Turning his life around

Michael is forging a new life for himself and helping others to do the same.

Michael moved to one of our homes in Manchester determined to start life afresh. After four years in supported living, he has acquired the life skills and confidence he needs to be looking for his next home. Soon, he will be living independently, with the reassurance of outreach help from his Support Workers. Moreover, he is now working and volunteering, thoroughly enjoying both.

Traumatic times for Michael

Michael experienced significant challenges in his adolescence, and struggles to cope led to lengthy periods of time in psychiatric hospitals or young offender centres. During this time, he was diagnosed with both ADHD and schizophrenia. “I spent most of my time in hospitals – feeling angry and frustrated, bouncing around the system,” he says.

It was when he found himself transferred to a maximum-security prison, in 2012, that Michael realised he needed to change. Listening to the long-term prisoners and speaking to them about their lives was a pivotal moment. He thought, ‘What am I doing? I can’t do this all my life’.

A new leaf

He spoke to his psychiatric team, who worked to alter his support and treatment, and it was the start of the process of turning his life around. Soon afterwards, he moved to a low-category hospital for the remainder of his sentence.

Kelly, Home Manager at his home, said: “Michael has coped really well with moving back into community life again. Having spent a lot of time in prison, he had few life skills and limited independence. We have devoted 1-1 time with him developing these, supporting him to cook and carry out daily tasks.”

Decision making

Being involved in the process of choosing his home was important to Michael, and he feels it was instrumental in enabling him to adapt. “I visited quite a few places which I didn’t really like, but when I found this home, it was perfect,” he says.

He is full of praise for the people around him who have helped him get this far. “I don’t think I would have made this progress anywhere else. Everything I needed, they provided. The support system, the team, and the structure of the house all suited me perfectly.”

“I was anxious about most things at first,” he confides, “Even going out on my own. I still find crowded places difficult; my eyes are all over the place. Public transport was the worst, but I managed to get a Personal Independence Payment allowance, pass my driving test and get a car. Now I can drive and don’t have to get buses or trains.”

Volunteering and paid work

For the past six months, Michael has volunteered every Friday at a hospital ward, where he used to be a patient. He listens and speaks to the patients giving guidance and advice on how to make changes for the better. “I am passionate about it. I tell them what I’ve achieved and offer inspiration. I wish someone had done that for me when I was in prison. I had nothing going for me then – no goals, no hope.”

Whilst a patient in hospital, Michael volunteered as a car valet on the site. Six months ago, he was offered the paid job of managing the business 15 hours a week. “I was expecting a call to tell me when I could bring in my car for valeting. Instead, I had a phone call asking whether I’d like a job and went for an interview.

“I usually manage a team of two helpers per session and have all the responsibilities of running the service. I feel very lucky as it’s very hard to get a job with a criminal record.”

Future plans

When not working or volunteering, Michael likes to spend time with family, friends and his support team, as well as going shopping. He is aiming for his new home to be closer to his workplace to reduce the commute. Longer-term plans for when his probation period ends include spending nights away from his own address and taking a holiday.

Kelly concludes: “It has been an absolute privilege to support Michael and work alongside him to gain skills and become the person he is today. He has put in lots of effort to achieve what he has, and I am very proud to have been a part of the journey.”