The Home-Start Approach: Home-Based and Volunteer-Led

Volunteers and family taking a walk

Everything started out with only one Home-Start charity and only one person: Margaret Harrison. In Leicester, 1973, Margaret understood that families struggle in their own individual ways and therefore need support that starts in the family home and that is based on their specific needs. She realised that parent-to-parent support can provide struggling parents with the knowledge and skills needed to cope with the many difficulties that life can put in their way. Ultimately, she realized, this would enable parents to give their children the best possible start in life.


Margaret was president of Home-Start until she passed away in 2015, however, her principle of parent-to-parent family support remains at the core of what we do to this day [1].

What exactly is the Home-Start Approach?

Volunteer with baby and Mum chatting

The Home-Start approach is first and foremost home-based and volunteer-led: The support families receive from us starts in the family home through our trained and skilled volunteers. Through regular home-visits by our fantastic volunteers who are usually parents themselves, we offer support and friendship that is compassionate, individual, confidential and flexible. Our support is based on humility, humanity, and humour, and aims to help parents realise their unique strengths, build their confidence, and cope better with life’s challenges so that their children can have the best possible start in life [1].


Here at Home-Start Clackmannanshire, we know that it is the informal conversations and social connection that parents find the most beneficial. By helping parents expand their social networks, meeting other parents in similar situations, normalising the various difficulties and challenges of parenthood, and by receiving actual hands-on support from our local Family Support Volunteers, we are in a position in which we can reach out and intervene in time and without stigma.


Through our services which include not only home-visiting support by our Family Support Volunteers, but also family group support, outdoor group activities, telephone befriender support, and walk & talk buddy support, we help parents expand their social networks as well as their skill set as parents. Thanks to our Charity Shop, located on Alloa’s High Street, we are happy to also be in a position that allows us to offer support to parents seeking to build and strengthen their employability, and gain vital skills to support them to move forward [1].

The Science Behind the Home-Start Approach

Volunteer and child playing

[2] report on data collected by Home-Start UK from 2010 to 2018 from 300 UK Home-Start charities to gauge the impact and effectiveness of Home-Start interventions on Parental Well-Being, specifically Parental Coping. Their results show  “Overall a consistent […] large direct benefit for parents, with a worthwhile impact on children’s well-being.”


One important reason, why the Home-Start Approach is so effective is that it is both informed by the latest scientific findings, and flexible enough to be applied to the unique struggles of individual families. For example, recent research into child development and “the core capabilities of resilient adults” [3] suggests there to be three principles that are recommended to be incorporated by policymakers and practitioners as they can help improve families’ and their children’s outcomes, namely [3]:

Our Approach to family support is based on these principles but is still flexible enough to allow for the individual differences of each family we support.


Research into early childhood development shows the importance of early intervention, as it is more effective and much easier to influence infants’ developing brain structures than make changes to it when they are adults. Further, scientific findings also clearly show the damage toxic stress inflicts upon children’s’ developing brain structures and suggest it can lead to life-long problems in the areas of learning, behaviour, as well as physical and mental wellbeing [4]. For this reason, our Family Support Co-ordinaotrs, Group Workers and Volunteers at Home-Start Clackmannanshire work with families with young children so that interventions can be made before problems become acute and where positive changes can still be made.

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