Have you heard of Home-Start?
Home-Start is one of the leading family support charities in the UK.
There are over 200 local, independent Home-Starts.
One of the ways that Home-Start can support you is by the home visits that they do.
How I found out about Home-Start
During my worst ever relapse (MS) in 2014 that lasted for months. I was so down, my legs were failing, my hands were playing up, I was fatigued most of the time and I felt so isolated.
After 6 months I had had enough of feeling sorry for myself and decided that I wanted to get out and do something for someone else. My friend mentioned becoming a Home-Start volunteer.
I did some research and quickly realised that this was right up my street. The volunteers are usually parents so I thought I wouldn’t be able to apply, but with all of my experience, they were happy to have me.
There are 3 ways to volunteer: home visiting volunteer, trustee volunteer and general volunteer support.
Being a home visiting volunteer was the option for me. After 40 hours support and training, I was paired with a family and I started my home visits.
This was such a blessing to me, I was able to get out and focus on others, which meant that I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself.
I continued with my family until my illness took over and I was no longer able to commit to visiting every week.
When I did start to feel a little better, I started helping out in the baby group that they offered and met a great friend who also has MS. We still maintain our friendship even after her support with Home-Start was no longer needed.
Then I became pregnant with twins, and I tried to ignore it, but I was going to need a volunteer myself. I had twins and MS, so it was safe to say that I would definitely need some help.
Home-Start had a bit of a challenge on their hands because I was very wary about who I would let in. You can read about that here.
Before it was decided, I had an initial meeting with my potential volunteer to see if we clicked. I was very protective of my boys but thought that I would give it a try. I was once new in someones home and space and was able to be a benefit to that family.
All I could do was try and if I changed my mind after giving it a shot, I could just say that it wasn’t for me.
My volunteer is wonderful, it took me a while to open up but now she is like a member of our family and she absolutely loves Israel and Josiah. She is EVERYTHING I could have asked for and more.
God knew who would be a perfect fit for us.
We have become such good friends, that I don’t think of her as my volunteer, just my good friend.
Does this sound like something that would benefit your family?
Here’s how to make it happen. Your GP, health visitor, social worker are all people that can refer you to your local Home-Start. You can also self-refer to Home-Start.
The support they provide is FREE, confidential and non-judgemental.
Why it matters to Home-Start
They believe that the 5 years between birth and school are vital for a child’s development. Therefore, they believe that the support they offer is so important.
The volunteers are generally parents, so they understand how hard it can be. I think that is why it works so well because they can relate well.
They work with us parents, in our own homes, to help us cope with the stresses and strains of life and make sure we have the confidence and strength we need to nurture our children.
Things Home-Start can help with:
Having a young family is definitely a demanding time regardless of your situation. Home-Start understands that when other things come along too like, losing someone, illness, depression, addiction, or job loss, life can become more difficult.
Asking for help is one of the strongest things you can do, as I am learning (slowly) but here are some of the different reasons you may want to:
Home-Start works in British Forces bases in Germany and Cyprus as well as with families in bases, garrisons and barracks in the UK.
I cannot begin to understand just how difficult life can be with a partner in active duty. The stresses of that alone can be even more than the average family.
Home-Start is supported by the Army Central Fund and ABF, The Soldiers’ Charity and many others, so the support they give in that situation is specific.
When a relationship ends
Parents are often generally aware of the impact their relationship breakdown has on their children.
You don’t need to struggle alone to give your children a good start in life – especially if you are trying to cope after a separation, divorce, or after leaving an abusive relationship.
Twins, triplets and other children
This is one of the things that apply to me.
Coping with multiple births, several children, and in my case bringing up twins in a 2nd-floor apartment with no lift. Getting out of the house was impossible, carrying both boys and the pushchair, the struggle was truly real. I needed an extra pair of hands.
The volunteers provide just that. They provide tailor-made help to give your children the support you need. It could be anything. In the beginning, I eventually needed help with getting out of the house and having someone watch my boys whilst I took a nap. (That never actually happened for me because I was too uptight about leaving the boys, but it would have been awesome).
Losing a loved one
Losing a loved one can take you on a long path of grief and isolation. It is especially important for support to help you cope with what you are dealing with as well as coping for your children. A Home-Start volunteer can help with the emotions and the grief, and with overcoming practical difficulties.
Disability and illness
Having a disability or illness as a parent can and will bring MANY challenges.
Caring for a child with a long-term illness or disability is a life-changing experience.
A Home-Start volunteer will be able to help you get yo your necessary hospital appointments, help you look for financial help for medical equipment and offer valuable support to your family in various ways.
Home-Start may be able to help you access money to help you with an unexpected job loss or redundancy and all of the problems that come with it, it is especially important to get support if you are struggling to find money to keep your house warm with children.
Money issues come in many formats and can happen to any of us at any time. They are also able to put you in touch with other local organisations who will be able to offer advice and support with your money.
Mental illness and postnatal depression
You may be struggling to cope with the impact of mental ill health or post-natal depression. It can be hard to manage to care for your young children while you are trying to get better.
A Home-Start volunteer is just what you need. It can help you feel less isolated and alone. Father’s trying to cope with your wife or partner going through postnatal depression can benefit from one of the dad support groups.
The support is not just for mother’s, it can apply to dads too. No matter the situation we find ourselves in, sometimes all we need is a little support and Home-Start is there to provide that.
If you have moved away from friends and family, or if you have a partner who works long hours, often away from home – any of this can lead to desperate loneliness and isolation.
Many people live in isolation for various reasons and with a volunteer, it doesn’t have to be so.
A volunteer can offer you vital links into your community, helping you and your children access playgroups. They are there to support your needs.
In the early days of me having a volunteer, I was stuck in my apartment with my twins. I never went out, due to both ability and exhaustion.
My volunteer took me and the boys out to a cafe, so I could get out of the house and feel human again.
Now that Israel and Josiah are older, I have started taking them to one of the Home-Start playgroup sessions. There you can interact with other parents and play with your children and watch them flourish and enjoy themselves.
My take-home message
Home-Start has played an integral part in my life, both as a volunteer and as a recipient of the support they provide. I found it very difficult asking for help but doing it has been the best thing for us as a family. Be strong and get help too.
It is great for my husband to see me receive support and for the boys as they grow up to understand that their Mama isn’t able to do everything by herself and is strong enough to ask for help.
If you are in need of some extra support, click here to see where your local Home-Start is, and take it from there.
Home-Start is there to support your needs!
Often those who have benefitted from having a volunteer, later become volunteers themselves because they know how beneficial they found the help and it came at a time that they were struggling.
What better way to give back to your community.
This is not something that is mandatory or time specific. So there is absolutely no pressure. Also do not feel embarrassed for needing or accepting a little extra help.