Homestart is where the heart is

HomeStart senior co-ordinator Joanne Knowles (right) volunteer Val Schild (centre) and the Moyes family, Ian and Kathryn and their children Oliver, Sophie and Joshua.
HomeStart senior co-ordinator Joanne Knowles (right) volunteer Val Schild (centre) and the Moyes family, Ian and Kathryn and their children Oliver, Sophie and Joshua.

It’s not easy being a new parent, and mums and dads often find it hard to admit they need support. GREG LAMBERT meets a family who asked for help from a charity and are delighted they did.

When Kathy Moyes gave birth to twins Sophie and Oliver, she admits life as a new mum of two babies was difficult at first.

“Sometimes you think you’re rubbish as a mum and can’t do it,” she says.

“I hadn’t considered asking for help and I didn’t feel right asking because there are more needy people.

“But when the twins were about three months old we started taking them to baby massage.

“It was very difficult to massage two babies at once, so they suggested that we get some help from Homestart.”

Winners of The Visitor’s Sunshine Community Group award for 2013, Homestart Morecambe and Lancaster is a charity based in the town centre. Homestart is there for any family with a child under five, who might need help with day-to-day life.

It could be a struggling single parent, or a family with financial problems or maybe a sick mum whose partner has to stay off work to look after her.

Families are generally referred to Homestart from health centres or social services, but others, like the Moyes’, are professional couples who get in touch directly, asking for support.

Kathy and her husband Ian just needed someone to share the load.

“They might need help with something as simple as going to the shops or the park,” says Joanne Knowles, senior co-ordinator at Homestart.

“Mums can feel quite isolated and they might need someone to listen, who’s not going to judge them.”

This is where Homestart’s team of 40 volunteers comes in, people like Val Schilds, a retired teacher from Heysham. Val pops round to Kathy and Ian’s house whenever they need an extra pair of hands. She has become like a kindly auntie to Sophie and Oliver, now four, and the Moyes’ other son, two-year-old Joshua, and says the kids are “magic”. Val went through a 10-week training course to become a volunteer and says she has loved every minute of it.

One of Homestart’s main roles is organising family days out. These could be to the zoo, indoor play areas, wildlife parks, Easter and Christmas parties, or to ‘messy play’ sessions at children’s centres.

Now Kathy has returned to her job and the twins are starting school in September, Val’s time with the family will come to an end. But the Moyes’ have been so impressed with Homestart, they have decided to give something back, donating clothes and books to the charity, and have agreed to become volunteers themselves to help out at events. Homestart is glad of the help. The charity is desperate for more volunteers and funding. Grants from Lancashire County Council and the Primary Care Trust are drying up. If you can help, call into their office on Morecambe Street.

“We have to find our own funding and currently, we have enough money to take us through to December,” says Ruth.

“We’re always looking at closure, but there’s so much we could do if we had the money.

“We need more volunteers not only to help our families but also to write grant bids, because we only have three staff.

“People don’t realise how much time and energy is put into Homestart.

“I think volunteering should be made compulsory. It’s so rewarding. Our volunteers form a relationship with the family and see them through the highs and lows.”

Since forming in 1999, Homestart Morecambe and Lancaster has helped thousands of families like Ian, Kathy and their kids.

This valuable local charity hopes to survive to help thousands more.

If you would like to become a Homestart volunteer, call the Morecambe Street office on 01524 414871.