Nearly 95% of parents suffering with mental health issues saw an improvement thanks to the support of a home-visiting volunteer, research by academics at Cardiff University has shown.

Parents reporting the improvement were receiving support from the family support charity, Home-Start, which supports nearly 28,000 families across the UK.

The research, which used Home-Start’s administrative data, is one of the largest ever academic studies into the charity sector's work with families. It showed that completing Home-Start's support resulted in high rates of improvement in the most stressed families, including:

  • 96% of those facing isolation
  • 94% of those experiencing low self-esteem, and
  • 95% of those coping with mental health issues.

The research, which involved over 10,000 families, also showed that the more frequently visits occurred, the faster families improved.

Rob Parkinson, chief executive of Home-Start UK, said, “This research shows clearly and straightforwardly that the vast majority of families who Home-Start work with see an improvement in overcoming the challenges they face.

“It is also clear that the more frequently volunteers and paid staff are able to visit a family, the quicker their improvement will be. We want to be able to offer families more frequent visits when they are needed, but this requires support and investment. We are calling for a renewed focus on funding proven and effective early-interventions like home-visiting.”

It was also found that volunteers are just as effective as more specialist paid workers in many situations, such as working with large families and with disabled children.