When families are in difficulty it may not be the mother who is in greatest need of support – as the story of DARREN shows.
Darren is a young man, married to Tina and living in an isolated town on the Suffolk coast. They have a young daughter who is now a toddler. Tina has always had bad epilepsy, which worsened significantly during her pregnancy and since the birth of their daughter. As a consequence Darren has had no option but to give up work to look after the pair of them as a fulltime carer.
The family was referred to Home-Start for general home-visiting support to assist Darren and Tina looking after the baby– who was then only a few months old. Having a HomeStart volunteer visiting gave Darren much-needed respite from his full-on caring. Tina also attended one of Home-Start’s local family groups to give Darren a bit more time to himself.
Sadly towards the end of last year poor Tina suffered a catastrophic seizure which deprived her brain of oxygen for long enough to cause damage. She had to spend 2 months as an inpatient at the hospital. During this time Darren was the sole carer for their daughter as well as a daily hospital visitor. As the family were on a limited income, the cost of this daily 45 mile round trip to hospital was difficult to manage. And although the family were getting interim support via the hospital social work team, Darren was increasingly anxious about how the family was ever going to manage financially after Tina left hospital.
Tina is now back home but tragically she has lost her short term memory, and a number of basic life skills – simple things, such as the ability to make a telephone call, or a cup of tea. This makes the family situation even more difficult. She now needs support from carers and family members to manage very basic day-to-day care for example of a social worker.
As anyone who has been in this situation understands, this is not only daunting, but also very expensive. Care costs a lot, and you cannot be in two places at once. Darren was in despair.
Luckily the family’s HomeStart visitor had been trained in helping families maximise income. This is often very necessary. Thousands of families are having trouble paying their bills. Many are ashamed of being in this position, many feel they need to keep quiet about it and many find the stress very difficult to cope with. Others sink further and further into debt. Yet funds do exist to help families – although they are in lots of different places and it can be hard to find.
Many HomeStart volunteers have been trained to help people find out about relevant welfare benefits, tax credits, grants and other help available to them – and in complete confidence. Darren and Tina’s family volunteer even visited the family with a colleague she and Darren could do the checks while someone looked after his family.
It turned out that the family were entitled to both Income Support and Child Tax Credit and when the volunteer helped them contact the benefits agency, the benefits agency even agreed to backdate the claim to when Tina first was admitted to hospital. As you can imagine, this was a huge relief for Darren. Additionally, the family volunteer established that Tina was entitled to the higher rate of mobility for Disability Living Allowance.
The extra money which Darren’s family are receiving doesn’t go on luxuries. It helps them meet their daily living expenses, and pay for extra carer hours. It also helps defray the expense of Tina’s medical transport costs, because her health appointments are mainly in Ipswich – which is a 45 mile round trip- and Stowmarket -a 60 mile round trip, neither of which she can make unaccompanied.
For Darren this has made the difference between holding things together, and sinking under the strain.