News and views

Go back

Building connections: Paul’s Be Well journey

I was able to share my story…it was fantastic.

When Paul first spoke to Richard Phillips at Be Well, he’d been struggling with debts and couldn’t find work.

“When I first phoned to talk to Richard I thought, ‘this guy is brilliant’. So kind – I was able to share my story with him. It was fantastic.”

Paul was already working with Step Change and was looking to take the next steps with Richard, an employment coach based at Southway housing, to improve his mental health, get more active and build connections with others.

“Every one of us can reach some point in our lives where we struggle with our mental health. It just needs something that triggers it. I was struggling with stress and anxiety. The circumstances of where I live brought it on,” said Paul.

Together, they looked to build some relationships locally through the Northern Irish expat community and by getting involved in activities such as walking, cycling, swimming and Men’s Shed.

Paul had been volunteering at The Bread and Butter Thing food project, but had to stop when pain from an old injury to his elbow became too much. After Richard encouraged him to get help from his GP, he got a referral to the Physical Activity Referral Service (PARS) who support people with long term conditions.

Unfortunately, at Christmas, Paul had a flurry of bad news in a short space of time when his brother became ill with Covid 19 and was admitted to intensive care. His uncle also relapsed from cancer and his aunt was diagnosed with dementia. All of this, together with the time of year and travel restrictions, meant Christmas was a difficult time for him.

To add to this, Paul became even more isolated when his TV broke.

With the help of a local priest and the Westcroft Community Centre, some money was found to buy Paul a Freeview box. He was also offered a meal and some socially-distanced contact on Christmas day, so he wasn’t alone.

Paul got through the holiday period and once again, in the new year, focused on finding work, making use of both Richard’s support and contacts at the Westcroft Centre. He was able to find bits and pieces of agency work, but not what he hoped for.

As Paul’s time with Be Well was coming to an end, Richard put him in contact with the Irish Community Care, where he began to meet up with Miriam who provided support, including a laptop, so he did not have to rely on library access. He was able to obtain a new Irish Passport with support from the Booth Centre, so he is able to travel home when this is possible.

Two years on, and Paul has now successfully written off his debt. He’s been working for different agencies too. And although it’s been temporary, it’s given him some income.

All of this was achieved even though Paul and Richard had never actually met because of the pandemic. When they finally did, at the Westcroft Centre a few weeks ago, Paul said: “Since I came here I was always asking, ‘what’s Richard like, I’d love to meet him’. And now we’ve finally met after two years, I can’t speak highly enough of him.”

“Although it’s difficult to find work in Manchester, I’ve still got a couple of jobs I’m looking to hear back from. In the meantime, I’m looking into moving to Edinburgh and applying for jobs up there.”