Paul and Jeanie have been together for 5 years. Paul is 35, Jeanie 30. Jeanie is divorced, and has two children from that relationship: Jack aged 12 and Jill aged 10. Paul and Jeanie have one child, Andrew aged 3 who has a physical and intellectual disability requiring a good deal of care by Jeanie. Andrew is unable to walk or talk, and has regular seizures. He has respite care with a disability service two days a fortnight.
Paul was assessed as having a mild intellectual disability at age 10, and left school at age 15. He worked at labouring jobs for a few years, but has not worked for the past 10 years due to a back injury. He was diagnosed with clinical depression 8 years ago. Jeanie also left school at 15, and has never worked. She married at age 18: her partner was violent and she left him 6 years ago. Both Jack and Jill witnessed a good deal of violence as very young children. Jeanie experienced post natal depression after Andrew’s birth, and was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and clinical depression 2 years ago. Both Paul and Jeanie were prescribed medication, but rarely take it, preferring to self medicate with alcohol and cannabis (Paul) and Valium and over the counter pain killers (Jeanie). Neither is in contact with the mental health team, but Jeanie has started to see a GP who has offered referral to support services.
Paul and Jeanie argue almost constantly, and Paul has threatened to hit Jeanie on a number of occasions. Paul holds traditional values around gender roles and how children should behave. He is an authoritarian parent with Jack and Jill, and uses a belt on Jack when Jack misbehaves, saying that it is for Jack’s own good. He feels that housework is a woman’s job, and complains that the house is a mess and Jeanie isn’t “doing her job”. Paul has become friendly with a couple of men in their street, and goes to the pub with them several nights a week. Recently, one of the men suggested Paul join him at the local Men’s Shed during the day.
Jeanie is a permissive parent, and feels Paul is too harsh towards Jack and Jill. She receives very little help with the care of Andrew from Paul, who feels that childcare is her responsibility. Jeanie does get some help from a neighbour with whom she has become friendly: she has no contact with other families on the estate. Jeanie has no contact with her family due to abuse as a child. Paul has regular contact with his mother, who occasionally helps out financially. However, often the money does not last the fortnight (the family is on Social Security benefits) and the family is in arrears with rent. Paul’s nights at the pub are adding to the family’s financial stress, and increasing the verbal fights between Paul and Jeanie.
Jack is in the first year of high school. The school has contacted Paul and Jeanie with concerns about his behaviour: he is aggressive, performing poorly academically, and has few friends. Recently Jack has started going to the local youth drop in centre after school, and is starting to develop a positive relationship with a couple of youth workers. Jill is in year 5 at school, and doing well academically. However, socially she is withdrawn and does not mix with other children. Her teacher is concerned and has referred Jill to the school counsellor. At home she says very little and keeps out of Paul’s way. She remains in contact with her paternal grandmother, and spends part of school holidays with her grandmother.
The family live in a large housing estate, which has had a high level of unemployment, crime and vandalism. There is minimal interaction between the various cultural groups who live on the estate, and no recreational facilities for young people. The local high school runs after school activities, and the primary school has set up a breakfast club for its students. However, these do not run at the weekend and there is no bus service.
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