When Re-Unite first met 33 year old Mary* from Greater Manchester she was serving a three year prison term. Mary was referred to us by the Mother and Baby unit at HMP Styal as she had just given birth to new baby whist in custody; her two teenage daughters were staying with their grandmother while Mary was in prison. At the time Mary also faced additional challenges surrounding drink and drug abuse.
Re-Unite stepped in and gave Mary the opportunity to see a brighter future for herself and her family; aiming to reunite Mary with her two older girls. Working closely with other community and statutory agencies, the Re-unite programme provided a holistic, wrap- around service that gave Mary the real, practical help she needed to get back on her feet and support her make a fresh start.
The first move
On release, Mary was reunited with her two daughters and moved into a one bedroom flat alongside her partner Chris. It was immediately clear however that the small apartment was overcrowded and unsuitable for the family’s needs, so Re-Unite also supported Mary to apply for a larger, more suitable home.
A challenging start
The early days were far from easy however – the challenges of the inadequate living environment took their toll on Mary and her children. As a consequence, 13 year old Angela’s behaviour deteriorated to a level that meant both Angela and her 14 year old sister Tracey were no longer attending school.
Unfortunately, financial problems saw Mary’s family living on very little income in the early days, exasperated by previous crippling debts and bankruptcy. As a result of this pressure, both Mary and Chris’s mental health worsened.
The good news is that Mary was recently offered a new three bed home in Bury. Both older children have gained places in a new school – with support workers to help address any further issues and help them settle in. Mary was helped by Re-unite to claim the benefits she was entitled to, which helped ease the financial pressures the family faced. She also continues to have regular positive meetings with probation and family workers. The great news is that Mary is now on a much better path, has not touched drugs or alcohol since release, has not re-offended, and is really looking forward to moving on.
*All names have been changed.
Elizabeth Owen, Re-Unite Development Manager, Commonweal Housing