Health and wellbeing

Funding level: £1,001 to £5,000


Home-Start Southern Oxfordshire is a registered charity which provides friendship and support to families in need who have at least one child aged under 5. Parenting can be difficult and can bring many challenges, particularly for those without a support network nearby. Sometimes, additional events present themselves to add further stress to families and this makes young families vulnerable at a time when strong relationships and quality time are fundamental to the development of children and outcomes for the future.

Home-Start Southern Oxfordshire offers non-judgmental support and friendship through our established home-visiting volunteer programme. Formed in 1989, our core work involves recruiting and training volunteers, all of whom have parenting experience themselves, to befriend and support families referred to us.

Volunteers attend a 40-hour preparation course to explore topics and add skills to their parenting experience. The course includes sessions on child development and safeguarding, amongst others. Volunteers are DBS checked. On completion of the course, our staff will carefully match volunteers with referred families, having spent time with them assessing their needs. The organiser will then make a short introduction. Volunteers will visit the family weekly, for 2-3 hours, to build a relationship, offer regular friendship, and support the family to work through their difficulties. The type of help that a volunteer may give is varied, as it is completely tailored to the family's needs, but might include: conversation for isolated families; helping to plan play activities for the children; assisting with financial or admin tasks; or, accompanying families to appointments or play sessions. Our organisers monitor the family's progress quarterly by reviewing with the family and the volunteer. At a point when the organiser, the family and the volunteer feel that things have improved and the family feels empowered to cope without the volunteer, a final review will bring support to an end.

The only criteria for accessing our service is that families have at least one child aged under 5 years old. Families are usually referred by health visitors, but can be directed to us by other health professionals, education professionals or families can self-refer. The reasons for referral can be wide-ranging but may include:
- postnatal illness/depression
- relationship breakdown
- drug, alcohol or domestic abuse
- single parenting
- multiple birth
- illness/disability of parent or child
- isolation

We aim to intervene early when times get tough to support families through their challenges. By doing this we hope to reduce the need for the intervention of statutory services and help secure the best outcomes for the child(ren). The emotional wellbeing of a child has a significant impact on their future and we want to support parents to be the best parent they can be.

We currently have 18 new volunteers in training and, by Christmas 2017, they will be trained and ready to be matched with families in need. Volunteers are not paid for their amazing work or the time that they give up, but claim only travel expenses. We could not do this without them. It costs between £100 and £150 per year to keep one volunteer "on-the-road." On average, a period of support lasts 6 months which means that the "Class of 2017" could support up to 36 families next year. Our new volunteers are enthusiastic and raring to go, and along with our existing volunteers, an award will ensure they can "go" next year and help families like Zara's *

"I am hugely grateful for the timely, tailored and compassionate support I've received, which has undoubtedly made a significant difference at a time of my life when I have been most in need."

*name changed to protect identity

Home-Start Southern Oxfordshire

Moment of Pride

I joined this charity as a home-visiting volunteer, wanting to help people. I could never have believed how much of a difference it could make. Now, as fundraiser, I am passionate about securing funds so that more families can benefit from this fabulous service.

Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom