Volunteer support gives children better start in life

VOLUNTEER support is having a positive impact for parents, new research has shown.

Monday, 19th August 2013, 5:10 pm
Families say the support they receive from Home-Start Worthing and Adur is invaluable

Home-Start, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, has more than 300 groups across the UK, including Home-Start Worthing and Adur.

Newly-published academic research has demonstrated its volunteer support has a positive impact for parents who are struggling to cope with their young families.

The research also shows children whose parents have had the support of a Home-Start volunteer have a better start in life than those who don’t.

The three-year research project, by Jo Hermanns and others at the Universities of Amsterdam and Uttrecht, reveals children are still benefiting up to three years after their Home-Start volunteer has stopped visiting.

Volunteer parents are trained, then matched with other parents struggling to cope, and the charity’s format is now in use in more than 22 countries.

Scheme manager Hilda Sherwood said: “This research gives robust academic credence to what we and many thousands of parents have intuitively known for the last 40 years – that the support of a volunteer parent while you are struggling to bring up a young family is good for the you and good for your children. It gives them a better start in life.”

The charity will be using the findings, which describe Home-Start as ‘attractive to professionals and policymakers because of its low-costs and easy accessibility’ to attract funding to help it continue and extend its service.

The team at Home-Start Worthing and Adur provide emotional and practical support to families in times of crisis.

The voluntary organisation, based in Thorn Road, Worthing, offers help to anybody in the Worthing and Adur area who has at least one child under the age of five.

Information co-ordinator Naomi Elliott said: “Our volunteers embark on a comprehensive preparation/training course before visiting families once a week in their own homes. All of our support is confidential and non-judgemental.”

Mum Emma referred herself to Home-Start when she recognised she needed help looking after her four sons, the eldest of whom was autistic.

Over an 18-month period, she had two Home-Start volunteers, who visited once a week to offer practical support after school.

Emma said: “Home-Start has saved my life by helping me through a very difficult time and supporting me whilst more permanent help was arranged for my son.

“Our volunteer helped us to become more independent and for that we are truly thankful.”

Volunteers with the Worthing and Adur team say the role is ‘fulfilling and rewarding’.

One said: “Being a Home-Start volunteer has been an enriching experience in which I have learned so much, in particular the importance of voluntary organisations on today’s society.”

Visit www.wahomestart.org.uk for more information about Home-Start Worthing and Adur.