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Lancashire unsung hero retires

Cynthia Hakin has been a caseworker for St Vincent’s Home Care and Repair in Haslingden, Lancashire, for more than a decade.

Over the years, Cynthia has helped thousands of the most vulnerable in our communities to stay safe and warm in their own homes.

She retires in June and FILT would like to thank this unsung hero for her tireless work to support those who are often overlooked by everyone else.

This article shares some of Cynthia’s story.

How did you come to work at St Vincent’s and why did you decide to retire?

I started working life in the office at the Smith & Nephew factory at Brierfield Mill and then spent 34-years at Yorkshire Bank where I specialised as a finance & mortgage adviser.

After leaving the bank, I joined St Vincent’s and have worked here for the last 11 ½ years.

I’ve turned 65 and have recently become a grandmother, so I’ve decided to retire from St Vincent’s to spend time with my new grandchild.

What does your role entail?

My role is to identify vulnerable people at risk from issues caused or exacerbated by fuel poverty and excess cold, and deliver a care package to support them. This can involve combining funds from disparate, local authority, charitable foundation, and benevolent fund sources.

I have been instrumental in securing funding from Lancashire County Council, British Gas Energy Trust, Gas Safe, Scottish & Southern Energy, and nPower/FILT Health through Warmth.

What have been some of the challenges over the years?

The grants I apply for are often constrained by their rules. Plus, sometimes there is a lack of understanding about the impact the right home repairs can have on a person’s health.

For example, most of the properties in our area are ageing terraced houses built in the early 1900s and many of the roofs are of an age when they need repairing or replacing.   I approached a charity to support repairs at a house in Rossendale that had been left with a roof near collapse due to poor workmanship.   They asked me:  how does the roof affect their health?

Tell us about some of the people you have helped?

It’s hard to single out people. Many of my clients feel lost and alone, with no-one to turn to so it’s gratifying to be able to help in some way. However, a few cases that come to mind.

  • 88-year old was found collapsed and near death with pneumonia. His roof needed replacing and the carpets were ruined. He was an ex-newsagent so I approached The Printing Charity and the Newstraid Charity for funds. I was able to securing £5,500 funding to repair the roof also further funds to install new carpets and have the gas fire and boiler serviced.
  • 64-year old was defrauded by scammers when she tried to raise funding for a new boiler, she suffered depression and had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) with osteoarthritis. Client was very vulnerable and isolated after her daughter died at the age of 24. Her house was bare and the boiler had been condemned and she therefore had to bathe by boiling kettles. I managed to organise for a new boiler to be installed.
  • 54-year old was living with her 36-year-old son who had special needs and OCD. Her other son had died very suddenly six months previous. The ceiling in the kitchen had partially collapsed following a leak and the stairs were unsafe. I managed to secure funding to fix both and also arrange for a second handrail to be fitted as the lady had problems getting upstairs. I also identified that my client’s only source of heating was a gas fire in the living room and I managed to secure additional funding through the NPower Rapid Funding Scheme for full central heating to be installed.
  • 78 year old vulnerable lady who had lived alone for 30 years and had a number of health issues. The lady had not allowed anyone to enter her home for over 10 years and when access was finally gained to the property, it was found to be in a terrible state.  The property was full of rubbish, infested with rats and the electrical wiring had been chewed through. Client had only lived in her bedroom for over 5 years with a small electric fire for heat.   The boiler was not working and also there was no working electricity downstairs.  Her toilet bowl was also broken and leaking. I managed to arrange funding to cover a replacement boiler, a full re-wire and new toilet. Once the electrics were up and running this meant she could live downstairs and I arranged for a new fridge freezer to be installed.

Over the years there have been many more cases too numerous to mention. I’ve always enjoyed helping people and will certainly miss this aspect of my job.

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