Tom, aged 7, is in Year 3 at school and lives with his mother, younger brother and sister. His mum would rarely attend parent’s evening and would avoid coming into the school playgroup to drop off and pick up her children. As a result, Tom was persistently late and would often receive unauthorised absences.
The school initially sent letters, made phone calls and arranged meetings with the welfare team. This improved the situation temporarily but then the patterns of lateness and absence would continue.
To achieve a longer-term solution, I started working with Tom and his family to try to find the root cause of the problems. I began by building a relationship with Tom’s mother, gradually establishing trust. During one home visit, Tom’s mum burst into tears. I then discovered that she was recovering from an abusive relationship and was very anxious about leaving her home. She was also in a dire financial situation and was at risk of being evicted from her house.
Over the course of a year, I provided lots of support to Tom’s family, to help them overcome their problems. These included making an application for Discretionary Housing Payment to avoid eviction due to rent arrears, referring the family to Citizens Advice Bureau for on-going financial advice and getting support from the school’s Learning Mentor to tackle family relationship problems.
Tom’s mum was worried about spending Christmas on her own with the children. She felt crippled with embarrassment that she wasn’t going to be able to provide her children with any gifts that year. I was able to give her a Christmas Hamper from the Liberum Foundation and a toy for each of the children donated by Las Iguanas restaurant. This restored her hope, and she said ‘Thanks for thinking about me and my children and trying to make us happy’.
Since then, there have been a number of positive outcomes. Tom and his siblings have been arriving at school on time, with no unauthorised absences in recent months. Due to this, they are achieving better results at school. Tom’s mum is more involved with his learning, attending his school meetings and showing interest in how he is doing at school.
Tom’s mum says, “the SHS worker has really helped me and my children in different aspects to do with the school, especially the lateness situation. She treated me with respect and made the seriousness of the matter clear without treating me differently. She has worked with me to get involved with services that help and benefit my children. It has been very helpful and I don’t know what I would do without her help and support.”
*The names in this case study have been changed