Parents providing peer support to other families - online training with Home-Start Better Start

Zara, a mum of four children in Bradford, describes her experience of stepping out of her comfort zone to provide peer support to other families in her area.

Zara*, 38, is mum to four children aged between three and 15. She decided after 15 years of raising her children that she wanted to start thinking about a career again. With little confidence, Zara had no clue how to kick-start her career until she came across a Home-Start Better Start volunteering opportunity at her son’s nursery.

Home-Start Better Start provides peer support, friendship and practical help to families with children aged under four and during pregnancy. Families are matched with a volunteer who will come into the family home to offer understanding, reassurance, a listening ear and an extra pair of hands to help families cope with everyday situations.

In this article, Zara describes in her own words, how she has been doing everything she needs for this volunteering role for the last 15 years, simply by being a mum.

Zara’s Story

After 15 years of being a ‘stay-at-home’ mum, I had been waiting for a chance to be able to get out and do something for myself, but after all that time it felt like a huge step. My youngest son had started nursery at the Karmand Centre, so that meant I had more free time to be able to pursue something, but I had no clue what that ‘something’ was until I saw the Home-Start Better Start volunteering poster.

When I saw that they were looking for parenting experience, I knew I definitely had the skills to tick that box. I am also passionate about helping others, so the role seemed ideal for me and I decided to find out more about their volunteering roles.

Unfortunately, the pandemic struck!

After applying and being successful, I started the course, along with other volunteer recruits, earlier this year. I was really nervous before the course, but Jane Lawton, the Home-Start Better Start Volunteer Co-ordinator, was so welcoming and put us all at ease straight away. Unfortunately, after three weeks’ training the coronavirus pandemic struck meaning that we could no longer do the course face-to-face.

I quite enjoyed the experience of learning online

The course had to be resumed online, which was a real struggle for me at the beginning as I hadn’t had to deal with anything technical for such a long time, but Jane was there for me and guided me through what I needed to do to get set up. In the end it was quite simple and straight forward and I quite enjoyed the experience of online learning.

While I do have 15 years of parenting experience, the course has shown me how to look at parenting from a different, more professional perspective for me to be able to effectively support families with young children going forward.

I can’t wait to support my first family

Thanks to Jane, Julie and Linda from Home-Start Bradford, the training has been an excellent experience. I didn’t think I could do something like this after 15 years, but I did do it and I can’t wait to support my first family.

What Home-Start Better Start said:

Jane Lawton, Family and Volunteer Co-ordinator, Home-Start Better Start said: “When we had to pause the volunteer training in March it was uncertain what the future would hold, but we didn’t let it slow us down for long. By May we had reorganised and refined our course for delivery online and have since guided seven fabulous learners through the process to becoming fully fledged volunteers.

“They have received quality training and most of all they have finished what they started and are now supporting families in Bradford. One day, we will be meeting for a cuppa and cake in person, but until then we would love to recruit more volunteers to join us with the upcoming online learning and to share your wonderful skills.”

* names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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