Charity prepares for spike to support families after toll of Covid

Daniel Williams, chief executive of Home Start Norfolk.

Daniel Williams, chief executive of Home Start Norfolk. - Credit: Home-Start

An organisation is bracing itself for the true impact on the next generation of children to be revealed as it anticipates a spike in referrals as lockdown measures continue to ease.

Home-Start Norfolk, which has supported families in the region for more than 30 years, works with families in 11 areas including parenting skills, early learning and development, parent's mental health and wellbeing, and household and financial management. 

Yearly figures up to March 31 last year saw 964 people had accessed its service and 293 families supported. 

Home-Start Norfolk summer packs for families

The charity produced summer packs for families. - Credit: Home Start Norfolk

Over the pandemic it has restructured, merging five individual Home-Start charities to ensure its volunteers can continue to "empower" families. 

The charity's new chief executive Daniel Williams anticipates the spike as families begin to access the 200 organisations that signpost to the charity and that the team is determined no family is left behind.

Mr Williams said in the past 12 months the Swaffham-based charity has had to overcome the impact of the restrictions on its core home visiting services by using technology and will continue to develop a range of interventions. 

The team running baby massage for parents.

The team running baby massage for parents. - Credit: Home Start Norfolk

He said: "The impact of the pandemic has been most significant for those who live the hardest lives across our communities, for many these experiences will reflect through childhood and affect their life chances as they become adults.

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"You have grandparents who haven't been able to make that attachment as a result of Covid. There are wider developmental issues we have got for our babies and our children as we go through the next years as they get ready for school.  

"There have been a lot of families that we will not have had access to in the way we would expect to."

Volunteers delivering to families during the pandemic.

Volunteers delivering to families during the pandemic. - Credit: Home Start Norfolk

Mr Williams said families would be facing these issues but the pandemic had exacerbated the situation.

As part of the region's integrated care system between health and social care organisations, Mr Williams said Home-Start Norfolk will have an important part to play to support families before they need intervention.

It costs the charity £1,800 for six months of support for a family, and while it was using reserves Mr Williams said the charity knew it could not afford to spend beyond its income for long.

Home-Start Norfolk with a collection of toys and tins to be distributed to families. 

Home-Start Norfolk with a collection of toys and tins to be distributed to families. - Credit: Home-Start Norfolk

He said: "We are excited, we know we can make a difference. We're ready. But we're also a little bit of nervous. We are dipping into reserves and we're not quite sure how this new world is going to work." 

Sophie's story

Mum-of-two Sophie left an abusive and emotionally control relationship, leaving when she found out she was pregnant with her second child. 

Attending her 20-week scan, she learnt her baby had spina bifida, hydrocephalus and scoliosis, and within 24 hours of being born underwent major back surgery. He also has had three brain operations and a hernia procedure. 

She moved house and began being supported by a Home-Start volunteer which continued throughout lockdown, with activity packs for her five year-old daughter and advice for her son when he began using a standing frame.

Sophie said: "Parenting a child with special needs can be exhausting.

"My son can’t walk because of his spina bifida and yet he really loves his free play, being able to crawl around the living room and go pretty much wherever he wants to. So when he first got his standing frame, which he has to be strapped into, he absolutely hated it.

"I’ve never once felt judged by Clare, only that she wants the best for all of us.” 

"Despite Covid, this has been a good year. My son continues to amaze me each and every day. Thanks to Clare’s support, I feel optimistic about the future.”