A surge in calls for support, from families across Suffolk post-Christmas, has led to one charity making an urgent appeal for volunteers.
Home-Start in Suffolk typically sees a spike in requests for help and befriending immediately after the festive season, but this year saw a marked uplift on previous years.
The charity is determined to counter the potential demise in family relationships and mental health during this critical phase, but needs more individuals to come forward and give the gift of their time in the community.
Tara Somers, executive manager for the scheme across the county, said: “Every year, in January, we anticipate a rise in the number of families – or referrers – calling us to say that there is a particular ‘need’ in a household. Christmas can be a very stressful time for families, particularly where there are young children concerned. That simply exacerbates any underlying issues or vulnerabilities.”
Since the office of the Martlesham headquarters reopened after the immediate Christmas public holidays, 48 referrals have been received, directly seeking help and support, a 182% increase from the same period last year.
Ms Somers says the need is particularly prevalent in the West of the county and in the area of Beccles.
“These are two areas where we have identified a significant requirement for more volunteers,” she said. “We have families who could benefit from a few hours a week of befriending, which is typically carried out by someone who we vet and train, and who then spends time understanding the very specific issues of that household. It may be that the person merely spends time with one or both parents, or helps with certain tasks around the home. Each case is very unique.”
Home-Start’s core objective is to help families where there is at least one child under the age of 12. The charity provides a potential ‘lifeline’ during periods such as bereavement, ill health, social isolation, or any number of challenging circumstances.
The organisation delivers a full programme of training for new volunteers, and thoroughly screens all applicants via the DBS process.
Ms Somers commented: “We would very much like to hear from anyone who has ever considered sparing a few hours a week volunteering. We can talk an applicant through the ways in which they can help a family, what support will be provided for them as the befriender, and how strong our feedback approach is, to ensure they feel confident at every stage. A small amount of time from someone could make such an incredible difference to the life of a family in Suffolk.”
To discuss befriending roles, or other ways to support Home-Start in Suffolk, please contact the Martlesham office on 01473 621104.
Pictured above is Tara Somers, the executive manager of Home-Start.