Tom was physically abused by his mum as a child and, with his dad off the scene, he went to live with his nan. But when she fell ill, he went into care. When he left care aged 18, he didn’t know how to look after himself or how to cope in the adult world. But against all odds, and with the help of Depaul UK, Tom is starting to make his way in life.
“I lived with my mum until I was 13. She ended up physically abusing me when I was a kid so I moved in with my nan. She ended up getting ill so I ended up in care.
“I was in foster care. In two different houses. Then I was in another three places – one of them was a tough environment. Being moved around was hard, but I literally just had to cope with it.
“When you turn 18, you’re not allowed to stay through care. It’s suggested you get your own flat. I was pretty happy to move out at 18 but I weren’t realising how hard life was. For an 18-year-old as well.
“The care system doesn’t prepare you that well for it. They only taught me how to cook, clean, they didn’t teach me how to budget my money or how to pay my rent, direct debits, standing orders everything like that. I don’t have any role model, anyone to show me something, I’ve got to do it myself. It’s a lot harder.
“So literally, pretty much set me up to fail. When I turned 18 I got my first flat, it was a hostel flat and I think I got kicked out in like three weeks. As soon as I got in, I had a party. Young, stupid and just thought I’ll invite loads of people round. Got my first noise complaint in my first week and then it just went all chaotic.
“Then I went to a proper hostel for a few months. I had my own room but at a hostel you’re just around people that do crack and heroin and all that sort of drugs. And then, it’s just not a nice place you want to be.
“Then my support worker found a semi-independent flat for me that was Depaul – to Shaw Heath. I was 19 when I went to Shaw Heath. I had my own room.
“Basically, when I came to Depaul I was in thousands of debt. Depaul’s key worker, Peter, helped me. It took about nine to ten months for my debts to go I’ve started a bank account and everything. I can also cook and clean now. Keep myself clean all the time.
“But to be fair I didn’t just speak to my key worker; I spoke to all the staff. No matter what time of day it was, I could always end up in the office having a chat. When I was younger, I was a bit more anxious, nervous to meet people. I can go up to people now, have a laugh with them.
“Now, I’ve got my own flat. It’s different. I’ve learnt to not let anyone in my flat and not have parties. Depaul’s outreach team are still going to help me until I’ve got my flat sorted, and get a job. I literally know if I ever need a chat then I can go to Shaw Heath and pop in. No matter which staff member. Guiding me in the right way, on the right path. Just giving me that little push.
“Basically, I can pretty much say this in one sentence. My experience with the care system: not the best. My experience with Depaul: helped me a lot more than the care system did. Taught me more stuff than the care system did, all the years that I was in there. The people that actually work at Depaul, they know what they’re doing. They help you out. They always want the best for anyone that stays there, I know that.”