Our colleagues working as part of our Children & Families teams know the benefits of adopting a multi-agency approach to families with complex needs. By creating a wrap-round team of specialists that can work with families as individuals we often find that outcomes are far better as there is less chance of someone ‘falling through the net’.
This was the case for Nicola* and her family. A referral came to our Family Support team from the school attended by Nicola’s child for help with Nicola’s partners’ alcohol misuse and the impact it was having on the family. Whilst Nicola’s child enjoyed school, had good attendance and was regularly on time, it was felt that her partner’s drinking was cause for concern at home.
Nicola herself has an ongoing health condition that is exacerbated by stress and anxiety on top of low self-esteem. Her partner’s alcohol misuse began to escalate in late 2019 and this was compounded when, shortly after, the whole country went into lockdown. The family were trying to isolate and home-school their child in a first floor flat with no access to private outdoor space. As the pressure built, Nicola’s partner became violent towards her and intervention was necessary.
Through regular home visits and contact with the school and other agencies our Family Support team established that Nicola’s child was very close to her – often seeking her out for comfort and emotional support and whilst her partner did engage with their child, they had little empathy or real interest in building a trusting relationship with them. As the home situation worsened Nicola came to accept that staying wasn’t an option – she had to remove herself and her child from harm’s way.
Our Family Support team provided Nicola with intensive guidance around parenting, child development, boundaries and routines giving her a strong toolkit to take on solo parenting and made referrals to other agencies for support with housing, benefits and budgeting. They helped Nicola secure a place within school during the lockdowns as a protective measure for her child and made referrals to other agencies for support for her child after the impact of witnessing domestic violence in the home.
Weekly, sometimes daily, visits from our Family Support team helped Nicola to access domestic abuse support services for herself and a solicitor which resulted in court hearings and a court order to protect herself and her child. Throughout this process our Family Support team kept all agencies involved in the loop through regular multi-agency meetings.
After a tumultuous year, Nicola and her child are going from strength to strength – her self-esteem has blossomed and she is now liaising with school and other professionals confidently. So much so that no other agencies are involved any longer in her life and she is more than capable at managing her budget, tenancy and other household and family responsibilities by herself. With her newfound confidence Nicola is enjoying an active social life and is forming healthy relationships with new found friends. She had this to say: “I feel like a flower that has grown and grown”. She feels our support is ending at the right time because “I want to be able to do things on my own. I’m confident in going places, talking to people, have come out of my shell. I’ve been able to set up a better life, new home, new school. I’m happy and settled.”
*Name and image changed to protect individual’s identity.