Whilst on placement I was given the opportunity to observe an agency called Home Start who offers a unique service of recruiting and training volunteers, who are usually parents themselves to visit families at home. The highly trained and skilled volunteers help these families by offering informal, friendly and confidential support.
It has been said that the first five years of a child’s life from birth to school are vital for a child’s development. Children who are raised in a stable, loving, family environment are more likely to have a positive and healthy future. However, nobody knows what life has for you round the corner and that can make parenting a lot harder than what it already is. This is where Home Start works well as their volunteers are parents themselves and can understand and empathise about just how hard it can be. The volunteers work alongside the parents in their own home environment to help them with the skills, time and strength they need to nurture and build better lives for their children.
The afternoon that I visited on was for a group support meeting that happens every Monday and Friday. This is a drop in clinic where parents and children can come and go as and when they please. This is a great opportunity for people to meet other parents so that maybe they can make friends and start their own support group outwith the home start agency. It is also a great way for the children to make friends and to be able to socialise with other children and can then gain good socialising skills. There were two volunteer crèche workers there that knew the children by name as soon as they came in. This was very humbling to see as out of all the children they must see and support they still remembered their names. The children were able to play and have fun with the crèche workers whilst the parents were able to sit and talk amongst themselves about day to day life. Home start also offer lunch for both the children and parents which I felt is a really nice gesture and is a good way for everyone to bond together.
As well as the group meetings Home start offer one to one support for parents. The volunteers visit families for a few hours every week. The volunteers do this until the youngest child turns five or starts school, or until the parents feel they can stand on their own two feet. This is a great idea for parents and volunteers to develop a strong relationship that will hopefully impact on the family and help them greatly.
Home Start accepts referrals from various amounts of people. They can come from; Health visitors
Professionals in social care and child care
Professionals in mental health, education, early years and probation Families themselves (25% of Home-Start families self refer*)