Home-Start offers a real lifeline to families. Their work is vital in preventing problems becoming bigger in future, with parents developing the skills and confidence to deal with challenging behaviour that can so easily turn into marginalisation or criminality. Volunteers help a variety of people, such as low-income or homeless families, parents with physical or mental health difficulties, and those with no extended family or with relationship difficulties. Parents and volunteers often develop a deeply trusting relationship that can lead to powerful change within the family.
Home-Start Oxford volunteer Fiona Bowler worked with a mother and her two young children, a family with complex needs as a result of domestic abuse. She says: “The children had major behavioural problems, especially the older boy who was mimicking his dad’s actions. I was able to help build mum’s confidence by listening and talking, and to discover what she needed in the way of support around her violent ex-partner. Mum was eventually very confident, and we applied for and got a restraining order against him.”
Home-Start South Oxfordshire was a beneficiary of OCF’s first ever grants round in 1997, receiving £500 towards the cost of books, videotapes and magazines for families helped by the scheme. Over the following 19 years, we have supported Home-Start’s work regularly, with 27 grants awarded totalling nearly £60,000. Support has come from several of our named funds – for example, the Midcounties Cooperative and Sovereign Housing, and as recently as April 2016, from OCF’s Sport Relief Community Cash programme.
Working with organisations such as Home-Start has convinced us that a preventative approach to social problems is the right way to protect community values in the long term. In the context of local government cutbacks, particularly those affecting children’s centres, we will, more than ever, need to encourage citizens to keep building community bonds in this way.