Jack and Alison

Alison Sturgeon walked 26 miles in the Glasgow Kiltwalk to raise money for SSAFA, after we helped her secure funding for a life-changing extension to her home.

Jack and Alison

Alison Sturgeon walked 26 miles in the Glasgow Kiltwalk to raise money for SSAFA, after we helped her secure funding for a life-changing extension to her home.

Alison’s son, Jack, 23, suffers with autism and a learning disorder. After leaving school Jack’s needs became far more complex and despite a lot of transition work being done, he struggled to cope with the change. He gradually became more and more agitated and unsettled and at one point had to be hospitalised. He underwent many medical tests but fortunately, the results were all negative.

"At that age young people’s brains go through an enormous amount of growth, which can have a knock-on effect with their mental health and wellbeing. This growth coupled with his huge change in routine made life a real struggle for Jack.

“My husband, Jonathan, was due to retire from the Royal Navy after 27 years in the submarine service, our hopes of him getting a well-paid job were dashed as it would mean travelling a lot and I needed his support at home to look after Jack and his younger sister Holly. Luckily, he secured a job at Faslane as a trainer which was a huge relief.

“It soon became apparent that our current living situation wasn’t meeting Jack’s needs, or our own, so we sought help from Argyll & Bute Council to secure funding. We had always planned on extending our home at some point in the future, when Jack was older, and we had saved enough money. We hoped to convert our existing garage into an adapted living space for Jack to be supported by his carers and to give ourselves some much-needed privacy.

“We started the very long process of applying for funding 5 years ago, A&B Council eventually agreed to pay for the wet room and soft wall coverings, but despite mortgaging our home, there was still a huge deficit in money. It took years to pull together the necessary medical reports and builders quotes and at one point, our original architect disappeared with £500 of our money."

The Sturgeons nearly gave up because the project started to seem impossible and became a drain on their finances. Then, SSAFA Dunbartonshire came on board. James Leatherby, Branch Chairman at SSAFA Dunbartonshire, was a regular customer at the Cancer Research UK shop where Alison works as Assistant Manager. As a last gasp, they thought they would ask SSAFA to help them secure charity funding for the project.

Alison said: “James Leatherby and Janet Mulvaney, our case worker, came on board and pulled off nothing short of a miracle.  The project cost £29,000 and £18,000 of that was sourced by SSAFA from a variety of other charities. James and Janet visited our home a variety of times and saw how agitated Jack was and understood that we’d explored every possible avenue. They tried every charity under the sun and offered moral support throughout the project, particularly through the year long process it took to build the conversion. The building process was beset with problems, however by Christmas 2018 it was finally completed.

Jack now has a big lounge with a TV and sofa bed, plus a wet room and patio doors so he can have his own entrance. The walls are lined with cork and every effort was made, following advice from our Occupational Therapist, Ann Stewart, on how to make the room as safe and calming as possible. Soft lighting and thick carpeting mean the noise is muffled and it is a very soothing environment for Jack. His favourite animals are elephants, and I managed to find elephant wallpaper to add the perfect touch. We call it Jack’s Jungle Room. He spends a great deal of his time in there pacing up and down, playing with his toys and the wet room is big enough so that we can support him to shower if needed."

The project was only made possible thanks to funding from SSAFA Dunbartonshire, Argyll & Bute Council, RN&RM Children’s Charity, RNBT and Poppy Scotland.

Alison said: “We are indebted to them all for the patience and generosity in finally giving Jack the adapted space that he needed, and it has had a hugely positive effect on all our lives. It was a tremendous relief for us all when Janet and James came back to visit the completed conversion and could see how much calmer Jack was.  James Leatherby and Janet Mulvaney of SSAFA deserve medals for what they have achieved. We would have had to give up by now if they hadn’t stuck with us."