Case study

Troubled families: Wandsworth

Progress in Wandsworth (London) helping troubled families turn their lives around.

Wandsworth shown within Greater London

The family

Single mum and 1 son.

The situation

Before her involvement with the family intervention project, mum had been the victim of severe domestic violence over a sustained period of time. This had affected her mental health and her ability to be a good parent. She found it hard to provide basic care for her son and as a result he was placed with his grandparents while social services assessed the family. He was not attending school regularly and when he did attend he was turning up late. Mum was unemployed.

Both mum and her son were also missing health and dental appointments and there were concerns that his immunisations were not up to date. There was also no routine in the home. Social services identified signs of neglect including an episode that resulted in the son being left alone in the home for 6 hours because of domestic violence. The police were in the process of pressing charges for domestic violence but mum’s relationship with her family was strained which meant she found herself isolated. She did not trust professionals and did not want to work with them. Her house was dirty and in a state of disrepair.

Work with the family and results

The family worker explained to mum from the start that they needed to work together - that it would need to be a relationship based on honesty.

She observed the family’s routine over a couple of weeks while she helped with the practical things, to build trust and get to know what was really going on for them as a family. This included helping with health appointments, organisation of uniforms, school runs, routine and structure. For around 4 weeks the family worker visited the property early in the morning to make sure they were all up, fed and ready for school. She also popped round in the evening to make sure the son was bathed and his school clothes were clean. This helped them to establish a proper school routine and his attendance improved.

The family worker also worked with mum on her parenting and encouraged her to set boundaries with her son which improved his behaviour. When mum realised that the family worker wasn’t going away, she began to open up and she explained her concerns about her own health. Mum made it clear that she wanted to change and get better but this would need to be managed carefully as she had been through so much trauma with her previous partner. The family worker got her help for her mental health problems and she is now on anti-depressives. She also got mum to focus on her child’s health and made sure his vaccinations were up to date. Things became calmer in the home, and mum’s mental health began to improve. The family worker encouraged her to address the struggles with her family, and she arranged some family meetings to help mum build better relationships with them.

Her ex-partner was imprisoned for domestic violence against mum but even though he is the subject of a non-molestation order, was re-housed around the corner from her on his release. The family worker has started to organise a housing transfer for mum to try to move her away from this danger. Mum is now volunteering at the local primary school and has been referred to a Job Centre plus worker to help her find work. Her son is now attending school regularly and is thriving. The home is clean and well presented and mum’s mental health has stabilised.

Progress turning troubled families’ lives around in Wandsworth (London)

The chart below shows progress made in Wandsworth as of March 2014.

Total number of families 660
Number of families identified as at end of March 2014 595
Number of families worked with as at end of March 2014 595
Families turned around as at end of February 2014 265
Published 1 May 2014