My experience with Richmond AID has been quite simply fantastic. Before I developed my illness I had been a confident and capable individual. My illness totally overwhelmed my capacity to cope. Despite having worked with benefits before as a professional, I did not know that I had to inform the benefits departments of any change of address.
I moved back to Northern Ireland in 2007 to recuperate from my illness and claimed benefits through the various Northern Irish departments. When I felt well enough, I left my family home in Northern Ireland and moved back to my flat in Hampton Wick where I was subsequently sectioned under the mental health act as I had not fully recovered. The trauma of this experience distracted me from looking after my daily affairs such as benefits.
I subsequently received a letter stating that because I had changed address without informing the relevant benefit departments in mainland Britain, I would therefore lose my benefits, including housing benefit. Dependent on benefits for a living, I was naturally very anxious and at a low ebb emotionally before I approached Richmond AID.
My benefit advisor at Richmond AID completed a new application for income support which was vital to enable me to continue to claim free prescriptions for the medication I needed. I was also encouraged by the Richmond AID adviser to approach the civic centre in Twickenham – only now I had the relevant change of address on my documentation and was able to continue to claim full housing benefit.
The service which Richmond AID provided was invaluable in relieving the anxiety I was enduring – whilst I was attempting to recuperate from Bi-polar illness. In my opinion I was at risk of relapse from the stress of having my benefits stopped. The Richmond AID advocate provided me with a stable platform from which to begin living again rather than just surviving. Since been seen by the Richmond AID benefit’s advisor I have become a volunteer telephone advisor for Richmond AID and am proud to be making a small contribution to the society within which I live. Thanks to Richmond AID I have slowly paid off the debts I incurred trying to set up a small business whilst I was trying to recuperating from Bipolar depression when I had been living in Northern Ireland. Also, I have managed to retain hold of my housing association tenancy.
Working for Richmond AID as a volunteer has empowered me and helped me to develop more confidence in myself and I cannot thank all the staff at Richmond AID for their teamwork, caring approach and practical ability to actually get things done on behalf of myself and the many clients who I have personally helped on the telephone helpline as a volunteer and referred onwards to the Richmond AID benefit advisors.