Michael was just four years old when the Parent Support Advisor at his primary school became concerned about him.
He was worried how much he seemed to be taking on himself at home. Michael’s mum, a single parent, is badly incapacitated with rheumatoid arthritis. Moving about is extremely painful for her. She also suffers from Ménière’s disease which frequently gives her ‘drop attacks’. You can imagine how frightening it is for Michael when his mum falls down and loses her hearing and vision for up to 30 minutes at a time. Michael himself has dyspraxia, a condition which makes it more difficult for him to deal with everyday tasks like washing and dressing.
Spurgeons started working with Michael when he was 5 years old and found out that Michael was often looking after himself, doing cleaning at home, and washing the family’s clothes, as well as taking responsibility for his mum by helping with her medication. Michael’s mum loves her son and is determined to do everything she can for him. But her health makes it difficult and when she is poorly, Michael has to see to his own meals; often just a can of cold beans or spaghetti, or a bag of crisps and a carton of juice.
Michael loves his mum dearly and even at his young age he wants to do all he can to help her. He told us what terrified him most was “mum not answering me”. During one of her drop attacks, Michael fears his mum might be dying. To revive her, all he can think of doing is to rub her chest.
Spurgeons works closely with other support agencies and quickly set about seeing how to increase the help Michael and his mum were receiving.
Providing mentoring for young carers by an approved adult can have a profound effect, especially for a child being brought up in a single-parent family. With one of our volunteers acting as Michael’s mentor, the little boy’s confidence has grown in leaps and bounds. His mentor has taken him swimming and to McDonalds – a real joy for Michael. Other children may take these things for granted but because her limited mobility makes getting out and about so difficult for Michael’s mum, they were new and exciting occasions for her son. Discussing with his mentor what he’d like to do, Michael has begun to develop his communication – and negotiating – skills! For a young boy with dyspraxia, he is making terrific progress.
And there’s more. Spurgeons has also helped to make sure Michael goes to Breakfast Club at his school three days a week. He now gets free school meals so he’s eating properly every day. Michael is attending a Spurgeons young carers group once a month he is much more willing to engage with other people and talk about things that are worrying him. He also now takes pride in his personal hygiene.
There are thousands of other young carers living lives very much like Michael’s who aren’t getting the help they need. They want to be helping their families but the stress and isolation they endure can be overwhelming. Spurgeons provides a lifeline to help share their load and ensure they are not alone.