Home-Start Case Study 2: SHARYN

SHARYN and her son are both in need of all the help Home-Start can offer. In fact, Home-Start makes the difference as to whether the pair are able to stay together.

Sharyn was referred to Home-Start Suffolk Coastal by the Family Support Worker at a local Children’s Centre. She has a rare health condition which has meant her giving up full time employment due to intolerable pain. Really, Sharyn needs to undergo surgery – but the risk of her not surviving the operation is so great that this will only happen as a last resort.

Sharyn is seen at her local hospital and her pain is managed with high levels of morphine. Obviously this has a big impact on Sharyn’s ability to care for her four year old son, Rob, who is autistic. Luckily Rob goes to nurseries for three full, and two half days a week Although Sharyn is a single parent she has the support of Rob’s father in caring for the child. Rob spends every weekend with his dad and and his dad’s new partner and he comes to visit the child every day. These daily visits can sometimes cause problems between the parents as they have differing ideas of ways to manage Rob’s behaviour.

Sharyn’s dependency on morphine is increasing and there are now concerns about how this will affect her ability to care for Rob, especially at night. On several occasions Sharyn has not heard the child wake and he has smeared food and faeces over the walls, the furniture and himself. The child is often unsupervised for long periods of time before Sharyn realises it. The Social work team have decided that Rob is what they call “A Child in Need”.

In this very delicate situation, Sharyn’s Home-Start volunteer visits once a week and helps Sharyn with the household tasks she can’t do alone: things like changing the bed, cooking, sorting laundry and washing up. Sharyn has no friends and values the volunteer’s visits both for some adult company, and also as someone who will be non-judgemental whatever state the house is in. The volunteer has built up a relationship with Rob: playing, reading and looking at picture books with him and helping the family get out because Sharyn cannot do this alone.

Having a friend to help with these everyday tasks can mean a great deal. You must never underestimate the difference one visit a week can make

But the volunteer is a friend to the whole family, not just to Sharyn. If she is worried that Rob is at risk because of Sharyn’s inability to cope, however friendly she feels towards Sharyn she will recognise her first duty is to the safety of the child.

This is why HomeStart volunteers need to be selected and trained so carefully


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