"We’re not doctors or nurses but we do save lives"

Floating Support Officer

Housing and support should be available to everyone. Anyone can experience challenges. I have worked with many clients who had successful careers, families, and homes, and through circumstance – especially relating to health – they became homeless, living on the streets, or very very hungry.

We’re not doctors or nurses but we do save lives.

We are involved in supporting someone to get their life back when they thought it wasn’t possible.

I’m a Floating Support Officer (FSO) based in the Adur and Worthing area. I see people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and support them to manage their housing issues, mental and physical health, finances and benefits, and positive social networks. I also help them get involved in the community because if someone is not included in the community, they can’t live independently.

Housing and support should be available to everyone. Anyone can experience challenges. I have worked with many clients who had successful careers, families, and homes, and through circumstance – especially relating to health – they became homeless, living on the streets, or very very hungry.

I’ve done this job for two years now but have worked for Southdown for six years in various roles. My background is in mental health, but as an FSO you have to have a lot of feathers in your cap and a high awareness of people’s health and wellbeing.

It’s very important in this role to work holistically with an individual. We have to consider the bigger picture and not just focus on one particular issue. Coming from my background, I believe physical and mental health is connected. 

I always like to look at the underlying situation of a client who might be exhibiting challenging behaviour to us. It’s so important to look at someone as an individual, and I adapt my style and work to suit each individual.

I meet clients in their properties or in the community, but I also work with other people in their life – such as family, doctors, and the Council. We work in partnership to ensure the best outcome and support is provided for our clients and advocate when required to achieve an outcome.

I love seeing people recover. The best thing about my job is seeing the look on the face of someone I’ve been supporting when they find suitable accommodation after they’ve fallen on hard times. 

It’s amazing to have former clients stop me in the street and tell me how they’re doing. I love the element of supporting individuals to get back on their feet where they can then make a difference.

I work with a lot of individuals who are stuck - people who have received support to live independently but don’t have the confidence or ability to move on to somewhere more permanent like private rented housing or social housing. Many people are nervous about having their support end and finding somewhere to live.

There seems to be no such thing as a ‘forever home’ anymore. The introduction of bedroom tax means that a lot of our clients cannot afford to keep their properties once their children move on. We have also inherited some clients who believed they were in a ‘forever home’, and as you can imagine, being told they have to move on to other accommodation creates anxiety.

The waiting time has increased for council properties, a lot of clients will potentially wait up to ten years for a council or housing association property and they also find that the local housing allowance won’t cover private rents. All this has an impact on their health. Our job is to support an individual to find the best possible solution to such problems by ensuring they are safe, have suitable accommodation, and are looking after themselves.  

The impact of the benefit changes has been really really sad over the past few years. The benefits system wasn’t designed for working people to become unwell. Ten years ago people rarely used foodbanks. Use has really increased now and new foodbanks are being set up where there was previously no need.

A lot of people who use the foodbanks for food and sanitary products are people who have been very successful in life. People can lose their house because they have become ill, lost their job, and can’t claim benefits to pay for their mortgage.

Women are experiencing period poverty. Some of my clients won’t leave the house because they don’t have clean underwear or sanitary products. It really affects people’s emotional and mental health. If anyone is donating to a foodbank, please do drop off some sanitary towels as well.

With the withdrawal of housing support in the community, I expect to see a rise in mental and physical health conditions and more deaths of people who are isolated in their homes.

We are also seeing a reduction in mental health and social care support. This is creating greater challenges for us as we have to support clients to access services that have limited capacity and large waiting lists. Unfortunately it seems that clients have to reach crisis point before they are being provided with appropriate support. 

With cuts in signposting services too, people won’t know where to find support or get help. 

Universal Credit has just been launched in Worthing which is really bad timing because there won’t be support for clients to go through this stressful process if the cuts in housing-related support go through.

We are also seeing small funding programmes being removed which will see a rise in health challenges. For example, previously, a lot of clients have been able to apply for funding to buy tumble dryers for their studio flats so that their clothes can be dried without encouraging mould to grow in the home and the related health problems that come with that. But now that funding no longer exists.

The TV licence is also having an impact on my clients who can’t afford to pay. Individuals are finding themselves isolated and stuck in their house for days with nothing to do. 

I don’t think the media helps. People are quick to assume that people on benefits want to buy Sky TV or that immigrants are taking benefits. It’s just not true.

Because everything is online now, people can’t afford to apply for jobs online because they don’t have access to the internet. And they can’t buy clothes for interviews. It really has far-reaching effects.

It takes a lot and it takes good mental health to have the motivation to get up, get out, and apply for work. It’s a difficult cycle to get out of.

If West Sussex County Council bring these cuts in, the impact on the community will be detrimental.

Friends and family who help their loved ones may be affected as their benefits may change if their household changes. There will be an increase in people going to doctors surgeries, there will be mothers becoming homeless, and people will die on the streets.

People don’t understand it’s not just about one person and one house.

 

The West Sussex Homelessness Prevention Partnership (WSHPP) is an integrated service that offers a dynamic way of working, greatly benefiting multi-disciplinary teams and their clients, by providing a combination of pre-tenancy support, supported accommodation and floating support as well as some new and innovative targeted services for people at risk of homelessness.