Ahead of the general election leading family support charity, Home-Start, has called on all political parties to commit to investing in proven methods of help for families, such as volunteer-led, peer-to-peer relationship based support.

The call coincides with a new study released by the charity into their work with families. The study takes in data over eight years and 43,000 families, making it one of the largest studies of its kind. It shows that families receiving two or three hours of voluntary, home-based support each week see a significant and substantial improvement in the challenges they face.

Download the study here

Acting chief executive of Home-Start UK, Vivien Waterfield said:
“With an election just a day away we are calling on all political parties to commit to investing in proven low cost services that support families struggling with issues including post-natal depression, isolation, physical health problems, bereavement and many others. The study we have published today is one of the largest of its kind and captures the experience of tens-of-thousands of families across the whole country. It clearly shows the impact that peer-to-peer support can have on families. We have to take action, because childhood can’t wait.”

The new study was carried out by Prof. Philip Sugarman, Vice-Chair of Home-Start UK, and Home-Start’s monitoring and evaluation database expert Kamal Chudasama. It shows that families supported by Home-Start’s home visiting volunteers see a significant improvement in parental well-being, family management, parenting skills and children’s well-being.

The results are contained in a paper entitled "Volunteer-led family intervention: the UK Home-Start programme" which analysed data returned by around 300 local Home-Start charities between 2010 and 2018. The study used complete data from as many as 43,000 families. Using statistical techniques, they found an unusually large improvement effect in this very large population.

These findings gel with a series of high-quality controlled studies in the Netherlands in recent years, which have found Home-Start support more effective than comparison groups, and just as effective alone as when combined with a comprehensive parenting intervention. Their follow-up studies have also shown benefits compared with controls to be sustained on an array of measures for up to ten years.

Home-Start is a local community network of trained volunteers and experts helping families with young children through their most challenging times.

Across the United Kingdom, 13,500 home-visiting volunteers support over 27,000 families and 56,000 children to transform their lives. Currently, almost 200 local, independent Home-Starts have coverage in over 70 percent of local authority areas across the UK.