A mother-of-four from South Holland is justifiably thankful to what was called, until Friday, Home-Start South Holland for helping to save her life.
Overwhelmed by a vicious circle of post-natal depression, domestic violence, debt problems left by her ex-partner and even suicidal thoughts, the mother is now a model of what the renamed Home-Start Lincolnshire is doing to make families across the county genuinely live life to the full.
The mother, who asked not to be named, said: “I don’t know how I would have gone on without the support of Home-Start South Holland.
“The charity first got involved in my life when I first got pregnant in 2008 and their volunteers have done everything to support me morally, parentally, with financial assistance and other help to cope with the problems I was having.
“I was in a really, really bad place with post-natal depression, a relationship I was in which turned violent, health issues and a lot of debt left behind by my son’s father.
“But now I’m in such a better place with my four children and I can go out with them knowing there are people from Home-Start around to help me.
“I genuinely believe that without Mary Hutson (former senior co-ordinator) of Home-Start South Holland and one of her trained volunteers, I wouldn’t have been able to carry and cope in the way that I have.”
On Friday, April 1, Home-Start South Holland merged with seven other schemes across Lincolnshire to become Home-Start Lincolnshire.
This change was marked by the charity with a celebration event at St Laurence’s Church, Surfleet, on Thursday, when parents and children assisted by Home-Start volunteers enjoyed arts and craft activities, followed by a buffet lunch.
Erika Moon of Folkingham, Home-Start Lincolnshire’s chairman of trustees, said: “It’s such an exciting time for us because the charity is stepping into the unknown.
“But at the same time, it’s sad that we had to look at different ways of working if we wanted to continue supporting families.
“We’re not an organisation that does this lightly because our staff mean so much to us.
“We started off as eight schemes, with eight different offices that are now going down to four, with a core staff and a team volunteers who will be working from home.
“But we’re hoping that by putting this new structure for Home-Start Lincolnshire into place, we’ll have more money to put into frontline service.
“Who knows whether, in a few years time and with new funding in place, we’ll be able to expand?
“Until then, we’re having to consolidate our work as we don’t want to lose this vital service for families in Lincolnshire.”
The financial crunch for all eight formerly separate Home-Start schemes in the county came at the end of May 2015 when Lincolnshire County Council announced that it was withdrawing its funding of the charity, worth about £430.000
At the time of the announcement, the county council’s executive member for children’s services Coun Patricia Bradwell said: “The contract with Home-Start has reached its natural end and we have had to review what is provided, as we do with all our contracts.
“We recognise that groups like Home-Start do provide good support to many people.
“But this isn’t one of our statutory services and we have to protect frontline children’s services such as safeguarding, fostering and adoption, ahead of any other funding support we give.
“This has meant that Home-Start will no longer receive funding from the county council.”
Fortunately, Home-Start were “ahead of the game” in anticipating the council’s cuts and making plans to undergo the most significant change to its operations since it was launched in Lincolnshire in 1984.
Rachel Bowser of Spalding, former chairman of trustees for Home-Start South Holland, said: “Home-Start is the worthwhile and effective organisation helping families and children at difficult times.
“Rest assured that there will be no change to the service Home-Start offers to our current families, pooling the resources and expertise of eight centres together in aiming to reach more families throughout the county.”
Home-Start South Holland, along with seven other schemes in Boston, Louth (East Lindsey), Gainsborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Sleaford and Stamford, became Home-Start Lincolnshire on Friday.
The reformed charity will operate from four area hubs in Swineshead (Boston and South Holland), Horncastle (East Lindsey, Lincoln and Sleaford), Grantham (Grantham and Stamford) and Gainsborough.
One volunteer who fully represents Home-Start’s family values is Gail Luke of Spalding who was nominated for Home-Start UK’s National Volunteer Outstanding Contribution Award.
Gail said: “I’ve been a volunteer for nearly six years after seeing an advert in the newspaper and thinking ‘that looks like a jolly good idea’.
“You go in as a friend, mentor, listener and are just there for the family you’re supporting.
“It can take up some of your time but what’s wonderful is the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve made a difference to somebody.”