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The Guardian: To protect children, they must always be the priority


Sometimes the sense that we are standing in the wrong place to see what's really happening turns out not to be a sad personality defect, but the truth. It is often easier to grasp with hindsight. For example, it is really not difficult to look back and be horrified at the slowly building evidence of establishment complicity – at best – in a child abuse ring that involved public figures, and wonder why it seemed more important to protect the adults and the system in which they prospered than the children who were their victims.

But it takes a greater effort of imagination to see that while, for example, enabling parents to return to work is important, if the focus was on the wellbeing of children first and foremost, then priorities might be slightly altered. What if the political attention paid to affordable and available childcare, or violence against women, began rather than ended with the question of "what about the children?". Would it change the spending priorities if the first objective of policy was to make sure that children have safe places to live and play, enough good food to eat and support when a family crisis strikes?

When it so often feels that women are an afterthought in policymaking, to suggest children should come first might appear to be wilful obstructionism (or just daft). But according to a new survey by the charity Home Start, which befriends struggling families at home and is producing its first ever manifesto tomorrow, even these basic preconditions of wellbeing – warm dry homes, safe, protected places to play, nutritious meals – are missing from the lives of many of the families it helps, making it all the harder to sustain stable relationships.

The UK notoriously languishes in the bottom half of Unicef's annual estimates of children's wellbeing in rich countries. Each year, the Children's Society's good childhood report identifies the cornerstones of happiness: feeling safe at home, being part of a stable family, and free from bullying at school. What a devastating reflection of this government's effort that these simple essentials are still missing from people's lives.

It seems clear that the way policy is targeted now is still failing the most vulnerable families. Part of the reason is money. So many children's services are delivered by local councils that it is no surprise that they have been under cruel pressure – particular smaller voluntary sector organisations like Home Start, where local groups have been engaged in a fight for survival that has not always been successful.

But the less money there is, the more priorities tell. Of all the UK, England is sclerotically slow, last to institute a children's commissioner, still foot-dragging over child detention, still clinging to a Victorian approach to the age of criminal responsibility and still, we are now horribly aware, prepared to sacrifice some of the most vulnerable children to preserve the face of the establishment. It is the poorest children, inevitably, who are the most exposed. But all children suffer from their low visibility to policymakers.

Yet the new sensitivity to what was formerly a matter to brush behind the brocade sofas of gentleman's clubs suggests a change could be on the way. Home Start is only one of several charities that is setting out to influence policy. At the beginning of the week the childcare charity 4Children organised a session in parliament to try to force children's policies onto the pre-election manifesto-writing agenda.

If something good was to come out of the long-delayed exposure to the abuse of children in the 70s and 80s – along with some justice for the victims – it would be to jolt policymakers out of the mindset that if you look after the parents, the children will be looked after too.

York Press: Home-Start saved thanks to Lottery


A CHARITY which supports struggling families across Ryedale has been given a major financial boost which will enable it to both continue and expand its work. Home-Start Ryedale, which is based in Norton, has been awarded a £283,170 grant from The BIG Lottery Reaching Communities Fund.

Set up in 2007, the charity recruits and trains parent volunteers to support families who are finding it hard to cope for any reason. During the past year it has supported 42 families, with a total of 86 children, across Ryedale - double the demand of the previous 12 months.

Jo Oliver, coordinator at Home-Start Ryedale, said the five- year Lottery grant would be used to help fund their running costs and also to extend the service into southern Ryedale.

“We feel extremely privileged that the BIG Lottery can see the benefits our project will bring to children and families throughout the area," she added.

"In a time when many charities are facing uncertain financial futures, to receive funds to continue our service for another five years is absolutely amazing news – we can’t believe how well our efforts have paid off. This funding will enable us to recruit some new members of staff to join our small team – something we haven’t been able to do until now.”

>Read more


South Wales Echo: Home-Start Dinefwr volunteers commended at Welsh Assembly


Staff from Ammanford based Home-Start Dinefwr have been awarded for their years of dedicated work to the charity.

At a 30th Anniversary Event at the Senedd Welsh Assembly, First Minister Carwyn Jones presented certificates to Sandra, who has volunteered for the last 17 years and Elizabeth and Carole, who have both volunteered for 13 years.

They were also joined by Betsan Powys, Rob Parkinson CEO of Home-Start UK and volunteers and staff from schemes from across Wales. A spokesman from Home-Start Dinefwr said the women have given so much to the community. “Home-Start Dinefwr has been serving the community since 1995 and we are very grateful to all our volunteers past and present,” she said.

Midhurst and Petworth Advertiser: 5th Birthday for Chichester Home-Start

A family support organisation in Chichester is celebrating after helping change lives across the district for five years. And now Home-Start is looking to the future. Senior coordinator at Home-Start, Jacqui Claridge, was delighted to be celebrating half a decade with her team at their centre in Swanfield Drive – but more funding is needed if the support group is to continue.

“Our funding from West Sussex County Council and Big Lottery is about to come to an end, so we are now looking for more help. Home-Start supports families with children all across the Chichester district. Though parish councils give us small amounts of money, we will now need help with funding. Our fifth birthday was an old-fashioned party, with cake and food, Malcolm the Magician, and everyone just having a bit of fun and enjoying themselves.”

Last year, the group helped to support 123 families, providing assistance with everything from money and relationship advice to housework, thanks to the dedication of its 55 volunteers. “I would really like to say a big thank you to all our supporters who have helped us over the past five years,” added Jacqui.

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BBC News online: Thousand of families have 'hidden crises' charity says


Thousands of vulnerable families in Wales suffer many "hidden crises" such as mental health or child behaviour issues, says charity Home-Start. The home-visiting service said almost half the families its volunteers help have serious problems on top of the one for which they were referred.It said professionals see only the "tip of the iceberg" of people's problems.

Home-Start last year helped 2,000 parents and 5,000 children through the 14 schemes it operates in Wales. Home-Start Wales provides around 1,000 volunteers to hundreds of families facing difficulties as a result of illness, domestic violence or disability.

As it marks the 30th anniversary of its work in Wales, the charity said its research showed the families they help rarely have one "straightforward" issue which they need help with. It found:

  • 49% of families have a mental health issue
  • 48% have problems managing a child's behaviour
  • 59% of parents said they felt isolated
  • 70% had self esteem issues

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VIDEO: from Home-Start West Somerset's AGM - a lovely summary of their past year
by Home-Start UK
on 23/07/2014 01:00
We took so many pics last Thursday!Just found this of Clare and Annie representing Home-Starts Central Cheshire and Southport & Formby at the #allourchildren launch.
by Home-Start UK
on 22/07/2014 04:55
Delighted with all the support for #allourchildren coming through. Don’t forget to check out to see what people are saying
by Home-Start UK
on 21/07/2014 11:13
Congratulations to Home-Start Burnley & Hyndburn’s Keeley Turner who recently swam 8 miles in 8 days to raise funds for them.
by Home-Start UK
on 20/07/2014 11:00
We were so pleased to see MPs from consituencies with Home-Starts all over the country at Thursday's #allourchildren manifesto launch. From Mark Menzies MP (Home-Start Fylde), and Jessica Lee Member of Parliament for Erewash (Home-Start Erewash) to Tom Brake MP (Home-Start Sutton) and Therese Coffey MP (Home-Start Suffolk Coastal). Plus various Lords including The Rt Hon. Michael Howard. Some we managed to grab snaps of...
by Home-Start UK
on 19/07/2014 09:00