Karen's story

Advance Housing and Support customer, Karen

Karen lives in an Advance Supported Living Service in Essex with five other customers all of whom have long term mental health conditions. Support staff are on site throughout the day on weekdays and most of weekends.

The service is mixed with Karen sharing the house with one other woman and four men ranging in age from late 20s to early 70s. Advance owns and manages the property which is a two storey house with six ensuite bedrooms along with a communal kitchen, living room and large garden.

In her own words:

"I first became mentally ill in the summer of 2005. After a number of personal setbacks led to depression and escalated to taking overdoses I was admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital where I stayed for two months. My symptoms returned in early 2006 when I was sectioned having begun to self-harm. I was moved between hospitals in the local area which wasn’t much fun, but there was worse to come. In early 2007 I was sent to a Therapeutic Community which was absolutely terrible. I only lasted five days before I left. I got sectioned by the police and was sent back to a Mental Health Unit. I was then moved to another unit, much further from home, for a further three years. After a serious self-harm incident I was moved back to a Unit nearer home before being moved to another community unit for a further three years. Eventually I improved enough to be discharged.

It was June 2012 when my social worker said a bed had come up at the Advance service which was really good as it was near my family. I had a couple of visits and I was really happy with it. The staff were nice and the residents I met were nice as well. I moved in at the end of June 2012. I was the only girl, but that didn’t matter because I got on with everyone. Moving here was the best thing I have ever done.

I feel I have achieved quite a lot since moving here. I can talk to anyone when I need help. I go to three different groups a week – which I enjoy doing. My self-harming isn’t as serious as it used to be and not as frequent. I hope to improve more in the future and am very happy living here."

Karen spent a total of seven years in and out of Psychiatric Hospitals across the country. At an average cost of approximately £3,003/week her care cost just over £1m pounds. In the eight years that she has been living at our scheme Karen’s Housing and Support costs are considerably lower. When she moved into the service she received 14hrs of support her week – this has gradually reduced to 7hrs of personal support each week. Along with her weekly housing cost Karen’s housing and support comes in at a little over £15,000 per year. But the impact on costs and the impact on other services such as the NHS and Police are only part of the story. Over the last few years Karen’s life has turned around.

Living in our service she has been supported to and has re-established a close relationship with her two grown children. She has also developed personal interests and hobbies including crafting and knitting. She has also been a mentor to a younger woman who moved into the service, encouraging and supporting her with her own recovery.

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