Katie Cunningham recently interviewed the mother of one Housing Options Scotland latest “success stories” Francine from East Ayrshire. Francine’s 24 year old son Cameron has recently moved to “The Right House, in the Right Place” with help from Housing Options Scotland.
Cameron has high functioning autism; a condition which had placed stress on their whole family. Recently his younger brothers and sister left home, and Cameron’s self-esteem and confidence began to suffer as a result. He wanted to do the same, however, his autism made it difficult to do so.
Despite her efforts in contacting the council, Francine had not been able to make much progress independently. While the council did recommend becoming involved in their mixed supported living centre, Francine felt that because of the area in which it was located, as well as the added pressure of being unable to control the on-going situation herself, that it would be better to arrange something else. Francine decided her ideal situation would be being to buy a house to rent to Cameron. When she asked her local authority about this they were unsupportive, and only able to give hypothetical pricing and housing information. Often their information also varied from source to source, and there was little interconnected communication between her various council contacts. As she commented, it was difficult to tell “what was true.”
Eventually, late in summer 2010, Francine sought help from the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) in Glasgow, who she had previously contacted several times for advice. They introduced her to Housing Options Scotland, who she hadn’t previously heard of.
Housing Options Scotland provided Francine with a clear information pack including information on “Buying to Let to a Relative “and she was contacted personally by OO staff member Fraser Gilmore, who additionally offered her “support and hard information.”
Housing Options Scotland aided Francine and Cameron in finding a suitably priced house and begin more solid enquiries. Their local council stepped in and said that Francine would not be able to rent out to Cameron due to him lacking the proper benefits. Again, she asked Fraser for help and he liaised with Fiona Campbell HOS’s specialist benefits adviser. Fiona spoke directly to East Ayrshire Council self, as Francine said, “educating” them on the details of disabled support. It was, she said, “scary that they (the council) didn’t know” about the options available.
Once this was completed, and with the council now fully informed, it took a few more months for the process to be completed.
With the continued help and support of Housing Options Scotland, Cameron was able to move into his new home on the 4th of July 2011. Francine stated that he has “blossomed” since the move, able to expand his social and personal activities. He is happy with the freedom and space it has provided, and the new control he has of his life, described by Francine as “time, choice and autonomy”. On moving in he was able to throw a housewarming party for his friends, now he can make his own meals, decide when and what to do, and takes pride in his new found independence.
Francine now enjoys a less stressed relationship with her son, as well as a much needed break from responsibility and pressure. While Cameron can visit and call, the short distance between their homes has given them both the chance to relax.
What worries Francine is that this process was so difficult to complete, she knows from experience how hard it can be to stay motivated in the face of so many difficulties. Her work towards getting Cameron his own home was a “long and arduous journey”, not least because of the lack of information held by local councils and authorities, and the levels of bureaucracy preventing their ability to take positive action. She thinks that it is “sad that so many young people could be in better environments” if it wasn’t for this “ignorance”.
However, through the continued work of Housing Options Scotland, both in raising awareness of the options open to disabled people and their families, and in providing practical support, this can become less and less common.
Cameron and Francine are now living securely in a balanced relationship and without personal or practical difficulties. Housing Options Scotland was instrumental in achieving this, and as Francine said, their commitment and work was “fantastic”.