Moving to Supported Independent Living – the DIY Approach
So here I am, at 7.45am, sat on a folding chair, in an as yet unfurnished flat, on my own, waiting for various workmen and deliveries, I’ve been up since 6am when the dog decided sleep was for wimps, and it’s taken me a 45 minute drive to arrive before 8am, the start of the first time slot for the day. I got home from the same place at 5pm yesterday, slept for an hour and then stepped back into my ‘Mum’ shoes until midnight for our other child. I am beyond tired. This is what a DIY managed move to independence looks like. Two years ago, at 20, our eldest daughter decided the time was right for her to move out and take the world on on her own.
Initially, I’ll admit the thought terrified me, she’s a vulnerable adult – she joined our family when she was 3 years old, with a horrendous history of trauma, abuse and neglect, and these have left a huge, indelible mark. Her childhood has been a rollercoaster ride and I’m deeply impressed that we’ve got her to adulthood in (relatively) one piece, though it has to be said, none of us have come through it unscathed. As she progressed through her teens, the diagnoses came thick and fast and covered several serious mental health issues, for which she will need lifelong medication and support.
So in a fit of positivity, and not wishing to make this a new battleground, we approached various agencies to ask for advice and support. There wasn’t any. I approached friends with contacts in housing, I had a very clear idea of what I was looking for, but the same bleak advice kept coming back. There is no provision for a young adult in the position she is in, that will guarantee the level of support she needs, would tailor it to build on her strengths, or would not risk exposing her vulnerability. So we did what we’ve always done, and built our own model.
We sat down with her and explained the situation. We would work with her to help her achieve her ambitions, but we could only do this as a team. She would need to be as committed as we were to making it work, and surprisingly, she agreed.
With the support of her Mental Health Team, her application for Social Housing was made, we were as shocked as each other when she received an offer on a property she liked. She went with her Dad to view it (I knew my views might not be so welcome, so took a back seat at this stage), she loved it and accepted it. I went with her to sign the contracts and collect the keys. We visited her new home, measured up, and went for lunch to discuss her plans. We also discussed who would be taking responsibility for which areas, and how she wanted this to work. So here is the plan. Her job is to manage moving to live on her own, look after herself appropriately, she is to look after buying her own food, cooking, keeping the place clean and tidy, and organising her washing (for me to collect).
She has agreed to let us know if she needs help or support (and she has been surprisingly brilliant at doing this). Her boyfriend can let us know at any point if he is worried about her, he has her permission to contact us if he feels she is unwell, mentally or physically. We will not insist she moves home, we will work with her to make sure she can reach her goal of independence.
We will support her by managing her money, ensuring she has a safe place to live, working with power and utility companies, being the link with her housing association, we will only visit when invited, we will not check up on her unless she specifically asks us to or her boyfriend has raised concerns. We will continue to manage her medication and her hospital appointments. She has a small fixed budget from us to help her furnish the flat, anything over and above this, she will need to save for and we will help her sort that out. It’s a five year plan, the idea is that she will take ownership of the bits she feels she can manage, when she is ready.
In practical terms, I am the named person to contact on all the contracts she has. We check the meters weekly to ensure she has enough credit and we top them up for her accordingly – we are all on a steep learning curve with this one. Her housing benefit came through surprisingly quickly, which was a huge relief. Her home is still relatively unfurnished, funds have allowed for the basics in terms of sorting out her kitchen, and second hand shops have become a source of fascination and inspiration. She has discovered that being independent is expensive.
In preparation for her move, over the last year, we have developed an envelope system – each days envelope contains her medication and her spending money, she has money for food, split into two envelopes, that have the days of the week on that they need to cover. I put notes and little drawings on the front of the envelopes to remind her of what’s happening (in her home and ours) or where she needs to be. And do you know, despite lots of misgivings from friends and family, we can do this.
Our motto, she and I, is ‘This Girl Can’. It’s rebuilding and re-framing our relationship in a lovely, positive way. The time I am having with her is incredibly special and I feel hugely reassured to know that we are having a positive impact on what she’s achieving, there’s a whole new level of respect for her Dad and I, and I think this is the start of realising that her family really is forever. I don’t doubt there will be days when it all goes in a different direction, but I really do believe that we can do this, and these are the days I shall be holding on to.