“My life was a huge struggle. I was 18 and living in a women’s refuge after becoming a victim of domestic violence. I was studying for my A-levels and aiming for university, but everything around me was piling up. I had no clue about how to pay bills and I never really had any support from the refuge. I was all alone."

“I’d never had a bed to sleep in as I couldn’t afford to pay for one, so I was sleeping on a second-hand couch and living off 11p noodles most days. I could never afford to eat proper cooked meals with veg as the money never stretched that far."

“I was having trouble getting my benefits, especially housing benefits and was in severe debt. I didn’t know how to sort that out. There were times when the benefit wasn’t paid into my account on time, so I had to go without hot water and heating. I was also paying for a TV licence without owning a TV because I thought I had to pay for the service. It was a horrible time as I had no money, no family and no support.”

My Action for Children support worker helped me through my darkest days.

The refuge referred Diana to Action for Children, but she admits she was “scared” to meet her support worker at first.

“I thought she was going to tell me off like a mother because of all the debt I was in but she didn’t - she has been the best support I’ve ever had. I moved into new housing and she helped me sort out my finances. She showed me how to budget properly and how to run my flat more efficiently. She helped me through my darkest days.”

Things were finally going well - Diane passed her A-levels and got a place at university to study law. However, after finishing her first year at university things took a turn for the worst when she was diagnosed with Lupus and became very ill. "I was on a life support machine as my kidneys, heart and lungs were failing. To top it off I got fired from my summer job, and I couldn’t manage the bills. I didn’t know who to ask for help."

"I was lying there in hospital with no one - all my friends had disappeared. From my hospital bed I explained to my support worker what had happened and never imagined that she would be able to help, but within a week she had put me back on support. She sorted out all my benefits and, with her support, we spoke to my university and they allowed me to take a year out so that I could concentrate on my health then return to do my second year."

“I’ve just completed my second year with a First and I’ve been elected Student with Disabilities Officer and NUS Student with Disabilities campaign officer. I’m also a mentee in Vale of Glamorgan Council for a Diversity in Democracy project, where I represent disabled students on a national and international level at conferences."

“I’ve been advised by my doctors that I don’t need a kidney transplant, so things are looking up and I feel really positive. I still keep in contact with my support worker - without her help I could not have achieved any of this."

"I am forever indebted to Action for Children. I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for all the support from them.”

Diana recently won a Stephenson award in the Achievement category which was new for 2015. The award category recognises young people or families who we have supported and have gone on to make great achievements.

 

Watch our full interview with Diana:

 

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