Home Start: helping families at home

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This week we’ve got Abby Lyons, a Year 1 Early Childhood Studies and Sociology student, sharing her experiences of volunteering for the family support charity Home Start.

Firstly, Home Start is a brilliant charity because it helps families with children under the age of five who maybe facing difficulties of some kind, like mental illness (PND), financial problems, isolation, teen parenthood and more. Last year across the UK, the charity supported almost 60,000 children from nearly 30,000 families. They rely highly upon volunteers to help otherwise it would be difficult to continue. Typically volunteers spend about two hours a week in the family’s home supporting them to tackles their difficulties, whatever they may be.

The main aim for volunteers at Home Start is to make themselves redundant from their assignment family. For many volunteers and families, it can be an emotional experience letting go of their family after knowing them after around six months. To me the significance of Home Start is that your allowing the family to live better or even feel better. Even if the volunteer is simply playing with the children whilst the parent cleans the house or has a relaxing bath to themselves. It all counts. This impacts greatly upon the family as it promotes the need for a healthy life and balance. Also, it endorses the idea of needing to love yourself to love others. Making a family happier is the goal.

Another impact Home Start has is that it draws attention to the fact that not all children have fortunate upbringings that we may expect; for example, some may be living in poor housing conditions or with domestic abuse. In my opinion as a volunteer, I think Home Start empowers parents and children to do and be their best. Home Start’s 2017 Social Impact Report has identified other impacts. Over 90% of families said that the support they received feel less isolated, improved parents’ self-esteem and increased both the children and parents’ emotional health and wellbeing. Overall, this is improving families’ health, development and lives in general.

In my area, volunteers also provide two other kinds of assistance: financial fitness, and pop and play.  Financial fitness is where volunteers (alongside their coordinators) assist families who may be struggling to manage money well or just simply need financial advice. Pop and Play is a group which enables parents and their children to socialise and make friends. Socialisation is significant for a child to develop holistically.

This has been valuable to me, from a student’s perspective of studying early childhood, because I can see the reality (which often can seem brutal) of childhood and what some children and families face. Additionally it allows me to acknowledge that how me may traditionally see childhood isn’t often the full truth or what we would like children to be brought up like. I think others should get involved and volunteer for Home Start as you’ll be benefitting families, improving children’s lives which will make you feel wholesome knowing that you have increased children’s happiness.

Thank you Abby for sharing your experiences.  Have you got any experience of this kind of family support? What impact have you seen it have?

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