John Lewis and Waitrose grant fund distributes over £360,000 to families hit hard by the pandemic

Isolation, mental health problems and family breakdown are issues facing many families as they slowly emerge from the extended lockdown. As we hit the one-year lockdown anniversary, Home-Starts across the country have seen a growing number of families struggling to meet their basic needs.

To provide immediate and rapid relief to these families Home-Start UK, in collaboration with John Lewis and Waitrose, have launched a grant fund as part of the #GiveALittleLove campaign.

So far over £360,000 has been distributed to Home-Starts in England, Wales and Scotland. Nearly 100 Home-Starts have received funding under the themes; WARM, SMILE, FOOD, CONNECT and ACCESS to secure funding for fuel tokens, care packages, food parcels, data, technology, online support and more.

With this funding local Home-Starts have been able to respond to the specific needs of families living in their communities. Families unable to manage the costs of heating their home might have been given fuel tokens, while some those in rural areas affected by isolation have been provided with Zoom subscriptions to keep them connected to their Home-Start volunteer.

Home-Starts have also used this funding to provide one-to-one crisis support to families affected by mental health issues, set up new projects to help isolated families enjoy spending some time outdoors and fund specialist roles for parents of special needs children. 

Jackie Creak, Home-Start Essex said: “With this grant we’ll be able to help many more families feel less isolated by accessing our online family group and our telephone befriender support. Families have been pushed to the edge and are exhausted. We want to help them recover.”

Mum of three Sarah Carter had her third baby three weeks before lockdown. Sarah has epilepsy and has spent the last year shielding. She feels anxious about going outside after spending so much time at home. Home-Start Southport and Formby used some of the #GiveALittleLove grant to help support Sarah, and families like Sarah’s, to spend some time outdoors, playing and exercising.

“I have epilepsy and my son has asthma so we’ve spent the last year shielding. I felt trapped. I was so lonely and believed everything I did was wrong. In many ways I felt similar to when I had post-natal depression after my first daughter. But this time the cause of my anxiety wasn’t what was happening in my brain, it was what was happening outside my front door, a door I was increasingly reluctant to walk through. 

 “When Home-Start dropped off the wellies and puddle suits for the kids you should have seen their faces. It really gave us the motivation to go out. Home-Start told us we could do this. And we did. The kids got in their new wellies and we went to the beach near us.

“This was a big deal. We hadn’t been out in weeks. It was lovely to see the kids slide down the sand dunes. We’ve been quite a few times since. It’s still hard to leave the house, but I feel like I’m slowly getting there thanks to the support and motivation Home-Start has given me.

“This last year has been hard. Home-Start has made such a difference to us during lockdown, and, continues to help us as we find our feet outside our front door.”