Wigan family support charity launches urgent appeal for volunteers

A Wigan family support charity has launched an urgent appeal for local people to train as home-visiting volunteers to help families who are struggling to cope.

Home-Start’s appeal is aimed at people living in Wigan and Leigh to help support local families who are struggling with life after lockdown.

It recruits and trains local parent volunteers who offer emotional and practical support to families in their own homes.

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Families who are struggling with a range of issues from illness and disability, isolation and lack of family support networks, through to multiple births and domestic abuse.

A child supported by Home-Start in Wigan

Kathryn Eckersley, CEO of Home-Start Trafford, Salford and Wigan, said: “Home-Start is a frontline family support charity, so we have seen first-hand just how hard local families in our communities have found life, (and parenting), since the very first lockdown.

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"We have seen increases in poor mental health, domestic abuse and child poverty.

"We need to address this as quickly as possible, in order to prevent our younger generations suffering adversely in the future.

"We worry about the impact of the last couple of years on parents and children, as it will be sometime in the years to come that the real aftermath of Covid, will be felt.

"That’s why our volunteers offering weekly visits to families can make such a difference, our core work is early intervention meaning that we stop many families from reaching crisis point, because we work with families before a lot of their problems escalate out of control.”

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She added: “We have also seen a massive growth in demand from families in Wigan: the number of families supported in the area has tripled since the start of lockdown and the waiting time for our support has doubled.”

Demand for the Home-Start service has increased in Wigan by 183 per cent in the past three years, and in that time, almost 300 children living in Wigan have benefitted from having support from a Home-Start volunteer.

But, with more volunteers, even more could be done to help give local families a brighter future.

At the heart of Home-Start support are volunteers, local people with parenting or care-giving experience.

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After being trained, each volunteer is matched to a local family, and once a week for just a couple of hours, they visit the family in their own home, offering a mix of emotional and practical support.

They provide a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and a practical pair of hands.

A mum in Wigan, supported by Home-Start said: “Each week I looked forward to when Linsey my volunteer would come.

"I wouldn’t like to think what would have happened if Home-Start hadn’t got involved.”

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Referrals to Home-Start come from a variety of sources, (including families who refer themselves).

The majority come from health services, such as health visitors.

One said: “The support the family have received from Home-Start has been invaluable.

"The family have benefited from support including awareness of domestic violence.

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"I cannot recommend Home-Start enough to the families in our area to continue to bridge the gap in health inequalities and to give children the best start in life.”

Home-Start is now looking for more local people living in Wigan and Leigh who would like to find out more about becoming a volunteer.

The next training begins in June and takes place in Astley.

To find out more, please contact Lou on 07511 213981, or visit the volunteer section of the website- www.hsts.org.uk/volunteer