After a commitment to early years intervention was made by all three major UK-wide political parties, a conference has heard that the voluntary sector must be involved in supporting families if there is to be success.

The call came at a conference at Winchester Guildhall on Friday 13 March that included local politicians, members of Hampshire County Council, Portsmouth City Council, East Hampshire District Council and Newport County Council (Wales), as well as by the police, health and education services and voluntary organizations.

The conference was organised by Home-Start in Hampshire, a consortium of 12 local Home-Starts in the south of England, and was organised to reinforce the focus on early years intervention and to influence child care strategy.

Chaired by Alastair Stewart OBE, Vice President of Home-Start UK, the conference heard from Camila Batmanghelidgh, founder of Kids Company; Dr Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance; as well as chief executive of Home-Start UK, Rob Parkinson.

Speaking after the event Rob Parkinson, said, “Volunteers, and the work of organisations like Home-Start, have an enormous part to play in early help for families. What we’ve been discussing at this conference is crucial to improving early years intervention but if we are going to make a difference there must be a joined up approach from all agencies. Most importantly, the role of volunteer support is vital in giving families the support they need to overcome the problems they face at the earliest opportunity.”

Speaker Dr Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, emphasised the importance of mental health, “Mothers' childhood maltreatment has a significant impact on their own children and I am so pleased that the mental health of new mothers is a key priority for Home-Start,” he said.

Making the link between early intervention and adult mental health, Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh, Mike Thornton, said “I’ve been passionate about mental health issues and trying to achieve parity between mental health and physical health. Obviously, one of the best ways to avoid those difficulties in the first place is by helping children and families that might have some difficulties and by helping mothers.”

Liz Cooper, Chair of Home-Start in Hampshire. “There is currently huge pressure on government to prioritise early years intervention and we hope that our conference will have played a small part in identifying the problems we will face if there is no investment in organisations such as Home-Start.”