‘We can help parents to cope with the pressures’

Almost seven in ten parents with children under the age of five say being called a “bad parent” is the most offensive criticism they could receive, according to a YouGov survey of 1,000 families.

Well over a third in the same survey agreed they felt under pressure to be a “perfect parent”, but no-one pretends that parenting is easy.

That is where Home-Start support volunteers come in, says Charlie Johnston, upper valley co-ordinator of the Calderdale scheme. Parenting of young children was a key concern for many families and Home-Start wanted no-one to feel they had to struggle on alone.

“Over the last 40 years Home-Start has supported more than a million children and their parents. Our service is non-judgemental, so we would never label people ‘bad parents’ and we understand the pressures faced by mums and dads. Home-Start’s approach is to encourage parents to trust their own ability by developing their own confidence and skills,” she said.

“In an ideal world Home-Start wouldn’t be needed. But for many parents the pressures of family life are simply too much to cope with alone. There are many reasons for this, including poverty, illness, family breakdowns, isolation, addiction and physical and mental health issues.”

This is where Home-Start stepped in, she said, recruiting and training parent volunteers to offer emotional and practical support to families in their own homes. “It’s parents supporting parents,” said Charlie. “It’s a simple idea that really works.”

Home-Start nationally commissioned the YouGov survey. In the last year, Home-Start Calderdale’s 100 volunteers have supported 105 families with 250 children. They can do more to help this area’s families but they need new volunteers to join the experienced hands who have been with them since the upper valley project outpost was established in 2005.