Uniting Country SA's Advancing Families and Communities helped a young mother of five, who presented at our office for support with school attendance and with her finances. Shortly after she commenced in the AFC program her partner rolled the family car, writing it off, then he travelled interstate and did not return for 6 months.

Presenting Issues

Our client presented herself to the office seeking support, after previously accessing UCSA programs after the birth of her fifth child three years ago. She was struggling financially and reported that her partner had a regular and high consumption of alcohol and was not contributing financially or physically to the household. Our client had asked him to leave, but he refused. Our client also rarely left the home.

The Department of Child Protection had recently commenced working with our client as her older children were not attending school regularly and there were issues around the cleanliness of her home and the children’s general wellbeing, health and hygiene. When the children did attend school, they often presented without lunch or recess and they appeared unwashed for periods of time. Housing SA had instructed both our client and her partner to clean the yards of their home, due to the large amount of rubbish, furniture, bedding and accumulated debris, or they would be at risk of losing their housing.

Barriers to school attendance

Our client and her partner had no routine, usually letting the children stay up late so they were usually tired in the mornings. Mornings were chaotic for our client, with five tired children to get ready. After commencing in the AFC program our clients partner rolled the family car so the family had no transport to take the children to school. The family lived more than six kilometers from school, so walking was not an option, and there was not school or public buses in the area. The children often suffered from ill health, observed with frequent colds and runny noses.

Assistance Uniting Country SA provided

Uniting Country SA's Advancing Families and Communities staff commenced regular home visits to our client and her children and began to monitor their attendance at school. Our client was referred to Uniting Country SA's financial support and financial counselling services. She received regular support and advocacy to attend Financial Counselling, including applying for and receiving a White Goods NILS Loan.

We normalised the developmental challenges of caring for a toddler in addition to the needs of four older school aged children whilst being a single mother with no transport and financial constraints. Looking at areas of concern (school attendance, children’s health and wellbeing) and discussing strategies to alleviate these concerns. We provided assistance with food for school lunches and support to establish a food prep routine. We worked with the client on strategies to maintain regular school attendance for the children, including bed time scheduling, clean clothing, healthy lunch options, buying on a budget, lunch preparation the night before and more. We held discussions with our client around a housecleaning routine and worked on a strategy to start cleaning up outside.

After the Car rollover, we provided some emergency transport for the children to access school. Our client established a long term goal of purchasing another vehicle with family support. We also discussed alternative strategies if our client was unable to raise the money for a vehicle, including applying to Housing SA for a transfer closer to school. Letters of support were sourced for this possibility. When the partner left for interstate, additional financial assistance was provided

Other agencies, supports or referrals

Aboriginal Family Support Services took the lead to ensure the back yard was cleaned by our client and her partner, and supported her in keeping a cleaning routine inside the home. Our client was referred to the Circle of Security program and a UCSA Financial Counselling program. She also began attending a local "Fresh Food & Fun" program as well as a Mothers & Babies Program.

Successes from AFC assistance

Through the support of the AFC program, our collaborative work with the Aboriginal Family Support Services, and the financial counselling, our client has made positive changes. She realised that she was strong enough to make the decision not to accept her partner back into the home and no long assists him financially. There are routines now in place to ensure the children's lunches are made the night before and a cleaning schedule has been put in place to clean while the children are at school. The children are now going to school cleaner and attendance rate has improved. Our client is now able to shop on a budget and purchases more appropriate food for her family, knowledge brought from relevant workshops and counselling. She has also increased her social interactions through her attendance at fresh food and parenting courses.

Positive changes

Our client says she does not feel as stressed now her partner has gone. He no longer takes all her money and she states that her life seems easier. Her children are attending school more now and their wellbeing and cleanliness have improved. There is improved cleanliness of her home and yard. Our client has accessed a relatives car for the medium term to transport her children to school, she has had approval from Housing SA to relocate to a home closer to school and is waiting for a house, this will allow the children to walk to school, reducing her fuel bills and improving her financial situation slightly.