Greater-Manchester based charity Home-Start faced a challenge following the announcement of lockdown, with many vulnerable families depending on the face-to-face support its army of volunteers provide.

Professor in Educational Psychology Deborah James, in the Faculty of Education, is contributing her expertise to support Home-Start’s transfer to moving their support to digital and remote platforms during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Home-Start’s five area-based charities work across Greater Manchester with those struggling to cope. Volunteers work with families in their own homes to support them with financial difficulties, poor mental health, isolation, domestic abuse, poor housing, illness and disability, family breakdown or work with families with a child on a Child Protection Plan (CPP).

During lockdown, the charity has faced new challenges in supporting these families remotely and safely, via telephone or video.

Prof James brings 10 years of research experience on refining the use of video to support families and children with complex developmental needs. She also supervised front line workers who were supporting the survivors and the families of the bereaved during the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster.

She will be working with volunteers to refine new ways of providing the support many families depend on, including engaging video content for supporting parents and working with parents to find out what a good home visit looks like, when delivered over the phone.

Hayley is a volunteer with Home-Start and currently supports a family in Oldham. Being a single parent of a child who requires mental health support, she appreciates what the loss of this support could mean for families during lockdown, and why this transfer to remote support is so vital.

Hayley said: “My daughter is adopted and has a series of conditions. I am having to think creatively, for example she struggles with roads, but we cannot get out to the open spaces without driving and we’re not allowed to do that, so I’m devising classes for the garden.

“From the point of view of a Home-Start volunteer, it is hard not to be able to offer that face-to-face support. Especially when you consider that a lot of parents that Home-Start support suffer with poor mental health, losing that emotional support is so hard for them.”

Deborah said: “I’m looking forward to working with Home-Start to adapt and refine their parenting support to meet the challenges that COVID-19 is creating for everyday family life.

“Now more than ever, we need workers who can deeply listen, without judgment, to support families in finding their way through the crisis.”


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