There for You: ‘I’d never known kindness and generosity like it’

When a member of police staff at Lancashire Constabulary was herself the victim of domestic violence, it was her union that helped her through the worst of times

Color image depicting the rear view of a lonely woman looking at the street from her bedroom window. She is rendered an almost total silhouette due to the light flooding into the room from the window.

Almost three years ago I fled my marital home due to domestic violence. I moved to my mum’s with a few bin bags containing some of mine and my four children’s belongings.

My UNISON rep, who is also the branch welfare officer, was aware of the circumstances prior to this, as I had already confided in both her and my line manager what was happening, so that wrap-around support was put in place prior to me leaving. She had already sensed in earlier meetings that I wasn’t myself and had linked in with my line manager to ensure I was ok and that appropriate conversations were taking place.

I reported sick at the same time and was in regular contact with my UNISON welfare officer. She was instrumental in me continuing to function and provided invaluable support, with masses of empathy and understanding of my circumstances. She was a link with my line manager as well as my nominated welfare contact. It felt like it was a collective effort from everyone to keep me going one day at a time, as my mental health was severely affected and was deteriorating all the time. 

My welfare officer also attended the welfare support meetings with my line management, as I could barely speak due to the immense stress I was suffering, to make sure that all the support available was in place.

Signposted to There for You

I lived with my mum for six weeks before moving into a rental property I was able to afford and was accepted for. During this time, my UNISON welfare officer posted on our internal website asking for donations of clothes and toys for a ‘member in need’. She also signposted me to UNISON’s There for You charity.

I completed the application and applied for hardship funding to purchase white goods and beds for my children. The branch welfare officer contacted them directly to expedite the approval process due to the immediate need.

The money was paid directly into my bank account within a matter of weeks and meant I could purchase the beds the children wanted (within budget). I spent hours building my older children’s cabin beds and my twin’s bunkbeds (with the tools I’d been gifted) but I wanted to do it myself. The sense of achievement was huge.

The staff in the There for You office at UNISON Centre in London were fantastic and kept in touch throughout the process and would contact me quickly if they needed any additional paperwork or clarification.

Once we’d moved into our new home I was overwhelmed with donations of clothes and toys for the children my branch and other union reps had collected from my police force colleagues and stored for me. I’d never known kindness and generosity like it and, although at rock bottom, I felt incredibly lucky to have so much genuine support.

The children were bouncing with joy

I remember my friend doing the deliveries and it was car fulls of items including jigsaws, games, fancy dress, superhero figures and teddies. I was even donated a television and a Nintendo Wii, which I was able to setup in the children’s new bedroom.

The children were bouncing with excitement and joy. There was so much that I was able to save some brand-new items to give the children as presents for Christmas that year. I gratefully accepted every bit of help I could from family, friends, and colleagues to get myself back on my feet and was never once made to feel undignified or embarrassed for the desperate situation in which I’d found myself.

The following year the welfare officer advised that I may be eligible for the UNISON school clothing grant. My application was successful, and I have received this during the school summer holidays for the past two years. This has been a massive help due to the incredible cost of school uniforms, added to the current cost of living.

I experienced on-going abuse post separation which required police assistance and I would always inform the welfare officer of any reports I made so she could ensure confidentiality within our police force control room (they are the ones that take the 999 calls) due to the personal sensitivity and my professional position.

Applying for assistance

Months passed and I was able to return to work. With the encouragement of the welfare officer, I applied for financial assistance via There for You, I didn’t even know this was a possibility.

I put in an application form which I hoped would enable me to take the children away on a little break as an opportunity to rest and enjoy some quality time with them. It had been an absolutely horrendous time dealing with a volatile breakup, setting up a new home and dealing with both criminal and family court proceedings, whilst trying my best to support the children through all the changes they had been faced with.

Due to my circumstances, I was accepted for a grant and used this to spend a week with them at Haven in Lakeland, which was amazing.

It was without a doubt the worst time of my life, and I am pleased to say we are all now happy, healthy and safe and have been able to move forward with our lives.

I was in a fortunate position that I already knew the stewards within my branch of UNISON, however that isn’t a case for many.

If anyone is struggling under similar circumstances I would absolutely reach out to UNISON. There is a wealth of support available, and it was all offered with compassion, discretion and without any judgement whatsoever.”

How we’re there for you

As this UNISON member has experienced, your union is here to support you. There for You is your union’s very own welfare charity, offering a confidential advice and support service just for UNISON members and their families. An extended illness, relationship breakdown, family bereavement, or other event can turn life upside down and result in financial difficulties or unexpected costs.

Every year, thousands of members receive practical help in the form of grants for essential bills, household items, school uniforms, special equipment and adaptations. We also offer free, confidential debt advice and tools to help you plan your budget and check you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to.

So, whether you need some financial ‘breathing space’ or simply someone to talk to about those things that are worrying you, our professional staff and specially trained branch welfare officers are there for you.

Find out more about the help available by speaking to your branch welfare officer or visiting You can also email or call 0800 0 857 857.

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