Home-Start Essex is a leading family support charity with over 30 years of frontline experience supporting families with at least one child under the age of eight. It recruits and trains parent volunteers to support local parents within their home who may be struggling with post-natal depression, isolation, stress and anxiety, bereavement or other issues.

Each week a Home-Start volunteer will spend up to two hours in the family home to offer emotional and practical support and it also runs a range of family groups, well-being programmes, courses and events for families with children up to the age of 11yrs.

The charity works closely with the Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service and what makes it special is that all of the volunteers have a lived experience as parents/carers themselves and now want to give something back to the community. In the last 12 months 210 volunteers have supported 453 families and 807 children in Mid, South and West Essex.

Every volunteer completes a popular 40-hour training course before they are matched with a family, with topics including confidentiality, safeguarding, listening skills, goal planning and boundaries. In addition, volunteers can train up to a Level 2 in Safeguarding Children and Adults at Risk. They are given robust and frequent supervision, continuous professional development and a supportive team.

Home-Start Essex has received funding from Essex LDP to train and co-ordinate ten new volunteers in South Basildon to set up new ‘Walk & Talk’ sessions to engage 10 vulnerable families into regular exercise expanding on the existing practice of Home-Start Essex (HSE).

At the end of the project, families and their volunteers will sign up for a Park Walk with HSE.

They’ll start with accompanying the parent on a 10-minute walk out of the house and 10 minutes back each week over 8 sessions and at the end they’ll get a certificate. The aim is to extend the walk each week if they can, or to do a faster pace.

Lorraine Ferguson heads Home Start Essex. She says: “It’s really about getting them out and about. I based the idea on the concept of a family walk, which people don’t do nowadays. They don’t go out because they feel it’s unsafe, it makes them anxious and unless they have got a reason to go out they stay indoors. The children then start misbehaving and the parents think they’ve got behaviour problems. Getting out and about can break isolation and can really help with emotional wellbeing.”

See www.home-startessex.org.uk/volunteer