Safeguarding in action – A Neighbourhood Officer’s story

20 Nov 2020

Tenant news

An older woman's hands
United Welsh’s Neighbourhood team provides a housing management service to over 4,000 tenants; working with people to maintain their homes and to improve their quality of life.

This often gives Neighbourhood Officers (sometimes known as Housing Officers) a unique insight into the challenges people face, placing them in the important role of acting on concerns to protect a person’s safety.

Help and intervention by a Neighbourhood Officer can be life changing. The following is a story from one of our Neighbourhood Officer’s to support someone experiencing elder abuse, financial control and self-neglect.

To protect the identities of those involved, names have been changed and geographical and date information has been omitted.

“Sandra is a pensioner who lived with her adult son Robert.

“Robert took responsibility for household admin such as paying bills and getting gas and electric credit on the meters. He was also a drug user, which cost the household money.

“Sandra came to my attention after Celtic Horizons, United Welsh’s repairs and maintenance subsidiary, made several unsuccessful attempts to visit her home for an annual gas safety check.

“Initially, I was able to catch Robert at home a few times. He explained that his mum Sandra wouldn’t remember appointments and didn’t read, so the letters she had received about her gas safety check had been a waste of time.

“After more attempts to meet Sandra, I managed to catch her at home one day to talk about her gas.

“She told me she slept on the sofa and didn’t use the upstairs. The living room was full of refuse and mess from an old family pet. There were two sofas which were in a poor state – Sandra said that she slept on one and Robert slept on the other.

“A bucket in the hall was being used as a toilet, as Sandra said the toilet had become blocked upstairs and she didn’t know what was happening with it, as Robert arranges the household.

“Sandra also told me that she can’t read and has depression, diabetes, memory issues and epilepsy.

“These conversations made me concerned about Sandra; her living conditions and the impact it was having on her wellbeing.

“I submitted a vulnerable adult report to social services but when they assessed Sandra over the telephone, she said she didn’t need help. It transpired that Sandra was worried about getting Robert into trouble, which is understandable.

“After persevering, the Older Persons team met with Sandra and I, where they completed an assessment of the property conditions and agreed to support Sandra.

“At this time, I was meeting with Sandra at the same day and time every week to take her to her GP – her GP hadn’t seen her for a few years and were concerned that her medication needed a review, as well as her diabetes.

“When the Older Persons team within social services became involved, they allocated Sandra a support worker and together, we made efforts to rehome Sandra into a temporary placement to assess her for independent living,

“Here, she flourished! Her flat was clean and tidy; she looked after herself and reconnected with friends from years gone by who lived in the same apartment block as her temporary home.

“Despite living in a new place, the support she received helped her to orientate herself. I found it particularly warming that moving helped Sandra to gain financial control of her income again.

“Sadly, her son had been controlling her finances and taking out loans in her name. He also failed to apply for her Disability Living Allowance. United Welsh’s Money Advice team arranged this and successfully had it backdated.

“This meant Sandra finally had money of her own. She cried when she showed me a brand-new coat she had bought.

“After social services completed their assessments, I helped Sandra to move to her own apartment with United Welsh. It was near her temporary flat so she was able to keep her new network of friends in the town she had become familiar with.

“My last contact with Sandra was to take her to visit her sister, and now she is back in touch with her family ready for Christmas.

“You don’t always know what will happen when you visit someone, but I’m so glad that in this case, a visit about a gas safety check became a lifeline of support for Sandra. Good multi-agency working has helped her to gain her independence and live well again.”

If you have concerns for the wellbeing of a United Welsh tenant, please get in touch here.