Helping a Forces family to find their feet

A young boy wearing a check shirt looking happy and safe

Angela had so many challenges to contend with after arriving in a strange country with two small children. Jessica Swaffield, Children’s Family Support Worker at Wiltshire Children’s Centres, shares how Spurgeons supported this family so they could flourish.

Having been born and lived all her life in a developing country, Angela came to the UK as a Forces wife with her two small children, toddler Joseph and baby Elijah who has a physical disability.

Angela was experiencing domestic abuse and with English as her second language and no local circle of friends, she felt very alone and isolated.

She eventually separated from her husband and came to Wiltshire Children’s Centre for help. At our suggestion, she was supported through our Recovering Together project, funded by the Ministry of Defence, to help her recognise the signs of abuse and recover from her situation.

We also helped Angela get a visa, a National Insurance number, and secure benefits. She said she wouldn’t have known how to do that without our support. More recently, we have been helping her find alternative housing too as she needs to move out of the Forces accommodation.

Angela was keen to do more of our courses – first our parenting course Incredible Years, then our You and Me, Mum course about the impact of domestic abuse on the children and how to support them to recover. But then lockdown came, the course was cut short and once more Angela felt she was on her own.

That’s when I started working with them. I helped get the children into a nursery – it gave Angela some vital time on her own and a chance to find herself again. It’s so hard to go shopping, go to the hairdresser or anything else when you have two small children in tow.

The children were having some difficulties with speech and literacy, so we invited Angela to our Bookstart group, now running online, to help her become confident in sharing stories and nursery rhymes with them. She struggled with the technology but was determined not to give up. It took four days of phone calls with us, but finally she succeeded!

She did very well given her lack of English language, but when she started a follow-on course, Early Words Together, I adapted it to become a one-to-one so she could get the most out of it. She prepared enthusiastically for each session, and the children’s confidence and speech skills really grew – the nursery noticed it and so did we!

To encourage them to cook healthy meals together, the family also did the ABC Cook course online. The kids loved making Gruffalo crumble and Angela says that now they’re always asking to help her cook.

We also helped Angela apply online to get Joseph a school place. She was delighted when he got into her first choice where lots of his friends from nursery were also going to go.

When Angela needed abdominal surgery, she couldn’t look after Elijah (his disability means he needs to be carried). So we arranged for the children’s father to care for him and his brother for a few weeks. We would video call them regularly as they knew us well by now. It meant we could check they were OK and give their father support too.

Today, Joseph and Elijah are thriving – their speech has developed and they are energetic, happy and self assured. Elijah is the most beautiful little boy, always smiling. All credit to Angela – she’s done everything we’ve suggested and more, and her children are definitely feeling the benefit. Angela is now a confident, capable mother who no longer needs our intensive support.

About the Spurgeons Wiltshire Children’s Centres:

Funded by Wiltshire Council, Spurgeons children’s centres are places where parents of children aged 0–5 years can share the challenges and joys of parenthood. The centres offer a range of activities and support services to help you with all aspects of parenting, helping you make sure your child gets the best start in life.

Learn more about our work in Wiltshire

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