Home-Start Richmondshire – helping local families get through difficulties

Volunteers from Home-Start Richmondshire.

Home-Start Richmondshire coordinator Julie Teasdale explains more about the charity which is based at Colburn and helps families across the district. 

Home-Start Richmondshire was established in April 2010. It is a grass roots organisation – founded by local people, with volunteers from the local community supporting local families. We work with families and volunteers from across Richmondshire.

Just in case you don’t know, Home-Start Richmondshire is a charity, part of the leading family support charity in the UK and we support families where there is a child under the age of five. Volunteers, who are all parents themselves, offer  two to three hours of their time each week in the family home – a parent offering another parent help through a difficult time.

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My days are always busy and very varied but undoubtedly the best bits are the contact with families and volunteers.

When a family is referred to us, perhaps by a health visitor, Army welfare officer or they can self-refer, I arrange to visit them to have a chat about how we may be able to help. At my first visit I ask the parent, very often the mum, to tell me as much as they feel they can to help me to understand the difficulties they are experiencing and how they are feeling. It is so hard for a mum to ask for help. She so often feels guilty and that she should be able to cope.

Recently I met a mum who has post natal depression. She feels so different to the person she knows she really is; she feels on auto-pilot; she cries a lot and is frightened about having a panic attack. She would like a volunteer who is going to understand and not judge her; who will chat to her about her week; who will support her to take her children out and enjoy them again; someone who will help to rebuild her confidence.

Another mum I visited recently is very isolated. She is young single mum with a young baby. She doesn’t like where she is living, has no family or friend support and barely goes out. She is coping very well with the baby but needs someone to support and guide her, to offer her company and to take her out.

An exciting part of my day is when I introduce a volunteer to a family. We go along together to meet mum and the children, to discuss our support and to arrange the first visit. I know it can be difficult at first for the family – after all, the volunteer is effectively a stranger to them! But the volunteer understands that and will gently build the relationship and hopefully the trust of the family.

When a volunteer has visited a family about 6 times, I visit the family again to see how things are going. I call this a review visit. At a recent review visit a Mum told me how she looks forward to the volunteer’s visit each week. This mum’s world is full on. She has 2 young children one of whom is autistic. Her volunteer helps her by playing with the children so she has time to catch up on jobs. She says her volunteer steps into her world by understanding the joys and the difficulties and not judging like so many others do.

At another review visit last week, the mum told she really appreciates the chats with her volunteer. They have a good laugh and sometimes a cry but the volunteer is always able to offer some ideas to help her. She says she doesn’t know what she would have done without her in the last few months. This mum is from a different culture, has just had her third child so now she has 3 children under 5. She had a difficult birth and as a result there are some health issues. She gets very tired and sometimes struggles with the children’s behaviour.

We take training and supporting our volunteers very seriously at HSR. An important part of my day is when I have a one to one meeting with a volunteer – I do this about every 6 weeks but am always available to meet whenever the volunteer feels the need. Because of confidentiality volunteers are not able to discuss their family with anyone other than the HSR team so these one to one meetings are an opportunity for the volunteer to tell me how they feel things are going, for us to think about other ways we may be able to support the family and to share any concerns.

Preparing our volunteers for supporting a family is vital to us. Once or twice a year my weeks are taken over by running our Preparation Course for all new volunteers. I love running the course. The course is the chance to understand Home-Start, the families we support and the role of the volunteer – we respect that our volunteers come with a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills and this course is about preparing volunteers to use them in a Home-Start setting. It is the chance to explore Home-Start in depth and for the volunteer to decide if it is right for them. You also get the chance to meet other volunteers who can tell you what it is really like to be a HS volunteer!

There are some great videos about being a volunteer for Home-Start at www.home-start.org.uk/gallery/video

We also have quarterly get togethers for volunteers – we often have a speaker or a training session and there is always coffee, lunch and time to catch up with fellow volunteers.

Sometimes my day might include giving a talk to a local group – we are always keen to spread the word about HSR. And then there are all the business bits – applying for funding, meetings, marketing and lots of emails and phone calls.

So at the end of my day when I flop down with a welcome cuppa, what do I think? I think that if the team at HSR has, in some small way, made the life of a family in Richmondshire a bit easier, then it has been a good day!

We will be running a Preparation Course in September 2017 so if you would like to help a Richmondshire family through a difficult time. Please ring Julie, Andrea or Maria on 01748 850079 or email info@homestartrichmondshire.org.uk.

You can find further information on our website www.homestartrichmondshire.org.uk.