Group helps families give children best possible start

Home Start families enjoy a summer fun day in Bonnybridge
Home Start families enjoy a summer fun day in Bonnybridge

Families often find themselves under pressure these days for a variety of reasons.

For well over a decade now mums and dads in the Falkirk area at their lowest ebb due to financial matters, relationship issues or some other form of stress have always been able to turn to a dedicated group of volunteers for help.

Home-Start Falkirk West, located in Duke Street, Denny, is now looking to expand its vital service into more areas to offer support to even more families who need it.

And, thanks to extra funding from the Robertson Trust, RS MacDonald Charitable Trust and Lloyds TSB Trust, the group has been able to employ a new co-ordinator, Carolyn McEwan, from the start of this year to assist with this growth. 
Home-Start manager Sandra Rankin said: “For the last 16 years we have been working in Denny, Bonnybridge and Banknock, but we have been expanding the work we do to include other areas of Falkirk.”

The group currently has around 20 Home Start home visit volunteers, who spend around two or three hours per week with local families who are under stress.

Sandra said: “You may have parents with mental health problems, depression or health issues. We normally deal with families who have at least one child under the age of five, but often there are older children in the family too.

“We support the whole family, spending time with them, providing a helping hand and a listening ear. The support we provide always relates to what the particular family needs and is very flexible. We will be there for as long as the family need support – it could be short term, but in some cases it can be as much as three or four years.”

Home-Start is looking for another 12 to 15 volunteers – but would love even more. The current team, who are helping around 50 families and 100 children, range in age from early 20s up to early 70s so age is not an issue.

Sandra said: “Our volunteers come from all backgrounds – just like the families they help. In fact the process of matching a volunteer with a family takes into account the skills and even the personality of the volunteer in order that both parties are comfortable with the match.

“It’s a big deal to have a stranger come into your home and help, particularly if you are very low or stressed. We are looking for someone who is a parent themselves or has parenting experience – someone who understands that being a parent is not a nine to five job, but a 24/7 commitment.

“We want someone who has a real understanding of that responsibility and the difficulties families face at times. A friendly face who is confidential and non-judgemental.”

As well as emotional support, volunteers can also help families in a practical way – filling out forms, making appointments, advising on debt issues and relationship difficulties.

“Our volunteers are a good source of information on a wide variety of matters,” said Sandra. “It’s all about helping families find the right type of support.”

Home-Start volunteers go through a training course and keep receiving training to keep them up to speed with all the latest developments with laws and child protection procedures.

Sandra said: “If you can give up two or three hours of your time a week to help a young family who are going through difficulties then you should get in touch. Our next training course starts in September.”

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