Meet Ryan Maguire, Senior Support Worker at Karbon Homes.

Ryan is part of a pioneering team at Karbon Homes which is using SIGNAL in a programme which provides support to tenants who are struggling with their mental health. 

What got you into this line of work?

Going right back to my school days, I’ve always been interested in mental health and helping people work out problems for themselves.  From school I went on to study Psychology at university and after joining Karbon I was involved in a number of mental health related projects before progressing to Senior Support Worker.

How would you describe your present job?

My role is to offer support to tenants who are struggling to manage their tenancies because they have poor mental health. It’s a client-led service which isn’t bound by eligibility criteria so we can support anyone who’s finding it difficult to cope without some support.

People are referred to me because they may be behind with the rent so it’s very important that I find out what might be causing this.  So, even though people often arrive with the expectation that I’ll be telling them they have to clear their arrears, my first job is to reassure them that I can work with them to help improve their well-being.

What is the best thing about the work you do?

Many of the people I see are under huge pressure.  My reward is to see them beginning to thrive as the pressure lifts and they start to regain their independence.  To me, this is what being a ‘social landlord’ is all about.

How does SIGNAL help?

In my experience, when people are struggling, SIGNAL is very good at encouraging positive thinking because it builds a Life Map comprising a holistic suite of indicators depicting red, amber or green responses according to how a person is feeling. The best way I can describe this is to tell you about Betti.   Betti was having difficulty paying her rent.  She was referred to me by a housing officer who understood the reason she was struggling was because she had suffered a particularly traumatic bereavement where a member of her family had committed suicide.  Betti had been the carer for this person and, on top of the grief, she also had to cope with the loss of the family member’s benefits which had covered the cost of what was now an extra bedroom.   When I first met Betti she was finding it very difficult to talk about her situation, even with other members of her family.  She had tried speaking to support services but found it impossible because of the strict appointments regime and the limited number of sessions available.   She felt isolated and alone. I was able to offer her a safe space in which I could properly listen to her. Slowly but surely she started to respond; she talked to me about her grief. Only after it was clear that we had a good rapport and she trusted me, I introduced her to SIGNAL. Her Life Map enabled her to see what was going on in different areas of her life and to focus on the bits that felt manageable to her given the state of her wellbeing at the time.  She was encouraged by the fact that there were several things that were green in her life.  We had a conversation that highlighted there were areas in which she was doing well, and therefore perhaps she could do well in other areas too.  Step by step she started to make progress.

Having worked with Betti for a while, she completed a second Life Map so she could see if things were changing. It showed her she was making progress.  The number of greens had increased which really encouraged her, but perhaps the most significant change was that her self-esteem had moved from red to yellow.  So, there’s more work to do, but I can see that she’s started to thrive.  She is still dealing with feeling isolated but feels she is overcoming this with my help.  She’s joined some groups where she is meeting people and she will try to carry on with this after our work has finished.  She’s also started volunteering and is looking to return to a part time job in the New Year.  She tells me that through talking to me she has been able to share some feelings she had been keeping inside and as a consequence she has found it significantly easier to express herself to others.  I know how significant this is for Betti as she tells me how grateful she is.

I believe this started from her finding herself in a safe space, which includes SIGNAL, where she was listened to rather than assessed and where she could open up to tell her story.

Do you have any ‘top tips’ for anyone thinking about using SIGNAL?  

Trust the methodology.  It’s an accessible way to work with someone and to get a clear picture of their circumstances; to plan and set goals together to achieve positive outcomes.

People will engage with it because it’s based on how people are feeling. The minimal text and the pictures make it intuitive and easy to use. At the same time, it’s very practical because it generates an action plan.  Whilst it’s completely client-led, I find the process of people selecting their priorities is a great way to encourage them to hold themselves to account: for people in a vulnerable state this is extremely important - a huge step toward making their own decisions and then being motivated to see them through.  It also clarifies my responsibilities for the actions I might have agreed to: it’s a great example of ‘co-working’.

If you would like to find out more about how SIGNAL is benefitting Karbon's mental health and wellbeing project, please email us at contact@clearsignal.org,