because of Margaret’s learning difficulty she needed quite a bit of help – with different assessments, using the computer, filling in paper work and completing the journal necessary for her to receive Universal Credit. So without any support I knew the benefits would stop again which would have a knock on effect elsewhere.
I have been to assessments with her where the application has been rejected even though the person doing the assessing struggled to communicate with her and looked to me for clarification. The good thing was that because I was there I knew exactly what was said and I was successfully able to appeal the decision on her behalf. It was a real stand out moment for her and me, she’s had to fight for everything her whole life, but when she found out the appeal was successful she was straight on the phone to me – she was so excited! I asked her what she was going to do with the money and she said ‘nothing, I’m just going to keep hold of it!’ because it’s money she’s never had before.
Margaret managed for a long time on her own, she’s happy to make her own phone calls, but sometimes people speak to her in a way that she just doesn’t understand what they are saying. If it is a simple piece of paperwork like her bank statement she will be able to read it. But then when she got a letter about her pension she struggled to understand it. She thought it was spam, turns out they wanted to give her money!
Help with just her pension is probably a job for Citizens Advice Bureau but knowing Margaret and knowing the additional support she would need like having it explained to her and attending meetings, I knew that it was something I needed to take on.
She was given five options. So I spent a good hour sat at my desk thinking about how each option would affect her, what changes would happen and how best to explain each of them to her so that she could then understand it well enough to say ‘that’s the option for me’. Margaret has now made her decision and she’s just been to sign the paperwork!
I think Margaret is quite happy just chugging along the way she is. She will keep doing what she’s doing and make sure she doesn’t affect her benefits, and she will be fine because she knows there is help available if she needs us again in the future.