Samuel* was nearly 3 and suffering from severe eczema. It was having a significant impact on daily life, for him and his family. There was all the time needed for his hospital appointments. Every day things, like dressing or bath time, were made really challenging. And then there was the lack of sleep too.

After Samuel was born, his Mum suffered from Post-natal depression, a condition which can continue for years, severely effecting day-to-day life and relationships. As Samuel’s eczema worsened, chronic lack of sleep was making his Mum’s depression more severe.

She just wasn’t able to cope with Samuel and his brother, struggling to manage the house and had little motivation to do things. With Samuels’ Dad out of the house working long hours, there was nobody around to help out. For Samuel and his brother this meant that they were living in a chaotic environment and as their Mum withdrew from them, they were missing out on spending time with her and as a family.

Recognising that the children were suffering as the family struggled to cope, their Health Visitor referred them to Home-Start CHAMS for the help they needed.

Samuel and his family were matched with a volunteer whose focus at first was practical support for his Mum, giving her the chance to rest or have some time for herself – both essential as part of the treatment for postnatal depression. Importantly, the visits took place in the late afternoon, so that right from the start the volunteer was there to help with the after school routines, including dinner and bath time, which were particularly challenging because of Samuel’s severe health needs.

Over the 6 months that the volunteer continued to make weekly visits, home life for Samuel and his family significantly improved. With another adult around, Samuel and his brother were able to enjoy time alone with their Mum to strengthen this vital bond, as well as having time all together on trips out to the local park, community centre and swimming pool, which their Mum could not have managed on her own.

Samuel’s Mum gained the confidence to access therapy for her depression, which greatly improved her mental health. Because of this, she felt able to focus on Samuel’s needs; making changes to his diet and medication to improve his eczema and working on routines to help him sleep at night.

Samuel was a much happier boy by the time Home-Start supported ended. Both his parents felt they could cope with family life better, thanks to getting more sleep, and they were able to all have fun together. His Mum had taken control of her own situation and of the household, creating a safer home for both her boys. Samuel was going to nursery regularly and he and his brother were both progressing well.

I am more positive, in a better place emotionally and physically. The support from Home Start has been positive, friendly and flexible. It’s helped me through some rough times giving me respite and someone to talk to and connect with. – Samuel’s Mum

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*Names have been changed and photo posed by model.