Home-Start is a network of trained volunteers and expert supporters working together, all over the UK, to help families with young children through challenging times. These families can often face issues such as post-natal depression, physical health problems, bereavement and isolation. Home-Start ordinarily provides training home-visiting volunteers to spend two hours a week with a family, supporting them in what they need.

During the pandemic and lockdown these families were hit especially hard; many expressed their worry about being able to feed their children or didn’t know how to manage whilst keeping them indoors all day.

In Surrey, Home-Start Runnymede and Woking and Home-Start Spelthorne were two of the organisations that received funding so they could continue to help families tackle these issues. The grants ensured that they could operate remotely, keep volunteers and families connected and provide essential supplies to families with young children.

Prior to the coronavirus, Home-Start Runnymede and Woking supported 130 families. This meant that their 45 volunteers, each of whom are carefully matched with a family, would spend a few hours a week helping them with the day-to-day. These tasks can be as hectic as getting small children to medical appointments, as challenging as emotional support or as simple as enabling a few moments of peace for parents.

Since lockdown their rate of new referrals has been disconcertingly low.

Home-Start Runnymede and Woking is anticipating a “huge influx” of referrals once we are able to come out of lockdown. There will be an intense period of catching up after months of isolation.

Sarah Beasley, Scheme Manager says, “Once children are back in school and nursery, and once health visitors are having more contact with families, I think we’ll see a lot of fallout from the lockdown. A lot of mental health issues and the effects of real abject poverty. It’ll be all the stuff that would normally come through that just hasn’t [because of lockdown], but also the added issues from lockdown itself will then feed through.”

The lockdown itself has provided its own stress. A young mum from Spelthorne says, “Having three children at home in lockdown, with no money has been quite hard. My husband is a key worker, so he’s been sent away to work. Without Hilary [Home-Start volunteer] and Home-Start phoning it would have been really difficult.”

Grants from our Coronavirus Response Fund have ensured that these crucial services didn’t get interrupted, but they also ensured that young children, who now had to spend more time at home and more time inside, had resources to thrive.

With their grant Home-Start Runnymede and Woking put together resource packs to deliver to families. These included colouring pencils, books and games. Sarah continues, “We’ve had really, really good feedback from the stuff that we have been taking around for families. Parents saying how the children have absolutely loved the games and the resources that we’ve provided. And comments that the parents themselves have finally had five minutes of peace to just get on with something in the house.”

Families with particular pressures such as poor mental health, illness and low wages are the ones who are especially struggling during this crisis. It is important that we continue to grow The Coronavirus Response Fund so we can ensure that they have the resources they need when the influx of referrals hits in the coming months.