I started working with Samir – who was 8 years old at the time – and his family just after I started working for School-Home Support (SHS). It was clear that all was not well in Samir’s home life. He was persistently absent, and when he did come in he was displaying physical symptoms of severe anxiety – pulling out his hair until he was almost bald and biting his fingers until they bled.
The first time I met Samir’s Mum, Abda, was one morning when I saw her crying in the playground. I invited her to come in for a cup of coffee and just listened. It was the first time she opened up about the problems her family were facing.
Firstly, the family were living in severely overcrowded housing – Abda and her three children were sharing just one bedroom in her sister’s house. On top of this, there were ten people in total living in the house, in just three bedrooms and one bathroom. It was noisy in the house so Samir struggled to sleep through the night, and he and his siblings struggled to find the space and quiet to do their homework.
These problems were significantly affecting Samir and his education. Not only did the problems at home mean he was persistently absent from school, but when he was in school he was struggling to concentrate in class and falling behind his peers academically. I knew the key to improving Samir’s education was to help the family overcome the issues they were facing at home.
I organised an appointment at the housing office and wrote a letter of support to get the family rehoused in emergency accommodation. When they were rehoused, I applied to the SHS Welfare Fund to pay for a washing machine so they could wash their clothes.
I organised 1-to-1 games at playtime and lunchtime to give Samir some respite during the housing issues when he was most anxious, as well as supporting him to make friends and socialise with other children.
Since I started working with the family, Samir and his family have made significant progress. Samir is starting to flourish and his teachers are much happier with his progress. He has stopped biting his fingers until they bleed and pulling out his hair, and he has started to come out of his shell and make friends.
All of the family’s problems can’t be solved overnight and I am continuing to work with the family. However, I am very proud of the progress Samir has made since September.
*Names have been changed