In September 2014, Home-Start Charnwood was awarded £1,500.00 from the Ian & Caroline McAlpine Community Fund.
Home-start Charnwood trains and supports volunteers to offer regular support, friendship and practical help to young families in their own homes. They aim to offer encouragement and help in times of difficulties.
Funding awarded by Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation was used to cover the volunteer expenses incurred during travel to families engaged with Home-Start.
Following the successful completion of their project here’s what they did and how the funding helped:
Home-Start Charnwood recruited and engaged 48 home visiting volunteers from within the local community, all with parenting experience. Following initial training and careful screening volunteers were carefully matched to a referred family who was struggling to cope and having difficulties.
Volunteers aim to work towards increasing the confidence and independence of families with a pre-school age child, so that parents are in a position to fully support their child and their individual development needs.
Funding from the Community Foundation was used to reimburse Home-Start’s parent volunteers for their travel expenses: being able to pay these expenses is paramount as Home-Start believes it is important that volunteers should never be out-of-pocket from their giving to the community.
Volunteers travelled to family homes to ensure that the support was private, discrete and the identity of individuals was respected and protected. Many parents are also simply not well enough to attend activities outside of the home – often due to mental health issues, low self-esteem or physical disabilities. Volunteers offered weekly visits until the families goals were achieved. Goals included being able to access mainstream groups and keeping health appointments.
The 2 most common reasons for referral to Home-Start are parental mental health difficulties and parents being isolated with limited support networks. This further disadvantages the infants and children within the family. Children 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 safe place or a positive learning environment. Research demonstrates that the first 2 years are critical for a child’s brain development.
Parental wellbeing is supported and gaps in parenting skills and knowledge are a focus of the work. The success of Home-Start in these areas is reported as being due to the type and method of the support; as it is offered by another parent (volunteer) and not by a professional.
Further to the funding and the family support volunteer programme, 100% of parents involved in the scheme reported increased self-esteem and confidence and no longer felt isolated.
Following is some testimony from those who benefited from the scheme:
“Before Home-Start I felt trapped. I couldn’t make myself go out, I couldn’t meet people. At times I couldn’t eat or sleep; I was so tied 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 and try”
“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 just by being there and taking an interest. She offered me reassurance, she made me feel positive and I start to think to myself, ‘I’ll get through this’ and bit by bit, I did”
“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”
“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.”