WE ALL need a bit of help sometimes.

Some of us can be too proud to ask for help, others simply don’t know who to ask.

But a charity based in Poundbury wants people with young families to know that there is help out there.

From its offices in Prince Charles’ model development, a team of organisers at Home-Start West Dorset co-ordinate a group of dedicated volunteers who are making a real difference to the lives of families.

The charity began operating in the area in March 2009 and has grown to the stage where it now helps more than 60 families a year and rising.

Senior organiser Helen Horsley says that the key to the success of their work lies in matching the right volunteer to each family to meet a wide range of needs.

She said: “We recruit volunteers who have had parenting experience and they undergo 40 hours of training with us and do all the necessary checks.

“We then match them with families who have been referred to us by children’s centres, social care of health visitors and families can also self refer.

“What happens is that volunteer will visit the family in their home for two to three hours a week providing practical and emotional support.”

Helen said the help can range from looking after the children while a parent goes to an appointment to helping parents set up routines.

She added: “What is unique about the service we offer is it is offered in the family home where the volunteers can offer hands on help.”

Helen said the volunteers will also try and come at particular times to suit the needs of a family, particularly if there are certain times of day when they struggle.

For many in rural areas isolation can also be a problem and the contact with the Home-Start volunteers offers parents regular interaction with adults.

Volunteers remain with families for as long as the need remains, with contact remaining for around a year to 18 months in most cases, while it can be as little as six weeks or as long as three years.

Helen said: “We stay with the families as long as they need us.

“Quite often they want us to stay longer but it’s about need not want.”

Helen said it was important to make it clear that those people that Home-Start was supporting were not bad parents.

She said: “It’s not about not being able to be a good parent.

“Our parents are good parents, it’s just about helping with the challenges of parenting.”

The charity has about 30 families on its books at the moment and helped a total of 63 families with 154 children in the 2012/13 financial year, with Helen expecting that figure to rise to around 70 families this year.

To carry out its work Home-Start is reliant on its committed team of volunteers, with around 50 currently registered with the charity. It is the job of the team based in Poundbury to make sure that each family receives the volunteer most suited to their needs.

Helen said: “What we work hard on is putting the right volunteer with the right family.”

The charity has recently expanded to cover Weymouth and Portland and is keen to recruit more volunteers in that area.

Helen said those who do get involved with Home-Start find it a rewarding experience.

She said: “They do find it rewarding and they say it’s been a journey for them as much as it’s been a journey for the family.”

Volunteers are also able to get accreditation, with more than 40 per cent gaining an Open College Network Certificate.

The charity is supported by a team of trustees, headed by chair David Powell who has been in the role since October, and while it receives some support from Dorset County Council and various other organisations it is still reliant on fundraising.

Helen said one other revenue stream they were helping to capitalise on was offering the use of their training room at their Poundbury base to other parties, with anyone interested urged to get in touch with Home-Start.

  • Home-Start’s help is free and confidential. Anyone interested in contacting the charity can call 01305 265072 or email office@homesstartwestdorset.co.uk For more information about the charity visit homestartwestdorset.co.uk


Home-Start has changed my life. No, better than that, they have helped me to live my own life.

When I first met Tammi, I was literally a quivering wreck.

I was pregnant with my third child and was suffering from anxiety, panic attacks and depression.

I couldn’t walk out of the front door on my own.

I met my volunteer after a few meetings with Tammi and Helen.

They explained to me they were effectively forcing a friendship, to help support me and my family, and that is exactly what happened.

The volunteer came on a Friday morning and we talked and got to know each other. She helped me clean, organise and get my home in order.

We moved house about a year-and-a-half ago, and without her help and input we would have struggled.

Knowing that I had someone to talk to every Friday gave me some structure. She has done more than I can possibly tell in this short document.

I see Tammi every three months or so.

She usually gives me a target to achieve by the time I see her next, and literally bounces when I achieve it.

I know I can phone her for support if I need to and, if she is out, other people in the office are helpful.

I can now leave my house on my own, and while there is still progress to make, I am on my way, in no small part due to Home-Start.