My experience of direct payments

I am a young lady with mental health issues. Prior to starting Direct Payments I had received support from a variety of sources. I had lived in a hospital, I had attended day centres and I had received support from RBK Community Care Services in my home.

During this time I was very unhappy and unwell. I was a social recluse, very shy and had become very overweight. Both my mental and physical health was poor and my prognosis was bad.

The support provided in the residential care and day centres did not help me. I found I just sat there. My social worker wanted to help me get more active and sociable so she suggested I attend a computer course, however I didn't enjoy it, it was boring. I prefer being active and while doing this activity my weight continued to increase. I explained to my social worker that I did not like the computer course and she suggested I start attending the gym as this would both get me out socialising and improve my fitness. I tried the gym but at this point I weighed about 20 stone and found it incredibly embarrassing to exercise in a gym, I felt like people were judging how I looked and laughing at me. I explained this to my social worker who agreed that I could receive a Direct Payment instead.

The advantage of having a Direct Payment was that instead of my social worker trying to figure out what would work for me, I was given responsibility for finding something that worked. I was approached by a trainer from a club where I had done kick boxing in the past and I wanted to try this as a fitness activity. My Direct Payment gave me the flexibility to try this new idea.

At kickboxing there is a very strong anti-bullying policy. Nobody is allowed to laugh at the others and everyone is included equally. The instructors never make you feel embarrassed if you cannot do something.

Arranging my kickboxing myself with a direct payment worked out very well because I was not put into a group made up exclusively of service users that I didn't enjoy, like at the day centre, or encouraged into an activity with which I wasn't comfortable like the gym. At kickboxing I mix with individuals from all parts of the community and it really helped my self esteem to be treated as an equal.

I have been very successful in my training and am now moving into the advanced class with a view to becoming a qualified instructor. This has been possible because of my social worker supporting me to get started on my own path, KCIL supporting and encouraging me to use my direct payments as I think best and finding an activity that both helped improve my health and that I very much enjoy.

Prior to starting on Direct Payments I was considered to be at a high risk of crisis but the structure and discipline I have learned from my training has really helped. My prognosis is 100% better, I'm happy and enjoying my life. I have lost 8 stones in weight so my health is much better and I am developing a skill that will hopefully one day provide me with a career. There is no quick fix to my health issues but Direct Payments have allowed me to manage them. They no longer control my life and I'm now very excited about what the future holds.