Home-Start High Peak, the local arm of a national charity that supports families as they try to build better lives for their children, has come through six months of rigorous quality audits evaluating all aspects of the scheme’s operation with flying colours. Achieving a preliminary score of 91% in September, the evaluators awarded a final mark of 100% in March 2015.
All Home-Start regions are linked to the umbrella body, Home-Start UK, which provides information, advice, training and policy and practice guidance in all aspects of managing schemes part of which involves regular and rigorous formal evaluation of the quality of service being delivered. Adherence to best practice is monitored via a bespoke quality assurance system developed by the Charities Evaluation Service and incorporating all the elements of PQASSO, the quality assurance system for small organisations which is recognised as the ‘industry standard’ where the voluntary sector is concerned. The system has also been designed to include and reflect the requirements of Investors in People and other national quality standards.
Established in 2004, Home-Start High Peak provides a unique service to families with at least one child under five. Through a network of trained parent volunteers, the Home-Start scheme provides specialised informal, confidential, practical, emotional and crucially non-judgmental support to a family in its own home for a couple of hours each week. It helps parents who are struggling to cope with things like post-natal depression, disability, bereavement, economic hardship, the illness of a parent or child, or social isolation. Parents supporting other parents, sharing their time, parenting skills and experience because they understand the demands and stresses of young families and have a desire to create secure and happy childhoods for all children. In 2014-15, the High Peak scheme supported 61 families and 80 children. Nationally, Home-Start now supports around 35,000 families and over 71,000 children each year, thanks to the work of almost 16,000 volunteers.
Anthea Murfin, senior co-ordinator for the High Peak scheme, which operates mainly in Buxton, Glossop and New Mills, says:
“Home-Start was established on the premise that children need a happy and secure childhood and that parents play the key role in giving children a good start in life helping them to achieve their full potential. As a staff of three, supported by eight volunteer trustees and 28 volunteer visitors immersed in the communities we serve, we offer support, friendship and practical help to parents with young children: the kind that statutory organisations just don’t have the resources to provide.
“Since our last formal external review we have had a 100% turnover in staff and trustees so it’s reassuring to know that rather than let the ball drop, we have maintained service levels and improved in every area of our operation. However, we do face a pretty challenging future. Since the withdrawal of all public sector funding in 2014 we have had to become reliant on the support of private funding bodies and individual donors. Considering the tough economic climate we’ve been fortunate to secure enough money to operate at our current level until the end of March 2016 but beyond that, the future of our unique support is in significant doubt as we will have to generate between £10,000 and £15,000 every quarter to continue our vital role tackling problems early and improving lives for everyone – families, volunteers and the wider communities in which we’re based.”
Home-Start High Peak has recently launched its first website – built with the goodwill of local experts – which contains information about how to become a friend of the scheme.
“We provide free assistance to families going through difficult times of one sort or another and that costs us money. For every £1 we raise, 90 pence is spent on helping local families. About eight pence is reinvested to generate future income and just tuppence is spent on administration (see Make a donation for more details). We recognise that not everyone has the time or the desire to volunteer for us but everyone with an interest in helping can get involved. If people visit www.homestarthighpeak.org.uk they’ll be able to find out how to support our work with either one-off or regular donations, of as little as £1, and how to help with our fundraising efforts in other ways, perhaps through sponsored events, coffee mornings, car boot sales, summer fetes, raffles and collections”.
For further media enquiries please call Neil Bent, Chair of Home-Start High Peak, on 07957 143 450.