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Case study two: Robert Walker, a resilient individual

Published: April 2024


This case study sheds light on the complex challenges faced by individuals in the housing care sector, emphasising the need for improved follow-up by social workers, awareness to prevent stigmatisation, enhanced support schemes, and more transparent accommodation options.

Case study

Photo of Robert Walker

Robert Walker, is a resilient individual whose life took a turn in 1988 when he became disabled due to a mental health condition. Social services assessed his needs, including housing, and provided a support plan. In 1997, Direct payments were introduced as an option, but Robert faced challenges navigating the process and felt financial constraints.

Robert, under constant scrutiny from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and facing medical assessments, expressed his growing weariness to his social worker, who unfortunately did not follow up. The impression of stretched resources left him wondering about his eligibility and fit within local authority guidelines.

Robert’s health deteriorated with the onset of two cancers, affecting his daily life. Reluctant to rely on additional benefits, he faced the daunting process of claiming direct payments but ultimately gave up fearing stigmatisation and loss of independence.

Residing in a shared ownership apartment, Robert’s circumstances changed at pensionable age in 2022. His nominal savings, including a small personal invested pension, rendered him ineligible for housing and council tax benefits. In February 2023, financial stress intensified when asked to repay 12 months of housing benefit due to a missed assessment a year prior.

Despite an appeal acknowledging a miss in flagging his changing circumstances, Robert still bears the financial burden of rent on the other half share of his apartment, causing social isolation and reducing his quality of life.

Exploring alternatives, Robert found his shared ownership scheme unsuitable and unaffordable. Supported accommodation options were limited in his rural community, requiring redundant reassessments. The promise of personalised plans in supported living schemes left him skeptical.

Disabled at 32, Robert faced limitations in enhancing his pension, leading to questions about fiscal prudence and financial traps for disabled individuals in retirement. The fear of destitution looms, and Robert advocates for addressing these inequities in retirement benefits.

In sharing the specific details of his journey, Robert sheds light on the complex challenges faced by disabled individuals, from financial constraints and eligibility criteria to the limited options for suitable accommodation in rural settings.

Future impact for commissioners/decision-makers

  • It is essential that social workers follow up, there needs to be automatic checks in place that flag actions to be taken or an escalation pathway.
  • Awareness must be raised and stigmatisation around disability, illness and pensioners must be prevented.
  • Schemes to prevent isolation and help individuals with independence.
  • More options for accommodation and greater transparency, where individuals are supported and not made to feel a burden.