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Worried about health of friend and children

WorriedFriend2017 Posts: 34 Forumite
Throwaway account for obvious reasons.

I'm very worried about a friend and their family, but do not know what I can do about it, or if there is anyone I can report it to who may be able to help? I will try to summarise the best I can but there are many many things going on.

Around 12 months ago I bumped into someone I'd known well at school and it was a great catch-up. What I hadn't realised was all that they've been through in the last ~20 years.

She is a single mum with four children, and until a few months ago was living in a privately rented house paid by housing benefit. Her ex left a while ago, less than 1 month after her youngest was born, claiming he never wanted 'all of this'.

We've stayed in contact and over the last few months I've helped her to successfully apply for social housing. She received the keys to a lovely new-build house a few months ago, 50% cheaper to rent than her existing house which was truly awful. I helped to move everything and did general things where I could. She has also secured a part time job so she is able to claim a few additional benefits and avoid the cap. This has given her a healthy income to live from - equivalent to £50k gross, and she can live comfortably. Things like utilities and bills are also now cheaper which really helps too.

Now the issues, and this is where I've tried to help but have literally run out of ideas:

- She is worried about money, yet genuinely doesn't need to be. She is therefore not buying what I see as some essentials (i.e. enough food).

- She is hardly buying any food for the 5 of them, the children are either given sweets/chocolate, cereal, share one value pizza each week, have bread to eat and not much else. Occasionally they will have fruit, but no veg, no meat. She may not eat but I feel they should really be having proper meals. She often forgets to buy food and regularly runs out, sending them to school without lunch. The kids range in ages from 2 to 10 so should have good appetites!

- She has never really cleaned. I have helped where I can but then find its the same again a week later. The kitchen is usually unsanitary with the bin overflowing and rotting food all over the worktops and floor. Most of the food in the fridge and cupboards that was in her previous house was years out of date. Nowhere else is cleaned either, again I've helped with this where I can but to no effect.

- Linked to the above, a few weeks ago I found her ~2 year old eating discarded food off of the kitchen floor. It had fallen out of the overflowing bin. She didn't seem bothered by this but I cleaned him up and got him some fresh food to eat.

- The old house was a complete state, again I did tidy when I could but it didn't really help. I helped blitz the place when she moved out. In the new house she is yet to even unpack anything except for the essentials so they have been living off of ready meals and a few bags of clothes for months. No cleaning has taken place yet and the new kitchen is not good again.

- On top of all of this, she is self harming, often with kids still awake and in other rooms. I have found discarded blades lying around and in all manner of places. I dread to thing what would happen if one of the children got hold of them. She has been prescribed supplements numerous times (likely due to the lack of eating) but has never taken them. I'm worried that she is not looking after herself.

There are lots of other things that are 'not normal', but what would you do based on the above? I have offered help where I can, but I think she needs to try and somehow help herself. I was hoping that a new house with cheaper bills, and less for her to think about would actually help, but unfortunately it hasn't.

Sorry for the long post....

Is there anyone I can call on her behalf?! :(


  • elsien
    elsien Posts: 33,042 Forumite
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    She really needs to see her GP as a starting point - it could well be that she's suffering from depression. Is there no health visitor still involved who is picking up on any of these issues?
    You have been a good friend but she may be getting to the point where statutory services need to be involved.
    Are you able to have a conversation about how she's feeling and asking for help? She may be feeling too overwhelmed to be able to do this without prompting.
    I also think that if you're not able to get anywhere by talking to her if the children are unsafe/neglected, then social services will need to be alerted in order to give her proper support.
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • WorriedFriend2017
    Thanks for the reply.

    I really do think she is suffering from depression. She's been to the GP a few times, but for unrelated issues. They ordered bloods which found anemia, etc, hence prescribing the supplements which she never takes. She's very good at hiding it all so I doubt she spoke to the GP about anything else.

    I don't think health visitors are involved after the age of one for the youngest, particularly in terms of home visits? Let me know if that is wrong though. Due to the benefits she was receiving, she received regular healthy start vouchers for food/supplies and also things like baby vitamins. She never ever claimed the vitamins, even for the youngest.

    I have tried multiple times to have a chat and she knows I think some of the issues, but I do not want to feel like I'm forcing her into anything.

    Difficult :(
  • Fosterdog
    Fosterdog Posts: 4,948 Forumite
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    As much as you want to help your friend, and you have certainly gone above and beyond in trying to help her, the main focus here needs to be the health and wellbeing if the children. Social services need to be informed, they are much better placed to get them all the right help.

    If you are worried about betraying her by contacting them go through the children's school (although too late now for this school year) if she is struggling this much with at least some of them in school having them all home for six weeks could tip her over the edge.

    If she is self harming she could go too far, what would happen to the children then? What if they are the ones to discover her?
  • KxMx
    KxMx Posts: 10,621 Forumite
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    Based on the above, I honestly would call social services, without hesitation.
  • Nicki
    Nicki Posts: 8,166 Forumite
    Health visitors will support to age 5, but you or your friend will need to ask for a visit - by the time baby is 2 routine visits will have stopped usually.

  • Gingernutty
    Gingernutty Posts: 3,769 Forumite
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    Agree with previous posters - a call to Social Services is in order.
    :huh: Don't know what I'm doing, but doing it anyway... :huh:
  • maman
    maman Posts: 28,678 Forumite
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    I think whether you go via the school or the Health Visitor it'll end up at Social Services in the end. You just need to decide whether to make that approach.

    Incidentally, how is she coping with a job if she's in such a mess? And I know you've no sympathy with the ex but I can see why he might have become exasperated if she behaved like this when they were together.
  • pelirocco
    pelirocco Posts: 8,274 Forumite
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    £50k......not buying it
    Vuja De - the feeling you'll be here later
  • WorriedFriend2017
    WorriedFriend2017 Posts: 34 Forumite
    edited 20 July 2017 at 11:21PM
    Thanks for the replies, it's appreciated. My main worry is both her and the kids. She needs to be healthy for the kids. I might give the healthcare visitors a ring to see what they think.

    It may have been my idea to look for a job. The benefits cap was going to apply to her if she didn't find work before her youngest was 2, and she would have very minimal income if that were to have happened (something like a £15000 cut annually). Her ex no longer lives with her so was not providing any form of support or income. She has a low-stress job and is managing ok as she did actually want to work and 'provide'. It fits around school and the children.

    She didn't behave like this when they were together. It started falling apart when he walked out after a month of their youngest being born, which is unsurprising. He wanted money to spend on himself and not on family.
    £50k......not buying it

    Trust me, I've worked it all through with her. It's actually north of this figure if she received the correct maintenance from her most recent ex.

    - Part time job income is approximately £500 per month.
    - Housing benefit covers the social housing rent, approximately £900 per month
    - Working tax credit approx £80 per week
    - Child tax credit approx £225 per week
    - Child benefit £260 per month
    - ~£280 per month from previous ex for first three children
    - Not forgetting no requirement to pay council tax and also no fees for prescriptions, glasses, dental, etc.
    - + potential £200 minimum figure from recent ex (although not being received yet)

    By my calculations that is £3,200 per month not including another £200 or so maintenance from the most recent ex. Correct me if I'm wrong. The eldest 3 are in school, the youngest goes to a childminder when needed.

    Edit: It's actually closer to £54,000 gross. It is much higher than my own pay (sole income and paying for all bills). She shouldn't need to worry about money.
  • troubleinparadise
    It may well be that the school has some concerns already, and that you raising it with Social Services may not be the first that's been heard about the children.

    You sound a very kind and concerned person, and I suspect it doesn't sit happily with you not to say anything. But right now the children's welfare must take precedence, whatever your misgivings about whistleblowing.
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