It’s a topic I have written about before and in the wake of Coronation Street producer Iain MacLeod’s revelation that there is huge material coming up for Simon Barlow (Alex Bain) in the wake of Leanne Battersby’s (Jane Danson) tragic loss, the childcare expert in me says we should be extremely worried for him – and so does the soap fan in me!
For weeks now, we have Simon’s parents hit absolute rock bottom at the same time with Leanne broken over the loss of young Oliver and Peter Barlow (Chris Gascoyne) falling off the wagon and into the hell of alcoholism, a place Simon has seen him in multiple times through childhood.
At the same time, Nick Tilsley (Ben Price) is spending more time with his own son and other members of Simon’s family in crisis such as Adam Barlow (Sam Robertson) who was recently almost killed in an attack, Simon has had nowhere to turn and, as has happened in the past, this leads to him flying off the rails.
Finding Leanne in a state when he thought she was dead was traumatic for Simon and it’s clear he is going to have to take on adult roles beyond his years as he tries to get his parents back on their feet and also take on responsibilities such as household finances.
With Leanne off work and her card recently been declined, money problems are seriously going to play a huge part in their future and Simon is prone to making bad decisions under pressure.
With a young lad who has experienced all manner of abandonment issues from the death of his biological mothers to Peter’s numerous disappearing acts, there are few people Simon has laid trust in that have not let him down.
And now that Leanne is so focused on her grief, she and Peter have truly taken their eye off the ball with Simon and the downward spiral that could be heading this way.
Having previously struggled and ended up behaving aggressively and violently to Leanne, we know that Simon reaches breaking point when pushed.
And from the sounds of it, that can’t be far off. There is no easy fix for Leanne and Peter’s journey to recovery – if indeed he even has a fighting chance of getting back on the wagon – will be long and arduous.
This is not a healthy cocktail for parents to bring up an already very vulnerable boy who needs guiding in the right directions. Starved of love and support, it’s clear Simon has a rough journey ahead – and Iain recently confirmed this with some cryptic hints which carried a note of impending doom.
He explained: ‘What we try to do with Simon and Leanne was find a way to play their grief differently. It starts small but turns into a colossal, thriller-ish high octane piece that plays over six months.
‘Driven by grief, Simon is in an escapable situation and Leanne puts her war paint on to defend her remaining son. That draws in Nick, Sam and it collides into Peter and Carla’s story. It is a grief story but it’s far more than a woman sitting alone feeling alone.’
With the producer also revealing a dark storyline ahead for the entire teen group which will be based on a prevalent social issue and have potentially devastating consequence, Simon’s situation could be a massive catalyst for that, proving that when a young and vulnerable person doesn’t get the support they need, it’s not just their life impacted but their whole circle of contacts.
At the moment, Simon needs Leanne Peter more than ever – he feels neglected and unloved, he will have money worries, he will fear losing his mum, he doesn’t know when his dad could suddenly drop dead after so much alcohol abuse and he is at a pivotal time in his life when he should be setting off on his own journey and looking to the future.
He is a ticking timebomb – through no fault of his own – and this has disaster written all over it.
And something tells me that even after Leanne and Peter find themselves in better, healthier places, they could be facing ramifications just as serious that they will wish they had noticed the warning signs for.
This is true in all parenting, schools, care situations and anything involving vulnerable youngsters who have had a hard start to life.
No-one can be perfect and the behaviour can be challenging but deep down, what most want is affection, safety, attentiveness and comfort. At the moment, Simon is getting none of these things – and we as a society need to protect children like this and notice that when parents are struggling as Peter and Leanne so clearly are, then the child could be struggling even more.
Yet they are even less equipped to deal with it. Let’s hope for all three of their sakes, someone can intervene before it’s too late. Or Simon’s adult life could be as bad for him as his childhood has been.
And if he reaches a point of no return, it’s a tragic waste of a future for someone who, given what he has survived, is currently a witty, capable, intelligent and steady young man with the world potentially at his feet.
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