Our client, aged 18 was studying for A levels (final year) as well as managing the household, family finances and caring for younger siblings, who were at secondary school as their mum had recently passed away and their father was in hospital as his condition necessitated a long hospital stay followed by rehabilitation. This was a particularly complex case as there was substantial debt with two properties: the family home which was privately rented and commercial premises from when the family business had collapsed. Our client was also being supported by members of her faith group who were providing the family with food and bus fares so that the children could attend school.

The immediate priority, therefore was that our client had no access to her father’s bank or household accounts such as utility companies and no access to money.

Another challenge was scoping the extent of the debt and finding out about income into the client’s father’s bank account. Previously that client’s father had been supported by the CAB with debt management but correspondence had been sent to the commercial premises which were unoccupied. We liaised with them as appropriate to establish progress with their debt management. They then re-established contact with the father in hospital

Our POhWER Advocate supported the client to build a folder of evidence of all accounts from statements and demands for payment that the client’s father had received by post (including, utility companies, letting agents, benefits agencies, Local Authority Housing department). The father provided signed consent to our client to deal with these accounts and copies of this was sent to all service providers. There were 11 service providers who we notified of the situation and put a stop on debts and referred the issues to the vulnerable customers units where these were available.

The two youngest children were referred to Children’s social services for support. Our client become overwhelmed by the responsibility of maintaining everything while the father remained indisposed at the same time as dealing with exam pressure and we opened another issue to assist our client to access adolescent mental health services

Despite our client having their   father’s signed consent to deal with his affairs, utility companies and other organisations constantly challenged the validity of this under ‘data protection’ and this required ongoing and persistent advocate intervention.

GP support for our client was minimal as our client’s health issues were seen to be ‘social issues’ rather than amenable to mental health treatment.

We overcame this by securing accelerated referral to counselling from the school for our client, which was effective in supporting our client to take her exams and maintain the household until her father was discharged from rehabilitation, when my client took on additional duties as his carer.

When our client’s A level results were received in August, not only did our client perform brilliantly, but our client was also informed that a place had been secured one of the top five universities in the UK

A new referral to POhWER advocacy has been opened to continue to support our client’s father. Our client has decided to take up her place at university

By Wendy Aston, one of our Southend Independent Advocates