A year of Home-start
Futures for Somerset continue to work in partnership with the Department for Education, Somerset County Council and Home-start West Somerset to deliver a project within the West Somerset Opportunity Area that supports families living in rural isolation to improve their parenting skills and confidence.
Alongside equipping new parents and families with the required skills and confidence to help their babies and children develop, Home-start works with a team of volunteers to offer a support network that helps to reduce social isolation and signposts families to other support services in the area.
Funding from the West Somerset Opportunity Area has enabled the appointment of two Home-start members of staff who coordinate delivery of the ‘Bump Start’ and ‘Early-start’ projects, whilst training and supporting volunteers to cascade support throughout the community. To date, Home-start have trained sixteen Story Start volunteers, seven Early Start and seven Bump Start volunteers. This approach creates a sustainable model that also encourages community cohesion through the provision of local support for local families that responds to local need.
With access to the nearest maternity services being approximately 20 miles away with limited and cost-prohibitive public transport opportunities available, the Bump Start project has provided a much-needed opportunity for new and expecting parents to receive help and support in their communities. The Bump Start Coordinator works with a team of volunteers in some of the most isolated areas in West Somerset to support families through pregnancy and the first year of their baby’s life. Volunteers provide friendship, support and advice for new families – reducing social isolation and helping families to make connections with local services and other community groups. 17 families have been supported in their own homes since September 2018.
Following extremely high demand Home-start have developed ‘Bump to Baby’ sessions, supporting 14 parents since April 2019 and linking closely with Health Visitors. These informal weekly sessions help parents prepare for birth and for taking care of a new baby in an informal and supportive environment, with drop-in sessions and a new six-week course planned following specialist staff training.
Home-start have taken the innovative approach of partnering with a local business to deliver Bump to Baby sessions within a work setting where four expectant mums have expressed an interest – clearly demonstrating Home-start’s creative and flexible response to local need.
Led by the Early Start Project Coordinator and a team of volunteers, this intervention provides parenting support for families in West Somerset with children age 0-2 with a particular emphasis on school readiness. The project includes the ‘Story Start’ project which has been a huge success in the area, with 85 families joining sessions over the last 12 months. Story time sessions run by volunteers in 7 local venues encourage families to read with their children to encourage language development and shared quality time, whilst incorporating other Early Years themes such as social and emotional health, maths, physical activity and learning about the world. Home-start have again used their creative and flexible approach to deliver Story Start in various locations in response to local need, including a number of inter-generational sessions in a local Care Home and picnics in Exmoor National Park.
Following the first year of work funded by the West Somerset Opportunity Area, the Home-start Annual Review clearly demonstrates the positive impact that the Bump Start and Early Start projects have made to 75 families receiving targeted support, alongside benefits received by multiple families receiving universal support through Story Start and Bump to Baby sessions.
Home-start continue to make links with other community groups, volunteer organisations, service providers and local businesses and seek out further funding opportunities, to ensure that they maximise every available opportunity to develop successful and sustainable project interventions.