Home-Start Suffolk Coastal – the Woodbridge family support charity
Home-Start is a national charity that supports almost 77,000 vulnerable young children across the UK. Support is free, confidential and non-judgemental. In fact, almost 25% of families refer themselves to Home-Start – which I guess speaks for itself.
I want to tell you about Home-Start. Not because I’m a Director – although I am – nor because I am a parent – which I also am – but because I am completely bowled over by the brilliant simplicity of what Home-Start is, and what it does, and how it works – and I want everyone in the world to know about it too.
What is our “support”? Nothing fancy, or hifalutin, we simply go round, lend a hand, lend an ear, give advice when we are asked for it, mind the children. Just what people’s families used to do in the past – but without the need to buy Christmas presents.
Nationally, nearly 17,000 Home-Start volunteers gave a million hours of this support to the families they visit. Home-Start’s national presence is made up of lots of local Home-Start schemes all working under the national umbrella to agreed national standards. But because they are local, each Home-Start reflects the needs and problems of the area they’re in.
Home-Start Suffolk Coastal
Our local Home-Start – Home-Start Suffolk Coastal – is one of three schemes in Suffolk. We looks after families from Felixstowe to Leiston – a long and thinly populated patch which contains much of Suffolk Coastal’s poverty.
Home-Start Suffolk Coastal was set up in 1999 because of direct local need. The scheme is managed by a small team of staff based from the office in Woodbridge; and governed by a board of Trustees. Since 1999, Home-Start Suffolk Coastal has supported 530 families. Last year, 45 volunteers spent a massive 17,000 hours supporting 84 families and 181 children. Demand for the service increases – we now expect to support 120 families per year. We will support any family as long as they have one child younger than five.
How is the support offered? Through our magnificent Home-Start volunteers. Many of ours – though by no means all – are part of that third of the Suffolk population ACORN calls the ‘affluent greys’ – women who have been able to use their own children as guinea pigs and can now pass on the benefits of their experience to others.
Many, many parents need help, friendship, advice or support during the early years when children are young. There is no rulebook for raising a family and sometimes it seems overwhelming, particularly if a family is going through difficult times. The reasons for needing HomeStart’s help are endless and individual: poverty, illness, bereavement, isolation..
Real-life examples of how HomeStart have been able to help local families with very real problems are seen in the stories of CLARE, SHARYN and DARREN – three local cases, each with a different focus and each unique – as is every problem that families turn to Home Start with.
And Home-Start professionally, cheerfully, competently and kindly deals with all of them.
This is good.
It’s good, not only for Clare and Sharyn and Darren and Tina. It is good for their children and for the future their children can achieve.
It is an investment in our community’s future, made voluntarily, and with good grace by some very remarkable people: the Home-Start volunteers
I had to talk about Home-Start to a primary school last year, and I thought, how will I explain everything that Home-Start does in a way that could be understood by a couple of hundred youngsters aged between 4 and 11..
I was at a loss – and then I remembered my grandmother who travelled from Norway to support my mother (then a shy foreigner in England) through the birth of each her children.
My grandmother was a marvel – she not only stayed on afterwards to help my mother and give her advice (which must have been useful, because my grandmother had borne and brought up ten children herself ). But there was so much more. She played and read to us older children, she talked to us, she taught us things that my mother had no time to teach us – I still knit the Norwegian way – she told us terrible jokes and she took us on outings. Although she lived and died abroad we still remember those visits with great pleasure and gratitude.
I realised that Home-Start volunteers have that very same capacity to visit and change things, and help parents, and bring a bit of fun to their family’s life as my grandmother did to ours.
“Its like having a very special Granny” I told the children.
Yes, having Home-Start in your corner is like having a team of SuperGrannies, SuperSisters, SuperAunts.
Or indeed, SuperUncles and SuperGranddads.
And knowing they are all on your side.
Could you be a Home-Start volunteer and change a family’s life chances? Visit the Home-Start Suffolk Coastal site and find out more.