A FREE support service for people aged over 55 is improving the lives of residents across the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Aspire Housing has been contracted by Staffordshire County Council to provide independent living support for up to 166 people in the district and Newcastle-under-Lyme.
The service is for anyone living in any property including owner occupiers, private rented, social housing, and staying with family or friends.
Peter Berrisford, aged 81, of Prince Street, Leek, started using the service two years ago.
He said: "I was at the lowest part of my life and I was really poorly. I had lost all my confidence and become very isolated and lonely.
"I wouldn't even answer the telephone or go to the shops, and never mixed with anyone.
"I'd given up completely; if you had seen me two years ago compared to now you wouldn't have known me. I'm a completely different, stronger person.
"I wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for Aspire and my support worker Rachel Collis. It is an absolutely wonderful service and I couldn't better the support I have received."
The Aspire Housing independent living service was set up in the Staffordshire Moorlands in November and is already supporting 64 over 55s in the district.
It is available to individuals for up to two years to help them remain independent in their own home, or access more suitable housing, and the service can be re-accessed at any time.
Staff also assist with managing finances, improving social networks to reduce loneliness, support people with age related difficulties such as memory loss and offer advice on physical health.
Rachel Collis, Mr Berrisford's support worker, said: "When I starting working with Peter he was very vulnerable and at risk, so we needed to make him safe.
"He never went out alone, so we'd go into town together and encourage him until he felt strong enough to go on his own.
"We also helped him with organising removals, utility bills and benefits when he moved out of this property to Wellington Mill.
"He has arthritis so was unable to fill in documents himself, so we helped with that, and as he wasn't eating properly we arrange for meals to be brought in, and for his medication to be delivered.
"Many applications are done online now, but like many older people Peter doesn't have a computer, so I took him to Moorlands House in Leek where he could use a computer for free and helped him do that as well.
"He has since returned from Wellington Mill after having problems there and we are now applying for a place in the new Daisy Haye development in Ball Haye Green."
Rachel added: "Sometimes the problems we deal with are things people don't want to discuss with their family.
"Often what starts as a small bill or issue turns into a huge debt and problem because that person doesn't know how to deal with it, and hasn't thought about asking for help because they either don't realise what help is available, or are too proud, then it starts to affect their confidence.
"Our services are tailor made to suit individuals' needs, and if it is something we can't assist with we will refer to another agency.
"We aren't hands on in the sense that we don't do people's shopping, cleaning and caring, but we can arrange for those things to be done if needed.
"There also has to be a target and an end date, so if there is a long-term issue we would get the relevant agency to take that on and ensure it is being dealt with before our service period is up."
The service is easy to access because apart from age there is no criteria needed. And, as well as being referred by a variety of agencies and organisations, people can refer themselves.
For more information about the Aspire Housing independent living service for over 55s contact 01782 635200.