With massive cuts looming, Home-Start Erewash will rely more than ever on its trusted volunteers.
Giving up as little as three hours a week, parents and grandparents are asked to befriend a family in need and become the person they can turn to for help and support. But what exactly do the volunteers do?
Reporter AMY HIRST spoke to Pauline Atkin and Sara Hextall about their role.
“We’re not here to take notes and write reports and we’re certainly not here to judge.
“We’re here to help, to listen, to offer advice, to just be there for families in testing situations,” explained Pauline.
The mumof two boys and proud grandmother of one, uses her experiences as a parent to help and support her families. Each Home-Start volunteer is paired with a family.
They might be experiencing debt and financial problems, there might be a history of domestic violence, they might have had a bereavement or they might be new to the area with no family or friends.
Sara, a mum of two teenage boys, explained: “A lot of the time people are isolated, they have no point of contact locally. They’ve moved away from their family and friends for work or whatever reason, and being a parent can be a lonely task sometimes.
“You constantly wonder if you are doing things right, are things normal and if everything is as it should be.
“That’s part of what we do, we’re there to say, ‘Don’t worry, you’re doing a great job.’”
Every visit to a volunteer’s family is recorded but what happens at them is not, meaning families feel more able to trust their volunteer than social workers and people in official roles.
Pauline said: “Trust is probably the biggest part of what we do. Our families have to be able to know that everything we talk about is in confidence or our work wouldn’t work.”
It was six years ago that Pauline decided to volunteer for Home-Start. Four years later Sara joined the ranks.
After full training in a whole range of issues and areas they were paired with a family. Both said they haven’t looked back since.
Sara explained: “It is about helping a family and seeing that you make a difference to them, and seeing them improve and change and grow in confidence is very rewarding.”
Pauline agrees, adding: “It’s such a fulfilling role. There are challenging times but overcoming them and seeing your family benefit from the advice and support you give them is great.”
l Since 1973 Home-Start has helped one million children across the UK. Home-Start Erewash has been running for more than 25 years.
Last year it helped 60 families, and it is already on course to break that record this year.
The charity stands to lose 70 per cent of it’s funding when Derbyshire County Council cuts kick in later this year.
It is now desperately looking for ways to replace that revenue.
l If you would like to become a volunteer the next six-week training course begins on February 25. The only requirement is that you are a parent. If you are interested in donating to the cause or becoming a volunteer call 0115 9304640 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.