After viewing several flats and being rejected with no reason, Ifreke found a two-bedroom flat in Truro. She paid the holding deposit, and everything was looking good. Money was exchanged and references were asked for, and she was told that she could move in to the flat after 14 days. Ifreke told her husband the good news and he prepared himself and their eighteen-month-old baby to fly to the UK.
“Everything was going well, my husband and baby girl arrived, and we all quarantine together, looking forward to moving into our new home,” Ifreke explains. “Unfortunately, we then received the devastating news that the landlord we were set to rent from had reneged on their agreed offer. This was only 4 days before we were due to move in.”
With her husband and baby now in the UK and with nowhere to stay, Ifreke was frantic. “We called the letting agent and asked why they had withdrawn the offer, they just informed us that the landlord decided not to let to me. We were heartbroken.”
Fortunately, Ifreke’s new colleagues were on hand to offer help and support. “The kindness of my new colleagues, and my manager Patrick McDermott, have been incredible,” Ifreke continues. “They really went above and beyond in their help to secure us a place to live. It made me feel incredibly valued and respected at a time when everything seemed so hopeless and uncertain.”
Amongst those that interceded on Ifreke’s behalf was the RCHT’s Administration Support Officer for the Radiography Service, Agnes Gwynn. “With nowhere to live, Ifreke would’ve had no other option than to return with her family back to Nigeria,” Agnes explains. “This was a valuable member of the team – someone that we’d invited to come and work with us at a time when our services were most in need of support – and they were unable to start work over issues of accommodation.”
Agnes intervened and called around to various letting agents in order to secure somewhere for Ifreke to live. “Agnes looked at a two-bedroom house on my behalf and she managed to secure it for me and my family,” Ifreke continues.
“This was a great moment. I managed to book my family into a bed and breakfast for a couple of days until we could move in.”
Another colleague Ifreke would like to thank also is Ukeme Akpan, another Nigerian Radiographer, who went out of her way to view properties for Ifreke when she was working or could not go. This was much appreciated by Ifreke, as Ukeme herself is still looking for a place to rent for herself, and her selflessness in helping a friend was much appreciated.
Ifreke is now happily in work as a radiographer in the RCHT’s Clinical Imaging department and has been reunited with her husband and child. “After several false starts, I’ve been able to settle and get to work supporting the radiography services,” Ifreke concludes. “I couldn’t be more grateful to Agnes and everyone else that supported me on this journey.”
“Our international colleagues are so important to all our work at the RCHT,” Agnes continues. “We want our colleagues to be able to live and work here happily, and to feel safe and supported in their new communities, but they’re facing a lot of barriers.”
Ifreke’s story has highlighted one of the wider issues that colleagues from the Royal Cornwall Hospitals have been facing in recent years, chiefly the lack of available housing.
“Colleagues have been finding it increasingly difficult to find accommodation,” explains Paul Hargreaves, Project SRM for Staff Residential Accommodation at the RCHT. “In most instances, house prices are simply too high and there’s a real lack of affordable housing. As a lot of landlords don’t allow pets, and some won’t consider couples with children, new colleagues have also found it difficult to secure rented accommodation. This makes it very difficult for us to attract new staff members to the area.”
“It isn’t a problem exclusive to our international colleagues either,” Paul concludes.
“Colleagues already based in Cornwall, as well as those moving from other areas of the country, have also found it increasingly difficult to find places to live. Ifreke’s story had a happy ending, but what we really need now is for more individuals who can provide accommodation, to step forward and support our local NHS and the present challenges that colleagues are facing in Cornwall.”