Ian, a Royal Free Hospital patient with a long-term health condition, came to the support hub in 2018 and was helped by Gabrielle, a hub advisor.

After his benefits were reduced, she liaised on his behalf with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), helped him to get home assessments because it was difficult for him to leave the house, got him a taxi card so he could travel when it was essential and offered him emotional support.

Ian told Liz Fowler, support hub lead, about his experience with the hub service.

Can you describe your experience of the support hub?

“My experience is very positive.  I saw Gabrielle; she gave me courage to go through a process. Without her that wouldn’t have happened. It made such a big difference as I didn’t have the knowledge of how the DWP system worked. Everyone needs someone to help them through it.

Gabrielle wasn’t forceful; it was for me to make the decision. If the person I trust is saying this (and it takes me a long time to trust people), I am going to do it. I’m so thankful for that. My personal independence payment (PIP) was reduced for the first time in 26 years even though nothing had changed with my health condition. Without the help of the Gabrielle, I would never have got the help to sort that. I really feel better for that. She’s done other things too. Conversations with Gabrielle gave me confidence around other things in my life.”

What do you think would have happened without this support?

“There would have been nowhere to go. I can’t travel – I have panic attacks. I would be lost with no one to fight my corner. People are too busy dealing with their illnesses to fight. I am out of energy and I need help. I try to do everything else I can. Gabrielle also gives me information about other places that can help – she goes above the call of her job.   I have nothing but positive to say. It’s made life more bearable.  Being in the presence of someone with more knowledge makes you feel more secure; it’s frightening you know.”

What did the extra money allow you to do?

“Because I can’t use public transport, it does things like helps pay for cabs. The extra PIP gives me the calmness to know it’s there. I had 16 months of reduced income and it was one of the scariest times of my life – I had no financial help. I was falling into arrears after the benefit was reduced. I now have peace of mind. She gave me courage (and patience) to go through it. It’s having someone on my side.  I have no family members alive in the UK, it’s a very insecure place to be. Organisations like the hub help to fill in that missing bit of support and give you hope.”