Out and about in Paisley!

This month took us to sunny Paisley where we joined Vicky Wan, Practice Lead (Supporting the Workforce) of Home-Start UK to visit Home-Start Renfrewshire and Inverclyde.

Home-Start UK is a federated charity consisting of many smaller, independent Home-Start organisations which each covers a different area of the UK. In Scotland, there are 29 independent Home-Starts, each serving a local community to support families with young children.

We met with Lisa Carberry (Director), Ashley Greenwood (Lead Family Support Coordinator - Renfrewshire) and Kerry Dickson (Lead Family Support Coordinator – Inverclyde) who gave us an insight into the work they do.

Home-Start Renfrewshire and Inverclyde offers a wide range of services including:

  • Core volunteer led home visiting -which makes up the majority of their work.
  • Peer Support Group sessions.
  • Intensive Family Support.
  • Investment in families’ lifelong development skills – this includes classes on a range of topics such as paediatric first aid, parenting, money management, and cooking.

Home-Start Renfrewshire and Inverclyde’s services are not time limited, nor are two families’ journeys through the organisation the same. Pathways are adapted to meet the needs of each family.
Lisa shared some of the key issues facing their organisation. We discussed the challenges of funding and the changes the organisation has witnessed over recent years.

Like other organisations, the pandemic had impacted the ways Home-Start Renfrewshire and Inverclyde works and the complexities that families are facing (including mental health, poverty, trauma and isolation). With health visiting services being so stretched, Home-Start is often in a position to identify issues early, provide support and refer to other relevant services as needed.
The home visiting service, which has always been the core feature of Home Start, still exists. This is a volunteer-based service, a challenging model to maintain through a cost-of-living crisis. But positively, Lisa, Ashley and Kerry told us that they’d been able to maintain healthy numbers of volunteers throughout.

Meanwhile, the number of group activities has increased. There are now 11 groups across both areas, including a family groups and dads’ groups in Renfrewshire and Inverclyde. One of the busiest groups is a New to Scotland group, which many refugee and asylum seeker families attend.
While Home-Start Renfrewshire and Inverclyde services and staff team have expanded to meet increased demand locally, they have been keen to ensure their organisational culture does not become diluted in the process. Maintaining a welcoming environment for staff, volunteers and families has been important to them.

One thing that struck us was the genuine care and passion and the sense of community that was created within the organisation. Out of the 20 staff members, 14 were either volunteers or service users before becoming paid staff members. Staff members have even been witnesses at weddings and present at the birth of a family they supported. Home-Start Renfrewshire and Inverclyde is clearly an organisation that families feel a deep connection to. A big part of that will be down to Lisa, Ashley, Kerry and the rest of the team.