The Dick Family’s Big Aberdeen Story
The Dick family are mum Ailsa, dad James and their children Brodie (six), Baxter (four) and Caledonia (10 months).
The family was referred to Home-Start Aberdeen by their health visitor when Baxter was six months old. The health visitor felt that the family required support; James was working full-time and Ailsa’s time was dominated by Baxter’s needs. Baxter has spina bifida and hydrocephalus and requires catheterisation every three hours. At the point of referral, Ailsa was struggling to spend quality time with her older son, Brodie.
An initial visit from one of Home-Start Aberdeen’s co-ordinators revealed that the family’s situation was extremely challenging. They were housed in a very small two-bedroomed flat, situated on the ninth floor. The lift regularly broke down, leaving Ailsa to negotiate the stairs with two children and a wheelchair.
Getting around was also a struggle. Brodie’s nursery was a 40-minute bus journey away. Baxter had to be catheterised before leaving; the family then had a two and a half hour wait in Dyce during the nursery session and another 40-minute journey home.
Following their co-ordinator’s visit, Home-Start Aberdeen matched the Dick family with one of their trained home visiting volunteers, Margaret.
Margaret spends a minimum of two to three hours with the Dick family each week, providing the family with both emotional and practical support. Ailsa now has another adult who she can offload to. They re-organised the family home and Baxter’s medical supplies to make the best use of available space.
Margaret has enabled the children to enjoy some quality time with an adult. She has taken Brodie to visit local castles and Thainstone Mart – these are special trips for him but also lighten Ailsa’s load in the home. With Margaret accompanying them, whole family trips have also become possible. Together, they have visited Storybook Glen and local gardens and parks. Margaret assists with transport and support at routine medical and other appointments. Once a week she saved the family the long bus trip to Brodie’s nursery by taking them there by car.
As Baxter has grown, he has struggled with his speech. He communicated using Makaton, a programme that uses signs and symbols to support spoken language. Margaret transported Ailsa to and from her Makaton course; Home-Start Aberdeen also funded a course so that Margaret, as the family’s volunteer, could communicate effectively with Baxter. Baxter’s speech is now developing well and he is able to communicate verbally.
The family’s living situation has also changed for the better. At the request of Home-Start Aberdeen’s co-ordinator, a multi-agency meeting was held to resolve their housing issues. On several occasions, the family had to be rescued from the broken lift in their block of flats by the local fire service; their concern had also prompted an approach to the housing department. As part of this process, Home-Start Aberdeen referred the family to the Disabled Persons Housing Service for support. Grampian Community Care Charitable Trust facilitated a move to a three-bedroomed, wheelchair-friendly property in Dyce, located close to the local school. Brodie and Baxter have taken up places at the school and nursery respectively and the family are happy in their new home.
In Ailsa’s own words: “It’s like having another granny for the boys and another mum for me. She fits into our family perfectly and helps to keep us all sane. I breathe a huge sigh of relief when I know it’s Margaret’s day.”
Aberdeen issues from this story
- How can we make it easier for families to reach out for the support they need?
- What role do we all have in looking out for neighbours and others who may be struggling with their day-to-day situation?
- How easy is it for a Third Sector organisation to hold a multi-agency meeting?
Home Start is the Dick family’s STORYTELLER.
Home-Start Aberdeen has been working with communities in the city for 28 years. The Aberdeen scheme is affiliated to Home-Start UK, the UK’s leading family support charity, but is wholly responsible for its own day-to-day activities and fundraising. Home-Start Aberdeen offers emotional and practical support in the home to those who are dealing with issues of isolation, ill health, disability, domestic violence, substance misuse and other challenges. Families are referred to the charity mainly via health visitors and social workers, however they can also s
elf-refer. The only criteria is that they have one child under the age of five and live within the city boundaries.
Support is delivered by trained volunteers, with supervision from a small team of co-ordinators. Volunteers work with families to help them access relevant health and welfare services, manage family budgets and nutrition, engage with their communities and – perhaps most importantly – enjoy family life again. Volunteers are central to the support provided by Home-Start Aberdeen and the charity places the highest importance on its volunteer training and development programme.
If you need help, or want to help, please get in touch:
- A health visitor from NHS Grampian was responsible for the family’s initial referral to Home-Start Aberdeen. Other NHS workers were also involved in the family’s care and support.
- The family’s housing needs were handled in liaison with Aberdeen City Council’s housing department, the Disabled Persons Housing Service and the Grampian Community Care Charitable Trust (part of Castlehill Housing Association).
- The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service also expressed concern about the family’s original housing situation.
- Dyce school and nursery are now attended by the family’s two boys.
- Local MSPs Kevin Stewart and Mark MacDonald also supported the family’s case.
- Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland provides support and information to all those affected by the conditions.
- Baxter, his mum Ailsa and their home visiting volunteer used Makaton to communicate. The Makaton Charity has more information on this language programme.
- Shopmobility provides a range of convenient services for those with a mobility difficulty or impairment
- Befriend a Child supports children and young people growing up in difficult life circumstances across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to achieve their full potential and develop into confident and competent adults
- Me Too magazine is by parents, and for parents, and after all for our children it’s about MeToo!
- VSA’s Parent Carer Support and Development service offers a dedicated information worker for parent carers that will signpost them to relevant support services and resources
- SCARF recognises the tough realities and environments in which many people live, and the support they provide is focused around helping people at their point of need and in helping to make a difference each and every day.
- Where major adaptations or home improvements are required, Aberdeen Care and Repair can assist any resident or company in Aberdeen
- Aberdeen Getting it Right are committed to improving the outcomes for all Aberdeen’s children and young people, in particular, those who are most vulnerable.
- Getting to Know GIRFEC: what Getting it Right for Every Child means for Children and Young People who are disabled or living with long term conditions – GIRFEC is the Scottish Government’s approach to making Scotland the best place to grow up for all children and young people. It is about implementing good practice and supporting children’s wellbeing to allow every child and young person to be the very best they can be. It is important for children and young people as well as their parents and carers to be informed about GIRFEC in order to enable them to use the tools and language of GIRFEC to ensure the best outcome for the child.
- Dyce Under 12s – provide a safe and comfortable environment for children to play and socialise and also a place that their adults can meet, have a coffee or even make new friends.
- Dyce and Stoneywood Community Council – Dyce and Stoneywood Community Council serves local residents. We work closely with local councillors, the Police, and the City of Aberdeen.
- Home-Start Aberdeen is part of Home-Start UK, the UK’s leading family support organisation.
- The family’s home visiting volunteer has formed a strong relationship with them. General information about the benefits of volunteering and the options available locally can be accessed via Volunteer Aberdeen and ACVO.
What Happened Next
- Margaret & Dennis Elrick commented “Our daughter is a co-ordinator with Homestart so we do have some knowledge of the hard work and support that this charity provides. Obviously confidentiality is paramount and it is lovely to see that the Dick family are open and willing to share their appreciation of Homestart and it is wonderful for us to see and read about our daughter’s involvement with such a worthwhile charity which can support families when needed most.”