A CHARITY which gives practical and emotional support to families who may be struggling with parenting has received a record number of referrals in the last year.

Staff at the Home-Start Stroud District and Quedgeley branch say that they believe that the increasing number of families who need help is down to cut backs across the community support sector.

Alex Corgier, scheme manager at Home-Start Stroud District and Quedgeley, said: “Everybody needs a helping hand sometimes and this is particularly true of parents with young children.

“There are a huge amount of pressures that some local families have to deal with including ill-health, both physical and mental, isolation, bereavement, changes in circumstances, lack of family support, low income and multiple births.

“Statutory services are being cut-back which means voluntary community sector organisations like us are finding that there is more and more call for our support.

“This year has been incredibly busy both for our free home visiting service and our ante and post-natal groups.

“We have supported over 250 different families in the last 12 months.”

Mums who attend some of the organisations are quick to pay credit to the Home-Start team for giving them the support they need.

“I loved this group!” wrote one mum on the organisation’s Facebook page.

“The only one I really stuck to. Lovely group, great support and I loved that you had a taster of the activities other baby groups do but for free.

“Not everyone can afford a £50 baby massage or a sensory play course so to have a go in this group means you and your baby don’t miss out.

“I cannot recommend it enough, telling all the new/expectant mums I meet!”

Art-work created by Tracey Edwards who helps with some of the groups

As well as group support Home-Start offers support to families in their own home through trained volunteers who visit for two to three hours every week.

They currently have a team of around 65 volunteers but are looking for more to join the training course commencing in January 2019.

Alex explained: “Home-Start’s volunteers are a lifeline for families and there are lots of ways to get involved.

“You can visit parents and children in their homes, help run a support group, act as a trustee, help fundraise, and so much more.

“You will be trained and supported by the skilled Home-Start staff team.”

Mum Tracey Edwards received support from Home-Start herself when her daughter was two years old.

She then trained to become a volunteer herself and is now a peer support volunteer for the organisation's mothers in mind groups that are run for mum’s coping with mental health issues.

Tracey said that she feels grateful for the support that the organisation gave her.

“I will always be forever grateful for the support I received from Home-Start when I needed it the most!

"The volunteers ou are all just wonderful and it is so important for other vulnerable families to receive vital support as early as possible.”

Families can drop in for all kinds of informal sessions

Another family living in Bussage said that Home-Start had been a 'lifeline' to them.

“Home Start has been a lifeline. Having someone to talk to, to support me at a difficult time has been wonderful. I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

And it is not just the parents who benefit from being part of Home-Start Sally, a newly-trained volunteer, said: Sally, who completed her training in December, said: “I would recommend anyone out there with some spare time on your hands to come and join us because we are going to get so much out of this by helping families and helping them back on to the right track. It’s going to be a privilege to be able to volunteer for Home-Start. Bring it on!”

The next accredited training course to become a Home-Start volunteer begins on January 23, in Stonehouse.

For more information about the charity, and becoming a volunteer, please contact the Home-start office on 01453 297470 or email enquirieshomestartsd@gmail.com

Or visit the Home Start Stroud and Quedgeley website homestartsd.org