Home-Start has invested in developing perinatal and infant mental health training for local Home-Start staff and volunteers.

Home-Start volunteers already play a significant role in ensuring positive outcomes for the children in the families that they support. This bespoke training, recognised by the Association of Infant Mental Health, will empower volunteers to understand the science of brain development in early childhood and provide informed support to parents. 

Baby brain development

 The first 1,001 days of a child’s life (from conception to age two) is a critical period for baby brain development, so establishing the best ways to interact with them helps set the foundations for the child's lifelong emotional and physical wellbeing. 

The training shows volunteers how the support they offer families can have a positive effect on nurturing early relationships, enhancing understanding of early communication, reducing stress and providing holistic support. All this sets the foundations for healthier, happier individuals and communities in the long term.

Included in the training modules are methods to support parents in understanding their babies’ need to connect, the brain-building ‘serve and return’ interaction and the importance of play and self-care - all evidence-based ways of creating healthy connection, curiosity and happiness in everyday family life.

84% of Home-Start Volunteers agreed or strongly agreed the training increased their understanding of how they could support parents in the first 1,001 days.

91% of Home-Start Volunteers agreed or strongly agreed the training was useful to supporting their role as a volunteer.

Volunteers already benefitting from the training

Liz, a home-visiting volunteer at Home-Start Waverley decided to do the training to help her connect to a mum she had recently started to support.

Liz said: “I was a bit stuck as to how to help the family I was supporting. I looked at the training modules. They are a great compilation of videos from experts, speaking in an accessible way, with great diagrams, and little quizzes to test understanding.

The course was tailored to me, as a Home-Start volunteer, so it gave suggestions as to how to use these ideas with families, gently and supportively, rather than sharing complex information. I tried out subtly different approaches with the mum I support. I’m seeing her becoming more connected to her child, and her confidence in being able to go outside the home with her child has grown. And the child is behaving so much better. They are responsive and connected to mum".

We know that Home-Start volunteers can make a huge difference to children's outcomes. They have the time and flexibility that many professionals crave but are unable to provide. Investing in their training is one of the most direct ways that we can ensure all children get the best start in life. 

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