Many parents say Home-Starts groups are a lifeline. Groups tackle loneliness and isolation, by offering peer support, friendships and encouraging community engagement. With Home-Start staff and volunteers on hand, the groups are an opportunity to strengthen parents ability to be the best parents they can be.

Two mums explain the importance of Home-Start groups in their lives:

Jane* was referred to Home-Start Kirklees towards the end of her pregnancy with her second child. She already had an older child who lives with dad because of Jane’s previous history of poor mental health and alcohol abuse. She has not seen her child since the day she handed her over to her ex-partner.

When she became pregnant with her second child years later, Jane’s midwife and social worker had concerns it could trigger Jane’s mental health issues, and she was referred to Home-Start Kirklees.

The group gave me a reason to leave the house

Jane said: “I felt so worried about being a mum again and I just wanted to do the best I could for my little boy. Because of what happened before, it felt overwhelming as I really wanted to get it right. 

I felt anxious about the thought of joining a group full of people. I also never recognised myself as being isolated, until it was pointed out to me, but now I’m getting out and about more, I can see that I was. I felt very welcomed in the group. The group gave me a reason to leave the house every week.”

Maggie Baines, senior group coordinator at Home-Start Kirklees, explains; "In the group sessions we cover topics such as weaning, first aid, budgeting, managing anxiety, safety in the home and preparing healthy meals. I’ve seen week-on-week that Jane's become much more confident. Seeing her bonding with her baby is wonderful, she’s come a long way in such a short period of time.” 

Aimee Millington says "Home-Start saved my life". After a traumatic birth she was supported by Home-Start, and now works for the organisation to support other parents.

Aimee said “I had a traumatic birth and my daughter nearly died. This was in 2008. Back then it was simply viewed as a difficult birth, now we’d class it as birth trauma.

At the time my anxiety was through the roof. I really struggled and fixated on my baby’s weight. I’d take her to the weighing clinic at least three times a week. Alison from Home-Start HOST spotted how frequently I was getting my daughter weighed, and her spidery senses knew something was wrong".

Home-Start saved my life

"Alison asked if I’d like to attend a Home-Start family group. I don’t think I’d have asked for help. I’m not sure I recognised that I needed it, but going to a group seemed a good way to get out of the house. It made a massive difference, and by meeting other mums I didn’t feel so isolated. Sharing experiences and chatting to the mums reduced my anxiety, and before I knew it, I realised I hadn’t weighed my daughter in months.

By the time I had my second baby, I was terrified of hospitals. His birth was quickly followed by the arrival of postnatal depression and PTSD. Once again, Home-Start was there for me. I was matched with a volunteer and returned to the groups. I’m not overstating it when I say that Home-Start saved my life. They kept me and my children safe when I was in poor mental health and helped me bond with my children. Without them I don’t think I’d be around now".

Now I work for Home-Start

"Almost five years ago we moved to back home to Scotland to be closer to family. I saw a job for a  Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Coordinator (PIMH) come up at Home-Start Caithness and applied. I’ve been there ever since. My own experience has helped shape our PIMH service, along with the experiences and feedback of the mums we support. We have two groups that are focused on parents’ mental health. A lot of space is created for them to talk and share what is important to them. We don’t ask people to talk until they’re ready to. We let them guide conversations. Our service is very needs driven and trauma informed. 

We have shaped our services around families and ensure we are well informed to support them with their issues. As a team we want to be more specialist and more skilled, as families’ needs become ever more complex. We operate in an area of high deprivation so that impacts on pretty much everything – mental and physical health, isolation, family breakdown and more. That’s why we are always trying to find moments of joy for families. Of course, complex needs will always be there, but we must make space for the joy of parenting too.”

*Jane’s name and image has been changed to protect her identity

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