Louisa referred herself to me following the devastating news that she had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Louisa’s five year-old daughter, Samira, was in Year One at primary school.
Without any friends or family living in London, Louisa needed help with getting Samira to and from school, as well support in telling her about the diagnosis. Louisa was determined to ensure that her diagnosis did not have too adverse an effect on her daughter’s schooling in what was a critical period in Samira’s education. As the SHS practitioner at Samira’s primary school, I stepped in to offer the support that Louisa and Samira desperately needed. I was concerned that Samira’s situation at home would have a profoundly negative impact upon her education, so I had to make sure Samira had the support she needed to be able to attend and do well at school during such an important time in her development.
After I began working with Louisa and Samira I did all I could to support them through this intensely difficult period. I helped Louisa with practical issues related to her diagnosis, such as filling out medical forms and liaising with the palliative care team. While Samira was at school, I visited Louisa at her home to discuss what she wanted for Samira after her death. In order to maintain some order and routine in Samira’s life, I took her to and from school every day and organised after-school clubs for her on days that Louisa was in hospital for palliative chemotherapy. Despite going through such a tough time at home, Samira was still able to attend school every day. I fear that without my support she would have been unable to go to school at all.
Sadly, Louisa passed away four months later. Her sister Juliana, who lived in Manchester, took responsibility for caring for Samira after Louisa’s death. After several discussions with the local housing department and landlord, Juliana moved into Louisa and Samira’s house to make the transition easier for Samira. As Samira was still sleeping in a cot, I applied to the SHS Welfare Fund to buy her a bunk bed and bedding – Samira still excitedly tells me every morning which level of the bunk bed she slept on!
I assisted Auntie Juliana with the formal matters that needed to be sorted out with regards to gaining guardianship of Samira and helped her to look for employment in London. I referred both Juliana and Samira to a specialist centre for bereavement counselling, and provided them with food boxes and hampers over the very difficult Christmas period.
Now, 10 months on, Samira seems happy and settled. Her school attendance has remained excellent , she has friends round to her house for sleepovers and she knows to speak to me when she is missing her mother. Auntie Juliana is actively looking for work and has recently officially gained full guardianship with parental responsibility for Samira. After such a difficult period in her life, I have had the pleasure of witnessing Samira thrive and achieve at school, and I am confident that her future is a bright and happy one.
*The names in this case study have been changed