Many people working in horticulture are on low incomes and unemployment is rife over the winter months. As a result, mental health issues are increasingly prevalent in the industry, often leading to a downward spiral where they feel they can no longer cope. Our services have frequently been described as a 'lifeline' by those who before receiving our help, saw no way out.
Below are the stories of Leigh, Stephen and Vicki, who have all benefited from our vital services and don't know where they would have been without Perennial's help.
As a single parent, Leigh is dependent on regular work to support himself and his son. For seven years, he has been sub-contracted as a self-employed domestic landscaper by a larger firm. In November 2016, the volume of work Leigh was being asked to take on began to take its toll. Stress caused acute psoriasis of the hands and feet leaving painful open sores and making walking and working almost impossible. In March 2017 he broke down and finally admitted he needed help and the doctor advised him to stop work until his hands and feet recovered.
"My income stopped overnight and although I was prescribed a temporary treatment, I needed to see a dermatologist and the waiting list was six months. I just didn't know how I was going to cope and the worry contributed to my illness.
Luckily, I was referred to Perennial and within a week I had received a visit from my caseworker. He was brilliant from day one, helping me fill in forms to apply for financial help while I was unable to work. It was like a huge weight had been lifted and I know that it has helped my recovery.
After six months, I was referred for regular UV light treatment. Although the individual sessions only last a few minutes, the recovery process is very slow. Now I am able to stay on my feet for longer periods of time each day and have started to return to work. If it wasn't for Perennial, I don't know where we'd be now."
Stephen and Vicki's story
Stephen is a landscape gardener. He and his partner Vicki, who herself has a long-term health condition, have four children. After working for a landscaping firm for many years, Stephen decided to start his own business and for some time things were going well. Stephen is diabetic and he started to lose his sight. He had to stop driving and was deemed unfit to continue working. After eye surgery, Stephen had to give up horticulture and this led to him being diagnosed with clinical depression.
"Perennial has been there for us, for me. We were doing OK when Stephen was working, but almost overnight our financial situation changed and we really didn't know how we were going to cope.
Perennial helped us with our finances and has supported both Stephen and me through this depression. It took a while for us to accept that we needed help, but we have no regrets and are just so glad we came across them. I don't think we would have known what to do without them. We would encourage others in similar situations to get in touch with Perennial sooner rather than later.
We're still struggling - Stephen is learning to cope with his loss of sight and I make regular trips to the hospital to avoid losing the use of my legs. But Perennial continues to be there for us and we know we can call our caseworker for advice and support as and when we need it."
For 180 years, Perennial has been dedicated to helping all horticulturists in need and at Christmas time our services are needed more than ever. Last year we supported 158 disadvantaged people and their families with the cost of Christmas. The number of people needing our help increases every year and we are reliant on generous donations from people like you to ensure we are able to deliver this. Even the smallest of donations can help to buy the winter essentials we often take for granted and to spread a little festive cheer to those who need it the most.