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 “I would be lost without them, I really would.” Invaluable Work of Home-Start Orkney

Local family support charity, Home-Start Orkney, are raising awareness of Loneliness Awareness Week (14th – 20th June) and the impact of loneliness and isolation on parents and young children. 

Senior Co-ordinator, Erika Copland explained:

“Parenting can be a lonely, isolating experience.

“After the initial flurry of visitors following the birth of a new baby, parents can experience feelings of loneliness as they then adjust to the everyday reality of being responsible for babies, and young children.  This can be made more difficult by other circumstances within the family’s lives, such as financial worries, inadequate housing, costs of living, and uncertainty caused by all the different sources of advice on raising young children, which often can conflict with each other. 

“The pandemic only served to highlight these further, with parents being unable to see friends and family, and then limits placed on where and when you could interact with others.  It has been an incredibly difficult year for many, even although Orkney has been fortunate in having a low incidence of the virus.”

National body, Home-Start UK, to whom Home-Start Orkney is affiliated, last week published their report, Home Is Where We Start From, based on findings from a survey commissioned by Home-Start UK. They undertook this research to determine the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on parents of young children.  It also includes information gathered from local Home-Starts and insights gained from discussions with local Home-Start co-ordinators and managers, Home-Start practitioners and volunteers.

As part of the research for this report Critical Research were commissioned to undertake a survey of parents who have been supported by local Home-Starts.The main objective of this research was to gather the experiences of parents with at least one child aged 0-5 years. An open invite to an online survey was sent to parents who have received support from a local Home-Start in the last year.

The survey was open from 6th April – 26th April 2021:

  • 1,238 responses were received, from those supported by c.125 local Home-Starts
  • 15 minute questionnaire containing a number of free text responses
  • Free text responses analysed qualitatively

One of the key findings was that 75% of respondents had felt cut off from family and friends during the pandemic and subsequent restrictions, with 74% stating that support from Home-Start had helped them to feel less alone.

Erika continued:

“As with all Home-Starts across the UK, we moved overnight to offering support via phone and online, ensuring that communication was maintained with the families we support.

“In our own survey, conducted last summer, 100% of our supported parents stated that having regular conversations with our staff team and volunteers was beneficial to their circumstances.  And as soon as we were able, we began to offer support in person, in parks, gardens and latterly within other local public spaces.  We are also supporting some families within the home too.”

One of the parents supported by the charity, a single mum of two young children, puts it into context:

“The lack of at hand support can be hard.  Not having someone to watch the children whilst I carry out basic housework and food prep.  Bath time and bedtime routine can also be more tricky as I can’t spend the 1-1 time with each child. Financially it was hard to get around the massive drop of income.  I have also been off long-term sick with an unwell child myself so this has also been hard. Having PND, the loneliness can be very hard.” 

However the support from Home-Start Orkney has proven invaluable:

“Having my phone calls from… have been the best support ever.  She listens and gives advice.  She lets me rant, cry or just have a yap.  She gives me any information about grants and help there is out there in Orkney.  Home-Start really have been my saving grace.  I would be lost without them, I really would.” 

Anyone who is interested in learning more about Home-Start support, whether seeking support for themselves or others, or in becoming a volunteer can contact the Home-Start staff team via email postmaster@homestartorkney.org.uk, or via mobile phone 07938 634 075.

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