Struggling lockdown parents in need of help, charity warns

Home-Start in Suffolk provides care for families struggling across the county Picture: Home-Start in Suffolk

Home-Start in Suffolk provides care for families struggling across the county Picture: Home-Start in Suffolk - Credit: Archant

An army of volunteers is needed to help parents struggling to cope during the third national coronavirus lockdown, charity Home-Start in Suffolk has warned.

The organisation was already helping hundreds of vulnerable families who has been left socially isolated by mental ill health, relationship breakdown and financial challenges even before the Covid-19 crisis hit.

Home-Start in Suffolk works closely with families who suffer from issues such as mental health problems, isolation and...

Home-Start in Suffolk works closely with families who suffer from issues such as mental health problems, isolation and bereavement Picture: Home-Start in Suffolk - Credit: Archant

The pandemic has left many “scared” and “worried at the uncertainty”, as well as struggling with the pressures of home schooling.

Tara Spence, chief executive of Home-Start in Suffolk, said it had also seen an increase in people needing help to deal with their children's behaviour or learning challenges.

In total, it has seen a 12% increase - about 30 to 40 cases - in referrals over the course of the pandemic, with a "steady rise" since September.


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Many more referrals have come from families themselves, instead of from professionals such as GPs - and sometimes in desperate circumstances.

"We tend to get self-referrals come in the middle of the night or the early hours of the day," said Mrs Spence.

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Yet just when those people need greater support, the nature of coronavirus restrictions - as necessary as they are, to stop the spread of the virus - means traditional home visiting services which make such a difference to families have been hit.

Home-Start in Suffolk has recruited telephone volunteers who can provide support and guidance to those in need in a safe and secure way.

CEO Tara Somers is worried some parents are too embarrased to claim for the vouchers. Picture: ANDRE

Tara Spence, chief executive of Home-Start in Suffolk - Credit: Archant

However, Mrs Spence says more are needed to help meet the demand.

While telephone calls are easier logistically and less time consuming for some, Mrs Spence said they do also pose challenges.

"Whilst some people are available for more hours, it can take a lot more to build that personal relationship over the phone," she said.

"For example, in normal times, you'd talk about what you've been getting up to - but there's now a lot less to talk about."

However, for anyone fatigued by a series of work Zoom calls and family FaceTimes, Mrs Spence said of helping vulnerable families: "It's probably a telephone call that makes a significant difference to someone's life.

"It's probably the tick box of the day where you come away thinking that online meeting has really made a difference."

Those who want to volunteer should click here to register their interest.

Interactive video group training sessions are held to give volunteers the skills they need. They cover areas such as safeguarding, as well as different scenarios they might encounter.

The training takes a total of two or three days but can be spread flexibly over a number of days.

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