Mother whose son has serious health problems
From January to December 2018, Home-Start Redbridge supported 215 families with a total of 384 children: 289 children under 5 years of age and 95 children aged 5 years and over. Sixty-one (61) of these families received a Home Visiting and befriending service while 154 attended the Family Group. Families were referred to Home-Start for a range of practical and emotional support from help in developing parenting skills through to assistance in coping with their own low self-esteem, isolation and mental health problems.
Data collected from the families themselves, Home-Start staff and volunteers and referral agencies, as well as observation of the Family Group indicates that families benefit in three key ways:
- Children develop confidence, social and language skills and have fun
- Parents and carers feel less isolated and their confidence and self-esteem improves. They also feel better able to communicate with their children and to cope with their children’s behaviour
- Families received practical support from referral to a food bank to help with the ironing, from school uniforms for those who have none through to help in drafting a CV for those going back to work.
Parents and carers value the kindness, wisdom and sensitivity of the staff and the opportunity to meet with others who understand some of their fears and concerns, while children love the activities on offer at the Family Group and the chance to get out of house with their Home Visiting volunteer.
Most of the families helped have little or no other support and are managing on very low incomes or are destitute. Parents and carers believe that the support offered by Home-Start prevents them from being unable to cope, while referral agencies say it is an excellent service for families in need.
Research indicates that early intervention services, such as those offered by Home-Start, prevent more costly interventions when families become unable to cope.
“My volunteer provided invaluable support and made a huge difference to our lives.”
Mother of new born twins, recovering from a Caesarean
Home-Start Redbridge is a registered charity providing support to families in the borough of Redbridge with a child aged 5 years or under, or 9 years and under if they have a disability. The services provided include:
- Weekly home visits to parents to assist them in coping with depression, exhaustion, loneliness, ill health and disability and multiple births
- A befriending service for parents offering emotional and practical support
- A signposting service helping parents to access other agencies, including health care services
- A weekly Family Group where children play and parents share experiences and gain some respite in a safe and welcoming environment
- Monthly workshops at the Family Group providing parents with information and advice to develop their skills and confidence as parents and carers
- Confidential support for women experiencing domestic violence, assisting them in accessing services to protect themselves and their children.
At Home-Start, instead of giving professional advice, parents who are struggling to cope are offered flexible support from someone who understands some of what they are going through - another parent or carer who is an expert by experience. Anything from a cup of tea and a shoulder to cry on through to practical support and a chance to learn English, trained and committed volunteers offer support to young families in crisis at an early stage to avoid the need for professional help when families are no longer able to cope.
This evaluation was undertaken by an external evaluator, who has drawn on the following sources of data:
- A review of the literature on the effectiveness of Home-Start’s services
- A review of the literature on poverty and isolation among young families in London
- Observation of the Family Group on 26 February 2019 when 14 parents and carers (12 mothers, one father and one aunt) and 18 children attended the group
- Interviews with five parents attended the Family Group on 26 February 2019
- An interview with the Scheme Manager and the Family Worker in February 2019
- Analysis of pre and post intervention scores for 61 parents and carers who have accessed a befriending service in the 12 months Jan – December 2018
- Analysis of 12 feedback forms from the Family Group
- Analysis of seven My Home-Start Experience forms, which families are encouraged to complete when they stop using Home-Start’s services
- Analysis of eight Referral Evaluation Forms which referral agencies are encouraged to complete on making a referral to Home-Start Redbridge.
All this data was collected and collated between February and March 2019 and related to support offered to families in 2018.
Parents were encouraged to participate in the evaluation by speaking to the evaluator or by completing feedback forms. Using these participatory evaluation methods Home-Start Redbridge is able to ensure that those using their services can have their voices heard and are able to tell, in their own words, the problems that they face and the difference Home-Start’s support has made to them and their families.
Outcome data for parents receiving a home visiting befriending service is collected by staff pre intervention and every six months thereafter. The outcome questionnaire uses a 5 point scale to assist parents and carers in assessing their progress in four domains: (i) parenting skills (ii) the parent’s health and well-being (iii) the child(ren)’s health and well-being and (iv) family management (e.g. budgeting and housework). Analysing this data enables Home-Start to quantify the changes it makes via its home visiting befriending service. This evaluation report incorporates data collected from all 61 families accessing a home visiting befriending service.
Parents attending the Family Groups and workshops are encouraged to complete a feedback questionnaire once a term to identify what they liked about the group, how attending the group has helped their child and how they think the group could be improved.
When families stop using Home-Start Redbridge’s services they are asked to complete a ‘My Home-Start Experience’ feedback form enabling them to reflect and comment on the impact Home-Start has had on their lives.
Home-Start Redbridge believes that listening to, and acting on feedback from, those who use their services enables them to continually improve and develop the services they offer in line with the needs of the families that they work with. This report has tried to reflect Home-Start’s commitment to listening to and learning from families, whose views are the basis for this evaluation report.
Families who were interviewed or observed gave informed consent. It was made clear to them that choosing not to take part in the evaluation would not affect any of the support or services that they receive from Home-Start Redbridge. It was also made clear to them that they could change their mind and withdraw consent at any time. None did. We have not used anyone’s name in the report: all case studies and quotes have been anonymised as far as is possible.
Home-Start was founded in Leicester in 1973 by Margaret Harrison. Based on the simple premise that parents, with the support and friendship of other parents, are better able to cope with the difficulties that they face, Home-Start has in the last 46 years grown to support 33,000 families and 70,000 children in the UK and a further 45,000 families in 22 countries across five continents.
Until 2004, evaluations of the Home-Start service were primarily descriptive (Shinman, 1994; Oakley et al, 1995; Frost, Johnson, Stein, and Wallis, 1996). Families accessing support, volunteers providing the support, and staff or local project organisers generally described the service as positive, but in the absence of any controlled trials it was hard to make substantiated claims regarding the impact of the service.
In 2004, the findings of a study into the outcomes for the families of 80 mothers supported by Home-Start volunteers when compared with outcomes for 82 mothers not accessing Home-Start support was published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (McAuley et al, 2004). Outcomes were assessed via interviews with mothers and outcome measures. Findings were followed up approximately one year after the initial interviews.
The researchers found that although the mothers who had received the support of a Home-Start volunteer valued the service, there was no clear evidence that it had made a positive difference to them in terms of outcomes, relative to those of the families in the control group. As support was offered via one home visit per week, which was considered to be relatively low intensity support, the authors suggested that a longer term follow up would be advisable before reaching firm conclusions about the impact of the service.
In 2008, another study (Asscher et al, 2008 (i)) examined whether Home-Start improved maternal well-being and led to changes in the behaviour of mothers or children. Self-reported and observational data were collected from 54 mothers and their children between 1.5 and 3.5 years of age accessing Home-Start services for 6 months. These data were compared to that collected from 51 comparison families who reported the need for parenting support. The results showed a significant improvement in perceived parenting competence in those parent receiving support from Home-Start. Child behavioural problems seemed to diminish at the second measurement in both groups, and therefore these changes could not be attributed to the Home-Start interventions.
A further study that same year (Asscher et al, 2008 (ii)) found that Home-Start mothers demonstrated reliable changes in well-being and enhanced parenting behaviours compared to both a comparison group (of mothers who declared a need for parenting support) and a norm group of mothers in the community (who did not identify as needing parenting support).
Another study (Rutgers et al, 2008) using two control groups found that mothers in the Home-Start group reported diminished depressive feelings and increased life-satisfaction. The researchers concluded that volunteers can play a role in alleviating maternal depression and helping to build a more positive parent-child relationship but they noted that assignment to the study conditions was not random and that a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) would help to strengthen these findings.
The most recent research (Hermanns et al, 2013) compared three groups of families with young children (at the start mean age 1.5 years) over a period of four years. One of the groups of families accessed Home-Start family support. The two other groups were (1) a randomly selected community sample and (2) a group of families with elevated parenting stress and a need for support. At the last measurement, data were available for 33, 45 and 34 families respectively.
The findings included more positive changes in parental wellbeing, competence and behaviour (more consistent behaviour and less rejection) during the intervention period in the Home-Start group compared to the other groups. At follow up, three years later, the Home-Start group also showed more improvements in parenting as well as fewer problems with behaviour and anxiety in the children. This study concluded that ‘Home-Start seems a promising family support intervention that deserves to be studied more extensively.’
There is research which indicates that providing parents and carers with support before they reach crisis point prevents distress to the family and also prevents expensive interventions when families can no longer cope (Back me up – supporting carers when they need it most, Carers UK 2005 and Tipping point for care – Carers UK 2010). While the Munroe Review of Child Protection: Interim report: A Child’s Journey, (Feb 2011 Professor Eileen Munroe) specifically mentions Home Start (page 22, p.2.5) and the use of supervised volunteers as having a role to play in offering flexible help to vulnerable families.
This evaluation is a small scale, qualitative study of the impact of Home-Start Redbridge’s services. It is beyond the scope of this evaluation to access a comparison group and much of the data is self-reported. However, findings have been triangulated via observations and feedback from staff and referral agencies. The findings should be read in the light of what we know from the literature, summarised above.
In Redbridge, as in other parts of London, young parents are coping with increasing financial precariousness at a time when there is less social support. Since 2010, tax and welfare system changes have had an adverse effect on the amount of support young parents receive, with many young parents in London facing multiple disadvantage. As children’s services, both statutory and voluntary, have been badly affected by budget cuts, support for families who are struggling is becoming harder to find (4in10 London Child Poverty Network, Young Parents in London: Living with precariousness, April 2018).
Early intervention programmes such as Sure Start Children’s Centres and the Family Nurse Partnerships have been cut back or shut down and those remaining are now harder to access. The loss of these early intervention services for many parents means that they have to struggle alone before meeting the threshold for statutory services. Reaching crisis point is traumatic and has a far deeper impact on children in these families as well as on their parents (4in10 London Child Poverty Network, April 2018).
The poverty rate in Redbridge is 25%, which is narrowly below the London average, as is the 19.9% of workers who are low-paid, however unemployment is high. A key problem in Redbridge which affects the vast majority of families Home-Start supports is that of high cost housing. Over the past 20 years the price of housing in London has quadrupled. Redbridge gained just 46 affordable homes in the three years leading up to 2015/2016 (the 5th lowest rate in London) and the eviction rate of 25.5 per 1000 renting households is the 4th highest in London (https://www.trustforlondon.org.uk/data/boroughs/redbridge-poverty-and-inequality-indicators/). Research indicates that Inner London has historically had higher poverty rates than outer London, but rapidly rising house prices in the city centre mean that it is increasingly unaffordable for lower-income people. As lower-skilled, lower-income workers move into outer London, to boroughs such as Redbridge, poverty rates are increasing there.
Many of the families Home-Start support experience a range of problems consistent with social and economic deprivation. The most common issues mentioned by families were:
• isolation (not able to access services and support)
• poor parenting skills or lack of confidence in parenting skills,
• problems with physical and/or mental health for parents and children,
• difficulties managing the home, budgeting and debt problems.
Child poverty and deprivation have long lasting effects on children, (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/disability-and-health-measurement/inequality-in-healthy-life-expectancy-at-birth-by-national-deciles-of-area-deprivation--england/2009-11/stb---inequality-in-hle.html). Parents can play a vital role in promoting resilience and helping children to cope with adversity (Malcolm Hill, Anne Stafford, Peter Seaman, Nicola Ross and Brigid Daniel Parenting and Resilience Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2007). Yet there is evidence that those parents living in poverty with the greatest needs are the least likely to access the support they require and are more likely to be stressed and depressed (Ilan Katz, Vincent La Placa and Sarah Hunter, Barriers to inclusion and successful engagement of parents in mainstream services, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2007).
During the year 2018, 215 families with a total 384 children received support from Home-Start Redbridge. Of those 384 children, 289 were under 5 years of age and 95 children were aged 5 years and over. Sixty-one (61) of these families were supported via Home Visits while 154 accessed support at the Family Group. The last evaluation of Home-Start Redbridge’s services took place in April 2017, a little under two years ago, and in that time there has been a 189% increase in the number of families accessing a service and 140% increase in the numbers of children accessing a service.
The vast majority of those adults using Home-Start’s services were women (99%) although two fathers also accessed services. 9% of the families were lone parents, all of these were single mothers. 92% of the parents or carers were aged 25 to 44, 5% were under 25 years of age and 3% were over 45 years of age. The ethnic make-up of the users of the service is very mixed with 32% of families being Pakistani, 24% Indian, 14% White other, 11% Bangladeshi and the remaining 19% being African, other Asian, White British, Caribbean, Chinese and of other mixed heritage.
Most families found out about the service via word of mouth and then self-referred. However, 35% were referred by other agencies, the major sources of referrals being Children’s Centres, Health Visitors and Social Workers.
Many families when they are referred are at a crisis point. For this reason, Home-Start Redbridge offers the Family Group, a unique service to ensure that those not able to make use of the home visiting service can still be supported. Home Visits cannot be made to families where a risk assessment concludes that due to domestic abuse it is not safe for a volunteer to visit the home or where families are in shared accommodation and therefore there is no appropriate space for a home visit. These families are often in urgent need of support and the Family Group prevents them from being excluded from this support.
While nationally the proportion of families with children living in the private rented sector increased from 30% in 2004-05 to 37% in 2014-15, 57% of the families using Home-Start’s services in 2018 were renting privately. Low income families in the private rented sector can face a range of problems including high rents and poor housing standards, (https://competitionandmarkets.blog.gov.uk/2015/03/13/private-rented-housing-problems-for-tenants-on-a-low-income/).
Amina’s story, below, highlights many of the key problems faced by families accessing Home-Start Redbridge’s services.
Amina has two children, aged five years old and two and a half years old. Both children suffer from developmental delay which affects their language and communication skills. Amina has a number of health issues herself and as a result has regular hospital appointments. At the point of referral to Home-Start, Amina was struggling to cope. Her husband was working very long hour as they had accrued debts due to the high rent they were having to pay for their accommodation. Amina was feeling stigmatised and ashamed of her children’s development problems and this coupled with her anxiety about their finances had resulted in her developing severe agoraphobia. She had also started to hoard. She had become practically unable to leave the home and was spending all day at home with her two children.
A Home-Start volunteer worked with Amina to help her to develop the confidence, with support, to leave the family home with her children. Over time Amina begun to use the library regularly and eventually managed to go out for tea with the children and the volunteer. Her volunteer helped her to declutter her home, stemming the hoarding. She also helped Amina to relax enough to play with her children.
Amina says she cannot believe how far she has come and she is now planning to return to work and her volunteer is assisting her in writing her CV and preparing for interviews.
Evidence from the interviews with parents and from the evaluation forms completed by parents attending the Family Group, by parents at the end of their time with Home-Start and by referral agencies, as well as analysis of the outcomes data, indicates that children benefit from their contact with Home-Start in the following ways:
- They develop confidence and become less shy and better able to prepare for school
- Their language and communication skills improve
- They enjoy activities and have fun.
Parents described how their children were very shy and unable to socialise when they first started using Home-Start’s services. One mother described the benefits to her two year old daughter, as follows:
“She is very shy and very quiet. They (the staff) know she is shy so they are sensitive to her needs and they know her as a person. She is not just a number on a sheet. We come here (to the Family Group) regularly and she is getting better. She spoke to Charlene today.”
Mary, mother of four
Another mother had a very similar experience with her three year old son:
“When we first came (to the Family Group) his confidence was not very good and it has helped his confidence and his social skills. Before it was three years by himself and now he has friends.”
Selena, mother of two.
Half the feedback forms from those attending the family groups specifically mention confidence and an increase in socialising skills:
“(Attending the group) has given my child confidence to play with other children.”
Comment on Family Group Evaluation form 2018
The evaluator observed children playing confidently and socialising with their peers. Staff at the Family Group explained how they developed children’s confidence by changing the activities, a little to develop their confidence in try new things but also being alert to the importance of familiarity to help children feel secure.
“So we have the kitchen area in the same place each week but we change what toys are in there. The sand each week stays the same but we change the activities on the two rugs putting out different toys on one rug for the very young: rattles and other toys for under ones. On the other rug we have either Lego or building blocks. Painting we do each week, because that is what children don’t get a chance to do at home and it helps us encourage the mums to let the children make mess.”
Family Group staff member
Many families who access a home visiting and befriending service are so distressed at the point of referral that they are struggling to leave their home and so their children are not socialising at all. A mother of triplets described how it was only possible to take her children to the park with the support of her volunteer. Another mother of three who was being treated for cancer explained that before she was matched with a Home-Start volunteer she had stopped taking her children out anywhere. In many families the regular visits from a volunteer enable the children to once again start to leave the home:
“I couldn’t go out or take them to the playgroups (or) GPs. The volunteer helped me using all these services. I feel confident now to go out with kids.”
Comment on My Home-Start Experience Feedback form, October 2018
Language and communication skills
One of the key benefits parents and carers who were interviewed at the Family Group or who completed feedback forms about the Family Group commented on was the improvement in their children’s capacity to communicate. One woman who had no recourse to public funds, and who was struggling with homelessness and destitution, observed proudly:
“He can now say his colours and he is only two and they have taught him that here.”
Grace, single mother, of one boy, with no recourse to public funds
“She can play here and lots of people are here. I think her talking has improved from coming here.”
Miriam, mother of one two year old
Volunteers visiting families at home have the same impact:
“My two year old son was not talking but with the help of volunteers he did get start talking.”
Comment on My Home-Start Experience Feedback form, November 2018
Communication and improvement in children’s speech came up repeatedly on the 12 feedback forms completed by parents and carers attending the Family Group with their children.
Enjoying activities and having fun
Parents and carers consistently comment on how much their children enjoy the services provided by Home-Start. Many of the families using Home-Start’s services are living on a very low income. This coupled with mental and or physical health problems can result in the children’s experiences being quite limited. Access to activities via the Family Group, or made possible due to the support of a volunteer, can expand a child’s horizons. On feedback forms and in interviews parents and carers frequent mention the activities children have access to as a result of their contact with Home-Start and how much the children enjoy them.
“There are resources here that I don’t have at home, which he can access. There is a kitchen area, there is an outside area with cars.”
Selena, mother of two
One mother of six children, whose youngest child has global developmental delay, describes how exhausted she is. However, her Home-Start volunteer plays with her children and in her own words gives them “really quality time”.
Another mother comments:
“I love this group and so does my son. I’ve seen how much he has grown and developed. Thank you for doing this group and thank you to all the staff.”
Comment on Family Group Evaluation form 2018
The evaluator observed children enjoying games, rhymes, story time and snack time. The majority of the parents explained that they accessed no other services, were living in over crowded conditions and could not provide the activities and enjoyment that they wanted for their children. Many did not have any family or friends in London, nor could they afford to travel far. Home-Start’s free, friendly, local service was described as life changing for them and their children.
“I don’t think we would have survived as a family (without Home-Start). Our volunteer had such an impact on my son’s life.”
Mother of premature boy with speech and language delay
Evidence from the interviews with parents, the evaluation forms completed by parents attending the family group, by parents at the end of their time with Home-Start and by referral agencies and analysis of the outcomes data, indicates that parents and carers benefit from their contact with Home-Start in the following ways:
- They are less isolated and are able to access some of the support that they require
- Their confidence and self-esteem improves
- They are better able to communicate with their children and manage their behaviour.
Home-Start Redbridge staff collected outcome data for the 61 families who received a home visiting befriending service in 2018. An outcome questionnaire is used pre intervention and every six months thereafter and finally when the family ceases to use the services. The outcome questionnaire uses a 5 point scale to assist parents and carers in assessing their progress in four domains: (i) parenting skills (ii) the parent’s health and well-being (iii) the child(ren)’s health and well-being and (iv) family management (e.g. budgeting and housework). Analysing this data enables Home-Start to quantify the changes it makes via its home visiting befriending service.
In 2018 the greatest positive change for parents and carers was recorded in the parent/ carer’s health and wellbeing domain, in response to a question on isolation. After a minimum of 6 months’ involvement with Home-Start, parents/carers made an average 2.3 point improvement when scoring on a five point scale how they coped with isolation.
Parents interviewed at the Family Group spoke of feeling ‘very lonely’ on maternity leave. Those completing feedback forms talked of feeling ‘less isolated’ now they attend the group.
“It has enabled us to feel less isolated and has provided a safe space to bring my child to play.”
Comment on Family Group Evaluation form 2018
Those receiving a home visiting service also spoke of how volunteers would help them to access other services, further reducing their isolation, while those attending the Family Group were referred to other services by staff and volunteers.
“Thanks to my volunteer I am now more confident than before to go to all the children’s groups and activities and I am able to make new friends with other mums.”
Mother whose son has serious health problems
Confidence and self esteem
On the outcome questionnaire the average improvement in parent’s and carer’s self-esteem was 1.9 points on a five point scale. One mother who was interviewed at the Family Group described how staff treated her as an adult and not just a mum. She felt encouraged and supported and not judged by the staff and she said this increased her confidence in coping with her very shy daughter. Another mother at the Family Group described how speaking with other parents made her realise the issues she was struggling with in relation to her son were not unique to her and this made her feel less of a failure.
Parents and carers receiving a Home Visiting befriending service frequently spoke of how their volunteers helped to develop their confidence. Those parents whose children were ill or who had developmental delay often felt that they had lost all their confidence and that the volunteers were critical in helping them to rebuild their confidence:
“I am now more confident and know how to deal with difficult and stressful situations. Home-Start Redbridge has made me into a better person for myself, my husband and son. I feel brighter psychologically and stronger than ever before, I now have the confidence to deal with work and life situations.”
Mother of premature boy with speech and language delay
“Help with ages and stages, parenting skills and reassurance has made me feel confident in my role as a mother.”
Mother of new born twins, recovering from a Caesarean
Communicating with children and managing their behaviour
The 61 families receiving a Home visiting befriending services demonstrate considerable improvement in their parenting skills on the outcome questionnaire with the following average improvements on a five point scale:
- 1.1 point increase in capacity to manage the children’s behaviour
- 1.3 point increase in involvement with children’s development
- 1.1 point increase in coping with children’s mental health.
Parents/ carers spoke of how the volunteers, usually parents themselves, would share their ideas about how to cope and offer practical advice and support for those struggling with the challenges of parenting. One mother whose daughter was born prematurely and who had a number of health problems described how her volunteer became a supportive friend who did not judge when she struggled as a parent but instead was supportive:
“Having someone that listens and offers support after feeling so vulnerable has made a massive difference to my life and well-being. Home-Start were able to provide me with much needed encouragement when I was down and on the verge of being depressed. I am so grateful for their understanding and support.”
First time mother of a premature daughter with serious health problems
At the Family Group parents and carers value the support and advice of staff and of other parents/carers. One mother, destitute and homeless, due to having no recourse to public funds, described how she had felt like giving up in the past and on one occasion she had contacted the Samaritans but she explained that staff at Home-Start:
“They support and encourage you to keep coping with the children… and now look, you can see, he is happy.”
Grace, single mother, of one boy, with no recourse to public funds
Another mother at the Family Group explained that seeing how the staff play with her two children gives her ideas about how to play with her children at home.
While the emotional support and the help in developing greater confidence and self-esteem is greatly appreciated, parents and carers also emphasised that the practical support was invaluable. It is interesting to note that the only area in which improvement on a five point scale for those accessing a home visiting service was on average less than 1 point, was in response to the question as to how parents and carers were managing the household budget. The improvement in this area was just 0.1. However, in spite of the fact that Home-Start clearly had a very limited impact on a family’s ability to cope on a low income, greater improvements were made in other areas. There was a 1.4 point increase in parental capacity to manage household tasks and parents and carers consistently feedback about how much their valued the practical support volunteers were able to offer.
One mother of six children, whose youngest child has developmental delay, explained:
“She help me to have a sleep or finish my chores or she plays with the kids. Once a week I know I can have a little support to sleep or look after baby.”
Another mother of a 2 year old and new born twins described how having an extra pair of hands enabled her to spend quality time with her two year old.
Referral agencies (7 out of 8 of whom rated the service as ‘excellent’) commented on the value of the practical support. Grace, the mother with no recourse to public funds, explained that without Home-Start who gave her food bank vouchers and clothes she does not think she would be able to feed or clothe her son.
Gurpinder fled for her life due to her husband’s violence and abuse. She and her two children aged 17 months and four years old were placed in Redbridge where she had no support. Her husband had been very controlling so Gurpinder spoke almost no English, had no friends and did not know how to manage money, use a cashpoint card or pay a bill, nor could she read her own mail. Chronically underconfident and afraid, living in a new area, she was not leaving the home, hiding behind her front door on which she had placed a number of locks and bolts. Referred to Home-Start by the Children’s Centre although Home-Start have only been supporting her for a few weeks, she has been helped by her volunteer to: purchase a school uniform for her son who was able to start school in the week this evaluation report was written; pay her electricity bill at the appropriate rate, as until her volunteer contacted the electricity supplier, she was paying a very high amount based on the previous tenant’s usage; and furnish her accommodation, via charity shops, as she had almost no furniture. While it will take many months to help her rebuild her life and regain her confidence, her volunteer has already had a huge impact on the family, most noticeably enabling her son to start school.
Parents, carers and referral agencies repeatedly and consistently commented on the skills and compassion of the staff team. The comments below are just a sample from the Family Group Evaluation Form and indicate the importance of the manner in which services are delivered:
“The flexibility, patience and kindness of staff creates a lovely atmosphere/ environment for all parents and children. “
“I especially like the staff who create a safe and fun atmosphere for the children.”
“Love how the staff are not intrusive, yet provide a safe, fun place for kids and parents.”
“Very friendly and loving staff.”
The parents and carers receiving a home visiting service were similarly appreciative of the skills and compassion of the volunteers whom they described as non-judgemental, caring and life changing.
Those using Home-Start’s services are frequently facing a range of challenges including children with special needs, poverty, ill health, bereavement, isolation, anxiety and depression. Home-Start provides flexible support to both parents and children with a focus on developing the family’s support networks, signposting them to other services, reducing isolation and developing parental confidence. The evidence from the parents themselves, and from those agencies referring them for help, is that this support offers families a lifeline, a route to stability and the capacity to begin to enjoy family life, sometimes for the first time.
All the evidence points to Home-Start being a cost effective, early intervention programme run by parents and carers for parents and carers to prevent parents/carers becoming unable to cope and unable to provide children with the safety, security, stimulation and fun that they require.
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