Family Matters: Charity battles on despite funding cut

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A Rotherham charity that supports families who need help has had to stop all work after losing £70,000 funding but is determined to fight for survival.

Home-Start Rotherham also had to make three staff redundant after losing a two-year contract from Rotherham Council when the Government changed its priorities to help troubled families, rather than the earlier intervention that Home-Start does to help avert problems.

The reasons for this include poverty, illness, depression, isolation, addiction and physical and mental health issues. Last year the group, part of the UK’s leading family support charity, supported 136 children. Home-Start has been working for 25 years to recruit and train volunteers who give support and friendship to families with children under five, stopping them from reaching crisis point.

One mum supported by Home-Start Rotherham said: “I think Home-Start is a wonderful way to ‘welcome’ a stranger into your life and end up with a friend, to trust and rely on, in times of crisis.”

Senior co-ordinator Sandra Clough said: “We’re on a pause. We’ve not gone. We’re in constant touch with our volunteers, who are superstars. They’re the bread and butter of our organisation.

“We’re busy looking at fundraising ideas and it’s all hands on deck for this very crucial time for us.”

She added: “We still having inquiries from our referrals agencies to refer families to us. The most difficult thing is we can’t do something at this moment in time. Hopefully we’ll be up and running again soon.”

Sandra said that research done in 2011 showed that social care services helping families for 2.3 hours a week costs £161 per child per week, whereas the average cost of Home-Start’s work for 2.5 hours a week worked out at £24.93 per family.

She said it showed that preventative work was far more cost-effective, adding: “We really need to target early help before they go into a crisis and before any statutory provision is put in place. The benefits are a win-win situation.”

In addition, Home-Start Rotherham has helped volunteers to get jobs or go into higher education.

Sandra added: “We’ve got faith. We believe in what we do. We’re bloody good at what we do and our volunteers are fantastic. Home-Start UK is working alongside us.

“John Healey MP is our patron and he’s supporting us all the way. We’ve got some good stuff on our side.”

She said that the group are busy restructuring re-assessing what they do and applying for other funding.

Joan Blanch-Nicholson, chair of trustees at Home-Start Rotherham said: “Whilst losing out on a local authority tender is devastating news, we are determined to fight for survival.

“Nationally, last year, over 1,000 children were removed from a Child Protection Plan when Home-Start was involved with the family.”

Home-Start Rotherham are urging people to get on board with fundraising ideas.

Joan said: “If Home-Start Rotherham were to close, there would be no other early intervention services to support these families in the unique way that Home-Start does, by offering personalised parent-to-parent support in the dignity of the family home during weekly visits for as long as the family needs.

“If we can raise funds quickly, this will give us the breathing space we need to carry on applying for other sources of non-statutory income.”

Part of the plan to safeguard the future of Home-Start Rotherham is to recruit new trustees. In return for volunteering for up to 10 hours a month, trustees will be able to enhance their own skills, knowledge, self-confidence.

To find out more about the work of Home-Start contact Home-Start Rotherham on 01709 328889. Email homestartrotherham@yahoo.com