Health visitors play a crucial role in referring families to their local Home-Start. They are often the first to notice when a family might be struggling and can suggest that a Home-Start volunteer could help. Debbie French, a Health Visitor at West Lothian Community Health and Care Partnership, explains how referring to Home-Start helped one family she worked with.

As a Health Visitor in the Craigshill area of West Lothian, for the past 11 years, I have found that having support available has made a huge difference to my families. One such support is Home-Start West Lothian. Their volunteers have worked with many of my families over the years, but one stands out in particular.

One young mum was struggling to cope with her four children all under the age of 5. Mum was struggling to get organised – they were missing health appointments, and didn’t have access to any social activities which was concerning both Mum and myself. After talking to her about how much she was struggling, she agreed to be referred to Home-Start.

Within a few weeks, a trained volunteer was matched with the family. A visit with the Home-Start coordinator and volunteer set out the aims of Home-Start’s service, and what mum and family could expect from them.

The difference the volunteer made to this family was huge: the children are attending all of their health appointments again, and mum has been able to join parenting groups run by Home-Start in the local area. This has made a visible difference to mum’s emotional wellbeing – she is able to socialise and share with other mums, and the children love crèche and mixing with other children.

The volunteer was able to bring her own experience as a parent to help mum – from the whiteboard calendar helping mum plan the week and keep her appointments, to encouraging mum to buy toy boxes for each child so that at the end of each day the children tidy up all toys and are rewarded with a story. The difference this has made to the house is incredible – where toys had been everywhere, now organisation reigns.

When I asked mum how she felt about her volunteer, she replied that she was her good friend – someone who has given her back her confidence. Someone who is reliable and always turns up when agreed, who is never judgemental about her parenting, and most importantly of all is someone her children love and call their aunty.

I really do believe that without the support of Home-Start and her volunteer I would have had to refer this mum to Social Work. The missed appointment and chaotic lifestyle the children were living in was getting out of hand – but Home-Start has changed all of this.

£30 is the average cost of a missed NHS appointment. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are saved each year by community organisations like Home-Start who support families to get to their appointments. Not only does this save money, it saves families who were not getting the help that they desperately need.

If you would also like to share your Home-Start story, you can do so, here