SJ developed drug and alcohol problems at a relatively early age. He came from a single parent family who also had issues, and was also a regular offender at a young age.
SJ became homeless after his mother died and he was forced to leave the family home. This resulted in poor mental health. He was a heavy drinker and a long-term crack and cocaine user. SJ was regarded by the police as a prolific offender, and was frequently arrested for abusive and aggressive behaviour.
SJ struggled to obtain help. He seemed to be in an endless cycle of spells in prison, discharge from prison, homelessness and things spiralling out of control again. He was angry and found it difficult to engage positively with services hence a pattern of anti-social behaviour and frequent arrests. He experienced stigma previously whilst trying to access benefits, and visiting job centres, as he was escorted in and out by security staff. Similarly his poor mental health and cognitive impairment meant that he couldn’t remember security question details and so had benefits stopped.
After joining the Blackpool Fulfilling Lives programme, SJ made slow progress, was difficult to engage and also had some minor relapses. Every time, upon being discharged from prison, he was homeless and therefore difficult to locate within Blackpool. Due to imposition of a Criminal Behaviour Order, he was also banned from the town centre and shops. This hasn’t helped him attend appointments, and caused problems when his support worker accompanied him to purchase some new clothes.
Upon his latest release from prison, intensive support was needed from a Housing First Navigator, which really helped SJ. The Navigator worked closely with SJ when he was at his most vulnerable - immediately after being released from prison.
On the day of SJ’s latest discharge from prison he was met by his Housing First Navigator who spent the whole day with him sorting out his benefits and accommodation, initially in a hostel as the flat arranged for him had fallen through. SJ witnessed at first hand the efforts that the Navigator went to in order to effectively manage his discharge from prison.
SJ feels that if he returned to his prior behaviour he would be letting his Navigator down. He is also now a member of the Blackpool Fulfilling Lives (BFL) Lived Experience Team, and has presented and represented BFL at a number of local and national events talking about his experiences of multiple disadvantage and how BFL has helped him.
SJ believes that a systemic change from statutory services to enable them to deal with Multiple Disadvantage better is needed. This includes more support and a streamlined process for when people are discharged from prison.