Fiona's Story 

Fiona, from Redcar suffers with Agoraphobia. Due to high levels of anxiety and stress she missed her ESA assessment which resulted in her ESA claim being refused.

Eighteen months ago, Fiona’s local Job Centre told her about Step Forward Tees Valley and with her permission made a referral to them.

Due to Fiona’s long term health issues, she didn’t feel able to attend appointments with Step Forward Tees Valley. However, her navigator Jackie felt she could help Fiona and arranged to visit her at home.


Fiona was able to open up to Jackie about the obstacles she was facing, and together they made an action plan addressing each obstacle and creating a solution.

Jackie visited Fiona once a week at her home, where they chatted and explored other available support networks. First of all, Jackie helped Fiona to complete her ESA appeal. Jackie also told Fiona about Redcar Mind and the additional support they could offer her. Fiona was keen to meet with them and a referral was made on her behalf.

After a couple of months of working 1:1 with Redcar Mind, Fiona was able to put in place the practical and emotional interventions she had been taught.

With the support of her navigator, Fiona now felt able to attend her ESA Tribunal and was successful in her appeal.

A few months on and Fiona was beginning to think about her future, and during her next review with Jackie they discussed the possibility of starting an online course from home. Jackie suggested “Learn My Way”, a free online digital course for beginners. Fiona really enjoyed this course and completed all 8 modules in no time at all.

“Using the computer was a great coping mechanism for my stress and anxiety. It gave me something to focus on and I found it really interesting”.

Fiona felt empowered and started to think about a future without ESA benefit, and began exploring career paths with her navigator. Jackie explained the option of permitted work which allows people to work up to 15 hours a week at minimum wage before it affects benefits.

After exploring different career paths Fiona decided that she would like to train as a self-employed dog groomer. Fiona’s navigator supported her in applying for funding for an online Dog Grooming course and Fiona was successful with her application.

Now eighteen months on and Fiona is going out on regular unsupported walks and has also enrolled onto a Level 3 Diploma in Dog Training. Fiona is excited about the next stage of her life and has even started practicing her hazard perception test while she saves for driving lessons.

“Thank you so much Step Forward Tees Valley and Jackie for believing in me”.