This year, a new local Home-Start has been established in Lomond in Western Scotland to reach naval families, and young families in the area who need more support. 

Ainsley Ralph, and her two children, are amongst the first families to receive support. 

Here, Ainsley explains how Home-Start Lomond has helped her to build a better life for her two children:

People say when you hit rock bottom the only way is up, and I’m so grateful I’m on the way up. My rock bottom was the day my children were put into temporary foster care”.

I never believed it would happen until the day they were sent away. I love my children. I didn’t lose them because of my lack of love for them, it was because of my lack of love for myself.

I missed them so much. At first social workers wouldn’t let me see pictures, but eventually, they let me have video calls, but as you can imagine it’s not enough. I was determined to get my children back and worked closely with social workers to make that happen".

The day they were returned was such a relief, but it was also hard. My son Alex was a baby when he was removed, but now sat in front of me was a walking and talking toddler. I know it was yet another big adjustment for the children too. My daughter remembers it all very clearly. I too remember it like it was yesterday and I never want to go through that again".

Help with parenting techniques

"As my son got older I found it harder to manage his behaviour, especially his outbursts. My social worker suggested I let Home-Start Lomond help me with parenting techniques and to provide some emotional support to help keep home life stable.

Laura from Home-Start Lomond came out to see me. She talked about all the ways they could help me and that she would match me with a volunteer that was perfect for me.

I’m usually anxious when I meet new people, but when I first met my new volunteer Sarah, I felt relaxed. Sarah’s children are the same age as mine, and we immediately clicked. Straightaway Sarah sat down on the floor with the children. She’d play with them, read to them, sing songs or do some colouring– anything they wanted to do she’d do. They love her coming over and have taken to her really well.

Watching how Sarah interacted with them taught me a lot. If Alex got angry I’d see how calmly Sarah would speak to him. She’d get down to his level and speak really gently. Rather than shouting at him, I now take a different approach and it’s so much better. When I ask him if he’s okay he says ‘I just need a cuddle and I’ll feel better.

I try to pick my battles now, and I’m always aiming for our home to be a calm place. Not only have I learnt so much from Sarah but I’ve gained a great friendship. It’s been nice to have someone I can talk to about things.

Having someone there to encourage and cheer me on has made the biggest difference to my confidence. With Sarah’s support, I’m now volunteering at my local church and the school. A year ago I could never have imagined doing that".

Feeling capable is something I’ve never felt before

"I first started going to the church group on Friday. When the heating bills went up it became a warm place to go to. One day I asked if I could help to give out the soup and it’s gone from there. Feeling helpful and capable is something I’ve never felt before. It feels so good to be doing something. I then offered to help out at the school and helped make some of the costumes for the nativity play.

I’ve spoken to Laura about applying for jobs and that is the next thing she is going to help me with. She’s talked to me about application forms and CVs. I’ve never had a job before so this is all new to me, but I’m also very excited about it".

If I take care of myself, I'm better able to take care of my children

"Along with the parenting techniques, the advice, the support and guidance, thanks to Home-Start I’ve learnt in these last few months to be kind to myself. I’m getting some dental work done that I’ve put off for years and I’m making more of an effort with how I look and feel. I know I’m important, and, if I take care of myself, I’m better able to take care of my children.

The last three years have been tough, but they’re behind us now. I know I’m moving forwards. My options are opening up. I lost myself a long time ago but now I’m back. I’m willing to do whatever I can to build a better life for me and the kids.

About Home-Start Lomond:

Ainlsey's family is one of a handful now being supported by Home-Start Lomond, a division of Home-Start Lorn that has recently been set up to reach young families, and naval families in the area. It came at the instigation of The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) who recognised the need for greater support for families in Lomond and asked Home-Start UK to explore the idea of setting up a local Home-Start. 

The area is home to around 650 naval families and when personnel are deployed to active service, the parent left behind can feel isolated and unsettled, leading to increased levels of stress and anxiety.

Laura Eales, manager of Home-Start Lomond knows what it’s like to raise a family with a husband who is in the Navy.

I’ve been a ‘Navy wife’ for over 20 years. My husband is a submarine engineer and is deployed once every 18 months for up to six months. For much of the time I feel like I’m a single parent, having to make decisions with no sounding board. I’m used to it, it’s all I’ve known, but I’ve also seen how for some parents it’s a real struggle.

Of the new Home-Start, Laura says:

The demand has been huge. We are now supporting 15 families, with referrals still coming in. We so far have 11 volunteers, with seven about to do the volunteer preparation course.

A number of the cases referred to Home-Start Lomond by social services are complex cases including children who are on child protection registers.

Laura says: “In these cases we are working closely with the mums to equip them with the tools to manage their children’s behaviour and supporting them to establish a good home environment, routines and boundaries.”

Even though Home-Start Lomond has only been in operation for a short time, they have seen significant improvements in children’s behaviour and their relationship with their parents.

Laura says “These changes are only possible due to the special relationship parents build up with their volunteers, who they clearly trust. Some of the parents we support have never experienced a positive home life, with routines and boundaries. We take small steps and celebrate the wins. Whatever it is, it’s contributing to a supportive and nurturing home life for a child.”

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