Last updated: 26/10/2023
Cheryl* is 27 and lives with her three-year-old daughter in a housing association flat in Dundee. She was referred to the OPFS Employability Pathway programme by her work coach.
Support with mental health
Cheryl had been affected by anxiety most of her life and was feeling overwhelmed by her mental health issues, as well as ongoing issues around debt, housing and where to take herself moving forward.
We developed an action plan with Cheryl to identify her issues and plan how to address them. Prioritising her problems, Cheryl decided that her anxiety and mindset were her biggest barriers, made worse by a recent bereavement.
We connected Cheryl to local support groups to reduce her isolation, and she began to attend a regular community drop-in, which started to give her week some routine.
We helped her to develop a daily routine, even if that was just taking her daughter to and from nursery. She is now seeing the positive impact this consistency is having on both her and her daughter. Cheryl also used fitness to work through her struggles with anxiety, and now attends a ladies-only gym session once a week.
Money and debt management
We supported Cheryl to:
- create a list of all her outstanding debts and signposted her to Brooksbank Money Advice.
- approach debtors with payment plan requests.
- access the OPFS Lone Parent Helpline, where our support workers undertook a benefits health check and provided a ‘better off’ calculation.
- use the OPFS budgeting and debt planner to provide a picture of where her money goes.
- work on good money habits including how to build a small savings pot .
Support with housing and energy costs
Cheryl was struggling with many unresolved problems in her house, but after being given help to produce a list of repairs, these are now being dealt with by her housing association. Cheryl also received practical advice to help with the energy crisis:
- She was referred to SCARF, who provided a £100 top-up energy voucher
- She was shown how to correctly use her storage heater.
- She has had a smart meter installed to support her budgeting.
- We found a funding stream which provided warm footwear and cosy blankets for colder days.
Employability and training support
Cheryl was keen to return to college. Before her daughter was born, she had completed her first two years of hairdressing training. The long gap meant Cheryl was apprehensive about reapplying and unsure if she would have to repeat the first two years. She was supported at a meeting with student services, where she was advised she would not have to repeat – she applied for her third year of study there and then and was subsequently invited to an assessment interview.
As part of her employability journey at OPFS, we:
- Supplied her with a laptop to aid her job search and to complete applications.
- Helped with weekly job searches to find flexible work which could fit around her daughter.
- Assisted in the creation of a new and up-to-date CV showcasing her transferable skills as a single parent, as well as detailing her experience caring for others.
Creating a detailed action plan meant Cheryl felt less overwhelmed and more able to focus on things one at a time. Addressing her debts means Cheryl now has a manageable payment plan with a discernible end date. She also knows she is receiving all benefits to which she is entitled, including the new Scottish Child Payment, which she was previously missing out on. This has increased her income by £25 per week.
Cheryl has recently been successful in gaining a conditional job offer (disclosure and references pending) as a part-time care assistant. The hours are flexible and will allow Cheryl to have an extra source of income alongside her studies. She will be fully supported with this transition and will receive further in-work support for the first year of her employment.
Cheryl has been given a completely new lease of life and is comfortable asking for help when needed. She better recognises situations which provoke her anxiety and has identified coping strategies, the main one being a good gym session. She is more financially stable and is providing the example she wants to show her daughter. She hopes to one day be in a good enough position to start up her own hair salon, which will give her and her daughter a solid future.
*a pseudonym has been used to protect the person’s identity.