The Robert Grace Trust support the patients of the Bloomsbury Clinic at the Mortimer Market Centre which is one of the largest HIV clinics in the UK with 5000 patients. The patient representatives administer the Robert Grace Trust Emergency Fund. We use the fund for all kinds of emergencies: formula milk, groceries, fridges, cookers, mattresses, school books and uniforms and to pay for showers (at train terminals) utility bills, court costs, travel and child care. The majority of our applicants are extremely vulnerable adults – seniors, mothers, asylum seekers, refugees and illegals – who are just managing to keep their heads above water while dealing with the stress and anxiety of their diagnosis. It is essential to take the medication (only one or two tablets now) every day and this is extremely difficult if you are sleeping rough behind the bins on an estate. Despite HIV now being a chronic manageable condition, it can still have a huge emotional and psychological impact.
"One of the most complex and harrowing cases was a single mother with a disabled son who was arrested one morning for being in the country on false papers. She had been in the country for 14 years, had married here and widowed here. She had been working as a nurse but after the arrest was not allowed to work any longer and was threatened with deportation. She couldn’t work, no longer had access to public funds, got behind with the rent and was threatened by the council with eviction.
We petitioned the council and she was allowed to stay in her home. We found her legal aid in order to appeal. The impact on her health and that of her son’s was dramatic. She became depressed, stopped taking her medication and did not think life worth living. As the bills mounted, the bailiffs moved in and took her fridge, cooker, TV, bed and anything else they could carry. We managed to get 50% off her utility bills but she couldn’t afford to heat the water or the house.
This is where the RGT Emergency Fund stepped in. We bought white goods and a bed and the patient representatives supported her in her appeal. Another charity provided furniture and yet another groceries. We managed to get further charities to provide clothing and bedding. She started to re-engage, started counselling but her health had taken a battering and she developed arthritis and multiple health problems including a bad back through sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Not unsurprisingly she became more and more depressed and dependent.
It took a year to prove her innocence. Benefits were back dated, debt written off but I doubt she will ever be able to work again. And it will take much longer for her to regain her confidence and health. She is still having therapy but taking her medication properly. Her son, who has learning difficulties, has just left college and we provided a suit for his first interview. I saw Macie a few days ago... and she was smiling.... for the first time in months."
Chris Sandford, Patients' Representative at Mortimer Market and RGT Trustee