Story 37 - Blog

Maruf's Story

Maruf has been part of Look Ahead for nearly twenty years. He has spent most of that time as the Contract Manager of our Independent Living Community Support Service.

I joined Look Ahead as a support worker back in 2005, after seven years as an NHS bilingual nursing assistant. I was initially based at Newham Mental Health Service, which was eye-opening. I was used to working on hospital wards, but I soon learned there are many other needs that must be met for a person to make a more sustainable recovery. I took on this valuable knowledge and I’m pleased to say I was promoted to a team leader post after a year.

Then I made another jump and became a contract manager here at our Independent Living Community Support (ILCS) Service in Tower Hamlets. I’ve worked at ILCS for the best part of two decades, I’ve really enjoyed it, and I still do today.

ILCS is a specialist mental health floating support service working with people with severe, enduring mental health diagnoses. We support 185-190 individuals at any one time. Our customers usually live in their own accommodation, with family, by themselves, or in supported housing. We have 15 self-contained one-bedroom flats too, which we use to take on additional customers and provide them with visiting support.

The support we give is very broad, we work with people towards recovery from a mental health crisis, we offer practical and emotional support, and encourage customers to live as independently as they can. For me and my team, helping someone address the wider social issues that are detrimental to their mental health is key as well, this ranges from supporting someone to access as many welfare benefits as they can, to education, training, employment and social opportunities, advice and assistance with completing documentation, medication spot checks and attending medical appointments to maintain physical health.

We are also part of the borough’s accommodation pathway. At ILCS, there are often times where a customer feels ready to move out of supported housing. They may live in one of our 15 flats, at another Look Ahead service, or be housed by other providers, but they can all rest assured that we are on hand to offer them resettlement support when they need it. We help them to find their next home, make sure it’s right for them, and then help them to bid for it, we even run a special “bidding clinic” to support people with the process. I also sit on a joint housing panel with local NHS and council colleagues, to assess whether it is suitable for a person to move on, into a new social home. We have a very good working relationship with all the supported housing providers in the borough, including specialist services (Forensic, THIES and Mental Health Neighbourhood Teams). I’m pleased to say, that at ILCS, we usually move at least 25 people on each year, a fantastic average of one person every two weeks. It feels amazing to be able to support that many people to start new and better chapters in their lives so frequently.

Being at Look Ahead gives me the opportunity to make that difference, seeing someone move on and maintain their new tenancy feels so rewarding. I know that when we move someone on, they’re in a better place than when they joined, and that my team and I have been a part of that change.

It’s not just customers that get great support either, Look Ahead helps staff with personal development too. Look Ahead gave me space to complete a health and social care degree part time, you can’t beat that level of openness and flexibility. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I’ve been here for so long.