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Home-Start volunteers make real difference to struggling young families

Home-Start Charnwood directly supports families and children who are in need within the Charnwood area, and works to improve the emotional health of families with children under 5, to provide practical help and integration into community activities, and to support parents to take up volunteering opportunities or local community based development activities.

By offering personalised support in the home to vulnerable families the Group is able to improve outcomes for children and families quickly and to reduce or prevent many longer term problems.

With funding of £1,500 from the Ian & Caroline McAlpine Fund, Home-Start Charnwood was able to provide travel expenses enabling volunteers to offer weekly visits to families who are struggling to cope for a variety of reasons. The volunteers, who are all parents themselves, are carefully matched to a family, and are able to provide discreet support within the home as frequently the parents are unwell enough to attend activities outside it.

Issues faced by the families often include mental health problems, low self-esteem, disability and isolation, with limited support networks available to them. This disadvantages young children and babies who become at risk of poor achievement and developmental delay when they are not securely attached to a consistent care giver, and where the home is not a positive learning environment.  Research has shown that the first two years are critical for a child’s brain development.

The volunteers are able to support parental wellbeing and focus on gaps in parental skills and knowledge. The success of the project, which has benefited more than 150 families, is reported as lying in the type and method of support which is offered by the parent volunteers as compared to the approach of professionals. 100% of parents report increased self-esteem, improved confidence and that they no longer feel isolated as a result of the volunteer’s help.

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The testimonials below are fantastic endorsements of this worthwhile project.

“Before Home-Start I felt trapped. I couldn’t make myself go out, I couldn’t meet people…I was so tired I worried constantly about dropping my baby. I was in crisis and Home-Start was one of the first services that I felt I could trust.”

“I didn’t have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, to tidy the flat or do anything. My volunteer helped me through this by just being there and taking an interest. She offered me reassurance, she made me feel positive and I started to think to myself “I’ll get through this” and bit by bit, I did.”

“I had lots of anxieties about not being a good enough mum but now I think that’s normal. We are doing OK – better than OK in fact. My baby is happy because at last I am happy.”

“Having someone to talk to who was outside of the family took the pressure off my husband and parents, who I had been relying on for emotional support for too long, knowing that they were struggling with me and the circumstances too. Someone who was impartial and objective but not ‘too professional or too organised’ made me feel comfortable and reassured.”

“The best thing has been seeing my child’s face light up now that we get out and about and go places. His personality is really showing through.”

“What I love about Home-Start is that it’s not just one service, it’s lots of services rolled into one. There’s something for everyone.”

If you’d like to find out how setting up your own fund could benefit such worthwhile projects, please contact Katy Green at Leicestershire & Rutland Community Foundation on 0116 262 4916.