Written evidence submitted by Home-Start
UK (BS 71)|
The Home-Start network comprises 340 local Home-Starts
in local communities across the UK - grown from one scheme in
Leicester in 1973 because it makes sense to local communities.
Local communities recognize that to support vulnerable families
within their communities requires a framework. This framework
enables volunteers to offer support to families in families' own
homes. The offer of semi-formal friendship is a powerful one from
which vital and serious work can be done to safeguard children
and to make families and communities more resilient. The Home-Start
movement is now represented across 22 countries worldwide. Recent
research from the Netherlands indicates that participation in
Home-Start was related to a greater increase in maternal sense
of competence, which in turn predicted an increase in supportive
parenting and a decrease in the use of inept discipline(Dekovic
2010). Increased parental self competence is a vital foundation
for building the capacity within families and for those families
to have the confidence to become actively engaged in their local
It is from this foundation of 38 years experience
that we submit this paper.
society should enable people within local communities to work
together to support each other.
are very real impacts and consequences of reductions in public
expenditure on the Government's ambitions to deliver its vision
for the Big Society. 58 local Home-Starts are under threat of
closure in the next 6 months and this number could double in the
following six months.
commissioning processes operating at a local level are not recognizing
the additional social value of delivering public services through
a volunteer led model and so are not recognizing the "big
society factor" which is consequently at threat of being
lost just when government is seeking to encourage it.
1. A definition of what the "Big Society"
is or should be
For Home-Start"society" should enable
people within local communities to work together to support each
other. The scale "big"/wide/broad for Home-Start is
in terms of the reach to people who feel and/or are disempowered
with an offer which enables them to develop confidence and a sense
of control themselves and then go on to contribute within their
family and beyond. The offer of societal support is based on trust
and reciprocity. There is a multiplier effect to working in co-production
with people/families in this way. This trust is recognized in
local communities and in 200910 Home-Start received 24%
of its referrals direct from families themselves seeking support.
In 21st century Britain this co-production is not however a spontaneous
reaction which will take place between two individuals in isolation.
The collective or society locally needs to have support structures
in place to enable this to happen. The Demos Report; The Home
Front-It is time to be honest about what good parenting involves
(2011) states that: "There is some evidence that Britons
feel a "pulling away" of local collective responsibility
tend to have a very anti-interventionist approach to other people's
children. An international survey in 2006 found that Britons were
less likely than citizens of most other European countries to
intervene if they saw a young person misbehaving of committing
anti-social or violent behaviour" P32-33. Connected with
this diminishing sense of local collective responsibility is an
increase in isolation. This is borne out by the needs expressed
by Home-Start families. In 200910 just under 7,000 of the
families who were supported by Home-Start expressed feeling isolated
as a specific need. Part of the support offered to these families
is facilitating their appropriate engagement with local services
and amenities. This is a key step to building local networks based
on the principles of empowerment and equality. Home-Start recognizes
that at different times in our lives we may need help or we may
be able to offer it. People should not either be trapped permanently
in a category of neediness or be seen as belonging to a
group whose geography means that they will never need assistance.
2. Home-Start harnesses the goodwill of local
parents, who because of their own experience, are able to offer
emotional and practical support to others. Families need support
for many reasons: they may be struggling to cope with postnatal
illness, a child's disability, family breakdown or bereavement;
or they may feel isolated and unable to connect with their local
community. All sorts of families in all sorts of situations accept
support brokered by Home-Start because it is delivered by volunteers
who are making a commitment to walk alongside the family for a
while and help them in the way that they want. There is no "doing
to" the family; volunteers help to build on the skills and
positive aspirations that exist within it.
3. This relationship of equals has the capacity
to transform situations and approaches in families that are struggling;
and is a powerful example of the value of volunteering. However,
it doesn't happen by magic - it happens within a highly developed
framework. For Home-Start the Big Society is not informal or ad
hoc; the capacity for volunteer action in potentially vulnerable
families has to be harnessed and deployed carefully. And despite
all the challenges faced by communities, we're proof that with
the right framework in place it does happen - last year, Home-Start
volunteers provided more than a million hours of direct support
to families and the interest in volunteering for Home-Start increases
year on year.
4. The impact and consequences of reductions
in public expenditure on the Government's ambitions to deliver
its vision for the Big Society
5. There are very real impacts and consequences
of reductions in public expenditure on the Government's ambitions
to deliver its vision for the Big Society. 58 local Home-Starts
are under threat of closure in the next 6 months and this number
could double in the following 6 months.
6. There has been some discussion recently
about the ability of small voluntary sector projects to scale
up and provide service to a wider client group. Home-Start has
scaled up. The most stable community organizations are those that
have emerged from grassroots activity, where local people have
identified a need and taken action to address it. This community
development model is the one that Home-Start has used to grow
340 local Home-Start schemes across the UK HSUK staff nurture
such beginnings, usually for one to three years, before a scheme
is established. Well established processes and resources build
on initial interest, ensures community consultation and needs
analysis, through to the formation of formal steering committees
who form the charity, raise the funds and the profile, appoint
the first worker and then take on the governance role. This vital
community development is lost when a local Home-Start closes.
The capacity, goodwill and energy lost are incalculable. So closure
of a local Home-Start has significant negative opportunity costs.
It does not involve a simple transition of service from one provider
to another - if another provider has been commissioned. It represents
a diminution of the local community - a Smaller Society.
7. The commissioning processes operating at a
local level are not recognizing the additional social value of
delivering public services through a volunteer led model and so
are not recognizing the "big society factor" which is
consequently at threat of being lost just when government is seeking
to encourage it.
8. The role of and capacity for the voluntary
and community sector to deliver local public services including
the appropriateness of using charitable income or volunteer labour
to subsidise costs
9. The voluntary sector already has a very good
track record of delivering public services. The organizational
structure has to be in place to support the deliver to specific
contracts. Other charitable income should not be used to subsidise
public service delivery. If the public sector identify that a
project needs to be delivered then they need to be prepared to
pay the price. There should not be cross subsidization from other
charitable income streams to support public service contracts
unless a joint funding arrangement is in place. There should be
full cost recovery for public sector contracts and this should
also include any monitoring and evaluation which is required.
Any charitable income should be able to be used by organisations
to deliver additional projects or services. If not, the danger
is that we start to lose our creativity and ability to be innovative.
A service package which includes volunteers being part of the
delivery of the service is not a mechanism for subsidizing costs.
It is an integral part of the service offer which will be costed
appropriately. As outlined above there is an infrastructure involved
in supporting volunteers to provide an effective and safe service.
This has a cost associated with it.
10. Possible problems and challenges from
increased commissioning of public service provision from the voluntary
and community sector as envisaged by the Government
11. There is a very acute timing issue at present.
In the medium term voluntary sector organizations could be well
placed to deliver increased public services. However, the very
local voluntary sector organizations which could deliver more
public services are being decommissioned due to public sector
funding cuts. The Transition Fund while welcome does not fully
address this poor sequencing as it is very focused on a specific
level of cuts from the public sector. Voluntary sector organizations
are facing potential cuts from all sources of funding while
also undergoing significant rapid restructuring to manage the
new funding climate.
138 Maja Dekoviæ & Jessica J. Asscher
& Jo Hermanns & Ellen Reitz & Peter Prinzie &
Alithe L van den Akker (2010) Tracing Changes in Families Who
Participated in the Home-Start Parenting Program: Parental Sense
of Competence as Mechanism of Change Prev Sci Back
The Home Front It's is time to be honest about what good parenting
." Demos (2011)