When a family has a range of complex issues and challenging circumstances that are all interlinked, the road to recovery and resilience can be long and difficult – especially if you are untrusting of services and agencies and scared to ask for help. Add to that a pandemic, loss of income, children at home all day every day, and mental ill-health… it’s like a time-bomb waiting to explode. Here’s how we are working with Anna* and her family.

Anna works part-time as a retail assistant and has three children. Before the coronavirus crisis she was only just managing to get by day by day. With mounting debts, mental ill-health caused by anxiety over her financial difficulties and the stress of bringing up three children on her own with little money, she was really struggling to cope.

Anna had accumulated debts of almost £3000 through rent arrears, payday loans and utility arrears. Our Family Entrepreneur was working with her and her creditors to agree repayment schedules so that she could feel more in control. She was just starting to see a future free of money worries when COVID-19 came along.

Anna has now been placed on furlough by her employer and so her income (that was only just enough to survive) has been reduced, leaving her with not enough money to survive day to day. She has been told that she will need to wait four weeks for her Universal Credit payment and she is still waiting for her free school meals vouchers that were promised.

Anna is not coping at all and the stress on her and her children is enormous.

The impact on Anna’s children is most concerning; they are at home all day every day and are witnessing and embroiled in their mum’s severe and volatile mood changes. As a result, their mood changes are mirroring those of their mum’s and they are swinging between being withdrawn, angry, scared and frustrated. Mostly they are confused. They can’t play outside, can’t see their friends and have no physical or emotional outlet other than their trusted Family Entrepreneur providing online/phone support and games.

Our Family Entrepreneur is monitoring the situation closely. At the point that Anna admitted to taking her stress out on the children our safeguarding radar has kicked in; at the moment they are physically safe but they may need support for a long time. Children pick up on emotional signals from adults and their insecurities can manifest themselves in a range of actions and behaviours that can often be misinterpreted as being difficult or challenging. The trust is that they are simply insecure and scared – it could take some time to reverse this emotional damage.

The three children are naturally feeling insecure and we are concerned about the long term impact on their mental health. We will ensure that they are signposted to the most appropriate support.

Family Gateway continues to provide support to Anna. We are the only agency she trusts and we contact her daily with strategies and activities to support her and her children. She receives our Free Family Meals along with other essential, games and activity packages for the children. Unfortunately, the impact of COVID-19 is likely to stay with this family for a long time.

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