10 April 2017

A young man and his twin brother have been compelled to thank a housing officer with a specially made cake nine years after she first helped them.

Akeem and Kazem Balogun were just 16 years old when their mum, who had suffered from mental health problems for years, left their family council home. The pair, who were worried about what would happen to them as a result, then met Debbie Ramsden who helped them find a smaller, more suitable home, get support from social services and get by.

Akeem, who is now 25 years old, says he and his brother are doing well, but things could have gone differently without the housing officer’s kind help. He said: “Things were really hard. We were just 16 at the time when my mum left and we were having problems when we met Debbie.

“We didn’t want to be taken into care and she was determined to make sure we got into a decent property and that we got a social worker to make sure we got the help we needed.

“She helped us a lot. It was a big deal. My brother and I have always wanted to thank her – if she hadn’t helped out things could have turned out quite differently.”

Debbie Ramsden stayed in touch with Akeem and Kazem after they moved home and, in the brothers own words, stayed in touch “to check up on us.”

But before yesterday, she hadn’t seen the brothers for years and Akeem’s visit with the cake was a complete shock. Debbie said: “I recognised Akeem straight away but he seemed so tall!

“He’s grown up into a lovely, really well-grounded man and it’s great to hear how well he and his brother are doing. This doesn’t always happen.”

Akeem added: “It was lovely to see Debbie. She hasn’t aged but looks a lot smaller than I remember. I’ve got a permanent to-do list and having this cake made and thanking Debbie has been on it for as long as I remember.”

Sheffield City Council introduced a new Housing + service last year for council tenants. Neighbourhood Officers now have a patch of properties to manage, and will help tenants on their patch with a range of issues. This means the type of support Debbie gave nine years ago will become more common.

Councillor Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “Debbie has done a fantastic job and it’s lovely to hear that she has made a real difference to these young men’s lives. We care about our tenants and want the best for them. I’m proud council officers have made a difference.”