When Mary* came to Blackpool Fulfilling Lives, she was facing a number of overwhelming challenges. With a long-term history of alcohol misuse and a previous heroin addition, Mary was a frequent and problematic attendee at A&E. She has had multiple arrests for anti-social behaviour and breach of the peace. She was experiencing homelessness and had been banned from hostels and shelters due to aggressive behaviour.

Mary has hepatitis C and possible learning difficulties, as well as issues connected to vulnerability, anxiety and depression. Her chaotic lifestyle meant she sadly lost all access to her 10-year-old child. Mary was in a problematic relationship, which meant she was averse to the idea of rehab for fear of losing her partner. She had trouble seeing beyond this man and a few drinking associates.

Mary had a history of sporadic engagement with services and a deep mistrust of professionals – all of whom were growing increasingly concerned for her wellbeing and deteriorating health.

Referred by both the Ashley Foundation and probation services in September 2014, Mary received Blackpool Fulfilling Lives’ highest ever score on its multiple complex needs assessment. An action plan was put together to address Mary’s issues in a coordinated way. Fulfilling Lives team member Helen Gavaghan communicates progress to the client, as well as linking up with all involved services.

“I have built up a trusting and respectful relationship with Mary,” says Helen. “I talk about things I know are important to her, and I make her laugh. Showing her understanding of her difficulties and respect of her perspective, whilst ensuring not to patronise her, have been key to securing this engagement.”

Thanks to BFL’s work, methods that are more appropriate for Mary have been adopted, for example a learning difficulties specialist accompanies her to probation appointments. Because Fulfilling Lives has forged a number of important relationships, the police and housing authorities now notify the service if they see Mary on the street.

“Having professionals meet face-to-face about the client has been the catalyst for more sympathetic and cooperative working between services and vastly improved communication,” says Helen.

Mary now has accommodation at Vincent House Hostel, and has a phone which services can use to keep in regular contact. Her engagement with probation has improved significantly. Hospital and police reports indicate a marked improvement in presentation and drop-in incidents.

Of course, Mary’s journey has not been without setbacks, which have included drinking binges, but encouragingly she has returned to services quickly. She is more open to considering rehab and is attending a women’s group.

Helen believes Mary is now safer than ever, and services have commented that they cannot believe the transformation in Mary’s interactions. “The confidence in our project and what it can achieve is growing, along with services’ desire to cooperate,” says Helen.


*Name has been changed