Rebecca and Tommi have been together for 5 years. In this time they have been through a number of struggles, including trying to find employment opportunities and starting a family but having their children taken away. Throughout all this hardship they have stayed together, and are now building for a more positive future.
Find out what Rebecca and Tommi have to say about their experiences and what they're looking forward to in the coming months and years.
How we met
Rebecca: We met online on a website called Yearbook, we were both 21 and I guess we got lucky.
Tommi: I was living in Stratford upon Avon at the time, but I remember winning £50 on the health lottery and I used the money to come down on the train and see Rebecca.
R: Shortly after that Tommi moved down to me. We had both been bullied in school and I personally had a difficult upbringing with my siblings. My father was in jail and my relationship with my Mum wasn't great. Things got very difficult for me when my father was murdered in prison when I was 19. In school I found I couldn't focus because of all the bad things happening at home.
Tommi: When we met each other, it felt like we knew each other.
Having a family
R: Shortly after Tommi moved to live with me I became pregnant. I loved being pregnant, I loved being a Mum, I loved everything. Crystal was born at 12:04pm on 28 September 2012 and for a while we had the perfect little family. We moved out after 6 months of Crystal being born and were made aware to the local services and social services. We weren't left alone and were constantly put under stress. We had to attend lots of meetings to see if we were safe parents. Crystal was placed in care as she was declared not safe in our care. Social services painted a horrible picture of us; the social worker at the time said we both needed therapy.
T: Does it look like I need therapy? We had no control.
R: I had my second baby, Logan, at exactly the same time as Crystal on 18 November 2014. He was also taken away. After I lost the kids I felt useless. I didn't want to hand over my children, my kids were my reward for everything we'd been through.
T: We never thought we'd have a family, because we're 'different'. We proved everyone wrong.
R: We had the perfect little family but the social workers said we were bad parents. Crystal had night terrors and was born with Global Developmental Delay and learning disabilities. The local services did everything to make us not have our children, our social worker was against us, it was ridiculous. None of the professionals knew me personally, but Mencap supported us through court. We had our time reduced with our children, and Logan has been adopted so we don't see him. We do see Crystal, but not very often. I had tried to prove that we were good parents, but they said we were emotionally abusing our kids. They said we weren't giving enough love, attention or affection, that we were a danger.
Support from Mencap and finding a job
R: Reading Mencap referred us both to Mencap employment services at the end of 2015. We were both devastated by the kid's situation, both unemployed and on benefits, and we used to argue. We've been through some dark days.
T: We had no hope, we were depressed, some days we thought "what's the point?" like we wanted to commit suicide. I've always had it, being told I'm too dumb to do anything, I'm not going to get anywhere, but look at me now.
Tommi: When I joined Mencap we were in a rut, but they started looking into work option for us.
R: Andy from Mencap made our CVs and we started working on booting our confidence. We both attended an IKEA assessment day at the job centre in June that Mencap had arranged. We both agreed to come as we had heard good thinks about IKEA which was opening in Reading. There were others from Mencap there, as well as The Shaw Trust.
T: I didn't get the job but had an offer day.
R: I got shortlisted for another interview in the Catering Department and then was offered a job shortly after.
T: Andy and I applied for McDonald's online and a couple of days later I had an email asking me to come in for an interview. Andy agreed to come with me for support. I tried to get out of it because I was anxious and afraid, but he convinced me and I met him outside McDonald's. I had an on-job assessment during the interview and I worked on the tills. The manager, Grace, said I did really well. Later that week I got given a job. If I didn't have Mencap, I wouldn't have a job, I wouldn't be where I am right now. If Andy hadn't been at the interview I wouldn't have got the job. I didn't know where to look.
R: The week that I was inducted into the job with IKEA we did training in Southampton which included lots of team activities. IKEA is like a family to me now.
T: We wanted a change. We used to get bored at home, frustrated, thinking about what had happened to us. Now I work 6 or 7 hours a day on the days that I'm needed. I do burgers and fries a lot of the time, and I've been on the tills once or twice.
R: Grace the manager wants you to be the manager one day! I'm working 5 days a week now and I've settled into it and my co-workers are nice.
T: I get to eat McDonald's at work on my break, so it's good!
R: IKEA food is really good. It's taught me so much; tills, floor, cold fill and two restaurants.
T: I've got 3 out of 5 stars, I'm on my way to being a crew trainer. At first I thought, how am I going to cope? It's busy, but my disabilities aren't holding me back anymore. I was worried about messing up on the tills because of my dyslexia and I was a little nervous to begin with, but then I started making friends.
Life outside of work
T: Financially we're a lot better off now that we're both getting paid. We have things to look forward to now.
R: We can treat ourselves and there's place we can afford.
Rebecca: We've supported each other through everything, and as much as I want to strangle you, I want to kiss you at the same time.
T: If you're not yourself, you're no one. I'm 100% myself.
R: And that's why I love you. Mencap's support has been very helpful to us, and we can start planning for the future now.
T: We're planning to work for a few years and maybe try for children again in our 30s.
R: We're looking at holidays now. I want to go somewhere in England, not too far.
T: No, Spain!