When Josh* was only 10, he found his dad dead on the sofa after a drug overdose. He became suicidal and began self-harming. We started helping him and his mam when he was 15, after they were referred into our service.

He was a young carer for his disabled, ex-heroin addict mother. Josh had to take her to get methadone early every morning, before going to school himself.

To prevent them being evicted from their flat, we helped them relocate and furnish the new residence thanks to generous donations from our communities. Things were tough for the family and they went without gas or heating for six months, including freezing cold winter months.

Josh’s mam was nervous around new people so discussions with energy providers had previously been avoided or refused. In our experience, this is a very typical fear amongst families who have had difficulties and been judged all of their lives.

Our Family Entrepreneur said:

“There was a lot of times I’d walk in and Josh and his mam would be fiercely arguing. I’d have to calm them both down and take Josh for some food or a coffee to talk about what was going on and what he needed.”

Josh had stopped attending school because the environment was just too overwhelming. The situation deteriorated so drastically that his school was only allowing him to come in for exams. For an early morning exam, our FE would drop her own children off early at breakfast club to go collect Josh and take him in for the exam so she knew he was there.

With a focus and determination to get Josh back into school, the Family Entrepreneur worked closely with the school to find a solution and arranged for Josh to attend 10am – 2pm school days, liaising to compare teachers’ timetables so they could offer Josh one-to-one tuition if they had free sessions. This was a key factor in helping him develop at school in his core subjects.

“He said to me once, “I was walking to school and saw some tablets on the floor, someone had dropped them. I did think for a second ‘should I just pick those up and take them?’. I didn’t, but I wanted to.” It’s just harrowing that that went through a 15-year-old’s mind.”

With a volatile home life and strained family relationships, Josh had been let down by every service before us and was clearly very vulnerable.

“Social services came in and took Josh away before we began helping. He was sent to live with a grandparent who was unfortunately a very negative influence. Josh had gone from enjoying drama groups and singing to being constantly bullied about his interests, including comments about him being girly, so he dropped out of all of them. That’s where his mental health problems began.”

15-year-old Josh was put onto anti-depressants to deal with the psychological damage caused by the constant belittling and maltreatment. He’d been let down so much by everyone close to him, and the final straw was when his grandparent took other children in the family on Josh’s dream once-in-a-lifetime Disney holiday and left him behind.

After going back to live with his mother, they were relying on food banks for meals and had no hot water for two weeks. Josh was travelling to his sister’s house six miles away for baths.

Our Family Entrepreneur tried to get Josh’s mother help from Adult Social Care Services so she could move around the house on her own and get some independence back, but unfortunately every time the organisation tried to help they were refused entry.

One of the ways we measure progress is through our bespoke Outcomes Web. When we measured Josh’s improvements, he said his health and wellbeing, getting on as a family, aspirations and future, and feelings about school had improved dramatically. We’re so proud of how far he’s come since first meeting him.

FG Outcomes Web

We’re delighted to report that Josh took the majority of his GCSE exams, is going on to college, and looking to get his own flat as a safe space for himself. He’s been referred to CYPS for further mental health support. We will, of course, continue to support him and his mam as their trusted service.

Our Improving Futures programme supports families in this situation and others just like it, all the time. If you need us, please call 0191 643 8938 or get in touch with the Programme Lead, lee.crosby@familygateway.co.uk.

Your donations help us continue supporting children just like Josh. If you can’t contribute financially, please spread the word about our work and share our stories – there’s more than one way to support your community! We’re so grateful for all the help we receive, thank you.

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