Robert was eleven years old, when he came to us in 2016 with his Mum, older sister and 18 month niece. He and his family lived with us for 5 months while they re-built their lives.
Robert had witnessed a lot of Domestic abuse in the home by his father to his mother. His father drank excessively. His mum had been isolated from her friends, his father had stalked and followed his mum, made threats to her life and her children’s. He was unemployed and when Robert’s mum got paid from her job, he would take her wages. His mum had an argument with his dad and his dad had strangled her. It was then she found courage to call the police and Robert's dad was arrested. However, while on bail he threatened her and told her to drop charges. He threatened that he would have her killed by his friends, if he was sent to prison. As she did not drop the charges, he then went to her family and made threats to them. He was arrested, he went to prison; his release date was the following month.
As well as witnessing domestic abuse in the home, Robert had been taken to another country when only 6 years old by his father. Robert was subjected to a circumcision without any pain relief. He was held down by 4 men while the procedure was carried out. Robert had an infection a few days later. He was very ill and at that point his mother was contacted in England and advised of what had happened. Robert has been deeply affected by the whole experience.
Children’s services were also involved with the family, because of the domestic abuse and on-going threats. The family were very vulnerable and scared. Robert’s mum fearing for her life and her family’s life, decided it was time to give up her job, leave her home and flee to our refuge. The family then embarked on a long train journey across the country to find safety. They arrived at the local train station with simple items that they had been able to collect quickly and could be carried on the train.
They were welcomed into what would be their home for up to the next 5 months. While he was here he received the much-needed Therapy he required and settled in well to his new home and life. He received wonderful 1:1 trips, one of which was a Go-karting experience with the Play Therapist and children’s advocate. He spent a lot of time in the Play Room with the Children’s Advocate, playing cards and chatting. This was a safe space, offering emotional support needed and re-building trust.
The Children’s Advocate contacted the Educational Welfare Officer. To inform her that Robert was living in refuge and submitted his old school’s details to her for contact. The Education Welfare Officer then contacted the old school and let them know he wouldn’t be returning and that he was safe and well and would be applying for a school in a new area. This is so the mother’s safety was not compromised through the sharing of information and the old school did not know where the new school was, ensuring that the duty of care to protect and safeguard the children and the mother’s location was always upheld.
The Homeless team Health Visitor was contacted, so they could safely and securely retrieve medical records for the family and support Robert further.
Mum was supported to make a school application for his current year and being Y6 one was also made for his secondary place required in September. A school was offered. Unfortunately, it was not a local school that he could walk to easily. It was under 2 miles and therefore he was not eligible to receive free transport from the council. Robert and his mother trialled the walk, it took them 1 hour to get there. They looked at a bus time table and spoke to the bus station and was told that it would cost her £18 a week and Robert £9.75. They were suffering financial hardship; his mother was in a vast amount of debt and they were unable to afford this significant amount a week on transport costs. It is very important for the children living in refuge to feel safe and secure to prevent further trauma and this can be achieved by providing stability, routine and safety. Therefore, a transport appeal was placed and was accepted and Robert could receive transport to get him to and from school every day.
We supported the family with the first school visit, the school was informed of the children’s living situation and that this could be affecting him emotionally; this secured good support in school for him.
We helped him obtain second hand school uniform through the schools. His coat was far too small and his shoes were broken (the sole was flapping). The family were supported by us and received a new school coat and new school shoes. A volunteer tutor came in to see him and helped him with extra top up work and support, which was greatly needed as it was a SATs year and he had been out of education for a while.
The next bridge to cross was that that mum, having a job had already earnt £16k that year, so he was not entitled to pupil premium benefits. His mum was on the correct benefits to be entitled, but her she was over threshold based on her earnings before she came into our refuge. Unfortunately, this meant Robert couldn’t continue to receive free school meals. Which he had been receiving while the Pupil Premium application was being processed. Schools do sometimes have a fund available if they deem that the child is vulnerable and requires a hot meal in the day. They can decide themselves and pay the school meals from budget they have available for special circumstances as this. An appeal was made. His mother became extremely anxious about the debt beginning to accrue at the school for Robert’s meals. Although the Head was unable to agree to subsidising/paying for his school meals going forward she agreed to wipe the debt and made sure that he could go on all the trips including a residential y 6 trip.
However, being under immense financial strain there wasn’t a lot of money left for food and fresh food at that. Mum was supported to come up with pack lunch meal ideas, as she didn’t have the money to buy fruit or items for sandwiches. She was also supported with donated Sainsbury’s vouchers, donated food items and the food bank. His mother’s support worker considered other areas to gain support for free school meals, by contacting the local MP.
In the February, his mum received a letter saying that Children’s Services would not be involved with the family any longer and the case was to be closed. The risks posed were no longer there now the family were safe in refuge and re building their lives away from the Perpetrator and their danger area.
After 5 months living in Refuge the family were now able to move on. A property had been offered in the area they wished to settle in and his mum accepted. The family moved out with smiles on their faces as they embarked on their new life.
An application for a Kids Out toy box was made. They delivered a box of brand new toys and games (they do this for children who have been rehoused due to domestic violence) welcoming Robert into his new life!