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Families 'teetering on the brink' need our help, charity warns

Home-Start Suffolk's annual general meeting. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

Home-Start Suffolk's annual general meeting. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

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More families "teetering on the brink" with difficulties like depression and isolation are receiving help from a Suffolk charity - but many are still missing out on the support they need as demand rises.

Home-Start Suffolk's annual general meeting. Pictured is author and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz, who is a patron of the charity. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTHHome-Start Suffolk's annual general meeting. Pictured is author and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz, who is a patron of the charity. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

Home-Start in Suffolk, which aids parents struggling with a range of challenges so children enjoy the best start in life, helped 412 families between April 2018 and April 2019 - a rise of 90 on the previous year.

It plans to continue expanding by helping another extra 50 families in the coming year, as issues such as the rising cost of living and greater prevelance of mental ill health put increased pressure on young parents.

At its annual general meeting (AGM) at Ipswich's Endeavour House on Thursday, September 26, the charity and its new patron - leading author and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz - congratulated its army of 200 volunteers for helping with the expansion.

However Rob Thacker, chairman of Home-Start Suffolk, said: "With 33,000 children living in poverty in Suffolk, there are families teetering on the brink who need our help."

Home-Start Suffolk's annual general meeting. Pictured is chairman Rob Thacker. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTHHome-Start Suffolk's annual general meeting. Pictured is chairman Rob Thacker. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

Even though Home-Start's expansion - which has seen it train 69 new volunteers with an in-depth programme to provide emotional and practical support to families - was widely praised by dignitaries at the AGM, Mr Thacker pointed out that it still only covers 2% of those who might need it.

He and chief executive Tara Somers implored people to donate to the organisation to help it fund more support for families, as well as offer their time as volunteers to provide critical support.

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"The impact of adversity on children can be huge," Mr Thacker warned.

Home-Start Suffolk's annual general meeting. Pictured is chief executive Tara Somers. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTHHome-Start Suffolk's annual general meeting. Pictured is chief executive Tara Somers. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

"Those who have experienced broken childhoods are more likely to have mental health issues."

He believes supporting families at the very start of a child's life is the "best opportunity to break the cycle of adversity".

Ms Somers added: "With all the changes we have seen over the past year and the growth experienced by the charity, it is easy to see how we could veer off the couse of our mission.

"This is not however the case. We have a clear mission, havbe absolute clarity about our purpose, the needs and challenges of out client group and the support needs of our volunteers."

During his speech, Mr Horowitz said: "They are so hard working and yet I don't think of them as a charity, I think of them as friends."

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin said he had the "greatest admiration for everyone who volunteers" for Home-Start.

He added: "However good the public services are that we deliver in the future, there will always be a place for a charity like Home-Start that helps people on a one-to-one basis.

"I'm really pleased to see it going from strength to strength."

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