'It's a worrying time' - Mum's battle to recruit carer for teen son

Sally Fletcher and Ben Fletcher. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Sally Fletcher and Ben Fletcher. Picture: Victoria Pertusa - Credit: Archant

The mother of a 19-year-old with a rare brain condition has spoken of the impact on her family of a shortage of care workers.

Ben Fletcher, who lives in Aylsham with his family and who as a child was diagnosed with the rare degenerative brain disorder Canavan disease, depends on a four-strong team of carers for 12 hours everyday.

But his mother Sally Fletcher has said that applicants are not coming forward for a vacant position, with one of her son's carers about to go on maternity leave.

Ben Fletcher is turning 17 and will celebrate his birthday with loved ones. Picture: Sally Fletcher

Ben Fletcher, pictured in 2020. - Credit: Archant

"People are not coming forward, don't turn up for interview or turn up for interview and then completely disappear," Mrs Fletcher said.

"It's been a worrying time."

Ben has continuity care status, which is funded by the NHS and reviewed yearly, for people with conditions which will not get better.

Mrs Fletcher said: "Thankfully Ben’s carers usually choose to stay with us for years but right now one of them is pregnant and we have been advertising for some weeks to find a replacement to train up and applicants are not coming forward. 

"It takes several weeks to train someone because there’s lots to learn and we never rush anyone but let them get confident with the role at their own pace."

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She said they have discussed the matter with their local NHS team, which has advised there is a national shortage of carers.

"It’s not possible to run the household or meet the needs of Ben’s siblings, cook or even look after myself if we don’t have care support for Ben every day," Mrs Fletcher said.

"Someone has to be with Ben every second that he is awake. We have a baby monitor at night. He can’t maintain his own airway so we constantly have to adjust his head position to ensure he can breathe safely."

Ben Fletcher with his parents Sally and Adrian. Picture: Sally Fletcher

Ben Fletcher with his parents Sally and Adrian. Picture: Sally Fletcher - Credit: Archant

In March 2020, Ben was infected with coronavirus and was unconscious for two weeks, his mother said. 

She added: "Without the care it means Ben’s siblings can’t get to clubs or activities they might have planned or get help with things such as homework during the time of day they need it, or even simple things like watching a movie together as a family."

The Sonderwell Group, the company providing care for Ben, has declined to comment.