A question of support

I was born during the Second World War. I grew up with my parents
and sister and was a wheel taper. I am very active and work at
People First three days a week. Years ago, a car hit me. I hurt my
head and my knee, and I ended up with learning difficulties. Since
then I have needed support. I have lived in a hostel and in
residential homes. Staff ran my life in these places and I hated
it. I lived on my own too, but this was hard without enough
support. Then in 2000, I heard about direct payments.

I moved out of a home run by the charity Carr Gomm into my own
flat. My social worker connected me with Rowan, an organisation
that supports people to manage direct payments. I wanted help with
showering, cooking, cleaning, shopping and social activities. No
one came forward from my newspaper advert. I was worried – I was
now in my flat but had no support.

Luckily, direct payments are flexible, and I hired staff from Carr
Gomm while I waited. Finally, in spring 2001, a man on my estate
answered an advert I’d put in a local shop window. I interviewed
Michael and decided to hire him. It felt like my life was starting
for the first time. I learned how to do Michael’s pay cheques and
even gave him a rise. Things were great, but there were

Michael lived close and came quickly whenever I rang. Then he
disconnected his phone. He said I was ringing him too much – I was.
This was because I really needed more support than two days a week.
Before direct payments, I had a little support from my sister and a
council worker who had a few hours per week to help me do my money
and everything else. I was used to asking everyone and anyone for

Then, suddenly, I was in my 60s, and had four support workers:
Michael, Carr Gomm staff for weekends, Susie at People First and
the person from the council. It was confusing. I kept mixing up who
was supposed to support me with what. Some wanted to run my life,
others didn’t take me seriously. I got anxious and wished I was
dead. We had meetings to sort it all out, but they were upsetting,
with lots of arguing.

Janet, my Rowan adviser, realised that I needed more support to
manage my direct payment. She suggested I take more responsibility
as a boss. I was double-booking loads because there were too many
people in my life. Everyone said I should cut back my work and
activities, but I like being busy. Luckily, Janet respected this
and encouraged me to make two large whiteboard diaries, with
laminated stick-on pictures of the things I do. On Fridays I do my
work diary board for the next week. On Monday mornings the council
supports me to do my home diary, and then makes the two match. My
different supporters remind me who to go to for what help. This has
solved the problems.

Michael worked for me for 18 months. Now I have hired a couple with
a car. Having direct payments has given me the freedom I waited 60
years for.

Colin Gear has a learning difficulty and works for Milton
Keynes People First.

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