Following is a summary of the findings of a qualitative evaluation of Home-Start Redbridge’s services. The findings of this evaluation are based on feedback from approximately 47% of those who accessed a service at Home-Start Redbridge in 2015-2016. This is an evaluation of the impact of the service on families with children under five.

Home-Start believes that listening to and acting on feedback from those who use their services enables them to continually improve and develop the services they offer in line with the needs of the families that they work with..

Has Home-Start Redbridge helped to reduce parent’s isolation while developing support networks for parents and carers?

All the women taking part in the focus group emphasised that when they were at Home, alone, they felt sad and overwhelmed by their problems. However, when they attended the group, they felt less oppressed by their lives and better able to cope.

‘At Home it is not good but here I can talk to others and my mind becomes free.’
a refugee who spoke no English when she first attended the group


‘It helped me by meeting new people and making friends.’


‘It let me get out of the house…(I) enjoy coming here on Tuesdays.’


‘It gives me time away from the house and with other mums in a safe environment.’


‘…meeting other parents and staff… (the) contact with other families was great’


‘My volunteer has helped me in so many ways. She understands the many stresses in my life and helps me to deal with them by being a friendly listening ear as well as giving me valuable advice. She also helps me in many practical ways such as playing with my toddler whilst I am sorting out washing or having a shower.’
Mother of three children with serious health conditions


‘I was a new mum with no mothering skills at all, no family or friends to pass on mothering tips to me etc. Home-Start allocated a Volunteer who visited me and looked after my daughter for 2 hours whilst I slept for 2 hours. I was on a medication that caused drowsiness and my daughter was also waking up every 2/3 hours in the night and day for breast milk. At some point, the Volunteer also gave me some tips on feeding my daughter pureed food and showed me how to make it in bulk and store it in the freezer for a week; she bought jelly ice cube trays for this purpose which I am very grateful.’
Mother diagnosed with schizophrenia

Has Home-Start Redbridge helped children to socialise and has it increased their confidence?

Parents participating in the focus group were very quick to comment on the many ways that attending the Family Group had helped their children to socialise and had increased their children’s confidence. The examples that they gave included:

»Children learning to sit at snack time and to listen attentively at story time
»Children learning to concentrate on activities and take turns
»Children gaining confidence in a variety of activities that they did not access at Home e.g. sticking/gluing, using bikes and trikes, colouring and painting.

Parents/carers completing the questionnaires made observations:

‘My child has developed her social skills and now plays with other children very well. She is communicating very well now.’

Parents/carers whose children have special needs and who accessed a Family Group run in partnership with a special needs school commented on how:

‘my son really enjoyed the sessions’.

‘(the most useful thing I gained from the session was) seeing my son enjoy the activities’

‘the soft play area was really safe for my son’.

All the parents completing feedback forms following the trips in the summer commented on how much their children enjoyed the activities and socialised with others.

‘My family has benefited from this day out by way of socialisation and interaction.’

‘We spend very good time together and also with other families and we make good friends.’

Some parents observed they simply could not have afforded to take their children on trips like this without the help of Home-Start.

Has Home-Start Redbridge helped parents/carers to increase their confidence in themselves and their parenting skills?

The four women who took part in the focus group described how accessing services at Home-Start Redbridge enabled them to gain information about child development and appropriate parenting, reducing their anxieties and their concerns about their own parenting skills. Taking part in the focus group, a chance to speak English and get out of the Home had enabled them to gain in confidence and feel less alone with their worries about their children’s development.

‘I could hardly speak English (when I first came to the group). (Now) I am learning good English.’

‘I have a better understanding of childcare’

‘I can say that with Home- Start, I have been gaining self confidence in doing more things at Home; I have a brighter outlook on life.’

‘Me and my son feel so comfortable coming to this group. Ali feels like he is playing at his home… the group runs perfectly.’
[Single mother who is living in shared temporary accommodation with her child]

Overview of our local impact
Between April 2015 and March 2016 Home-Start supported 78 families in Redbridge: 78 parents and carers, 121 children under 5 years old and 58 children over 5 years old. After 6 months of support from Home-Start, our evaluation showed that parents’:
– Capacity to cope with their children’s mental health improved by 26%
– Capacity to cope with their own mental health improved by 28%
– Isolation reduced by 36%
– Confidence and self-esteem increased by 24%
– Capacity to manage their children’s behaviour improved by 26%.

‘As a single mum with mental health issues, it is hard and so when she comes over I can literally hand him over and go to bed for about an hour, feeling, well knowing, that he is safe and cared about… It is invaluable.’ [Mother of an 11 month old child]

Benefits to parents
Parents identified a very wide range of benefits gained as result of Home-Start’s support, those most frequently mentioned were:

– A reduction in their feelings of stress
– A reduction in their isolation
– Increased parenting skills
– Gaining some respite, being able to do basic housework chores
– Gaining confidence and increase self esteem.

A reduction in their stress levels
Parents frequently talked of feeling stressed and depressed. They described being tearful, unable to get out of the house and experiencing overwhelming feelings of guilt that they are not better parents. This mother’s words reflect those of many others interviewed:

‘I was quite depressed…I was constantly feeling guilty about what I was not able to do…for my children. It (Home-Start) has absolutely made a difference to my stress levels. I suffer from high blood pressure and have done so from a young age, since having a volunteer my blood pressure has gone right down.’
[Mother of a one year old and two year old twins]

A single mother with mental health problems said the first few times her volunteer visited she was able to catch an hour’s sleep, feeling safe knowing he was well cared for.

Eighteen out of 37 parents identified that they needed help with their own mental health when they were referred to Home-Start, while 28 stated that they needed help coping with their own physical health problems. On a five point scale there was a 28% increase in how they rated their ability to cope with their mental health problems and a 20% increase in their ability to cope with their own physical health needs after they started receiving support from Home-Start.

A reduction in isolation
Parents described the Home-Start volunteer as bringing ‘camaraderie’ and friendship into their lives. From sitting and having a cup of tea to fruit picking and making a blackberry pie, parents described having found someone they could relax with. For some parents their isolation was further reduced because, with the support of their Home-Start volunteer, they are able to get out and socialise at the park and the library. One mother of 5 children under five years old can only leave the house with support – her Home-Start volunteer is a vital link to the outside world.

Increased parenting skills
Parents really value being able to learn from others with childcare and parenting experience. They described how they value the fact that these are not ‘professionals’ coming in to their homes but other parents, drawing on their own experience. One mother described how she picks things up from the volunteer in what she terms a ‘subtle’ way, by watching her put her son to bed and learning by observing. Another mother described how she will ask her volunteer, who has a niece with two sets of twins, for advice on parenting her own twins – she says this increases the resources she has to draw on.

Gaining respite and having time to catch up with chores
For many of the parents, their Home-Start volunteers offer invaluable respite. One mother described how when she first had a volunteer, and was not coping at all, she would take the opportunity to lie down and sleep when her volunteer arrived. However, most of the parents found the befriending visit a chance to catch up on chores and feel slightly more in control of their lives. One mother used the visit as an opportunity to safely bath her two twins while the volunteer played with her eldest daughter. Another would do some laundry. One single parent, living in a flat three floors up with a baby, said she took the opportunity to take the rubbish out when her volunteer arrived.

Confidence and self-esteem increase
When parents are referred to Home-Start their confidence and self-esteem is often low. The 17 women who scored their self-esteem on a five point scale at the time of referral, gave themselves an average score of just 32%. After six months or more with Home-Start this had risen to an average of 56%.

‘She is brilliant…she has helped me gain confidence. When we first went to the park I was really anxious and she would say, “Don’t worry she is just over there. This is a safe place and it is perfectly normal for her to run around.”’
[Mother of three under-fives suffering from depression]

‘She has been able to express supportive words. I did not realise how much that matters…She says I am coping well when I feel like a wreck… she always has something positive to say.’
[Mother of a three and a half year old and 16 month old twins]

Benefits to children
Evidence from the interviews with parents, the evaluation forms completed by parents attending the family group and analysis of the outcome data indicates that children benefit from their contact with Home-Start in the following ways:

– They have another adult they can build a positive relationship with
– Their cognitive development and social skills improve
– Their parents feel better able to cope with their physical and mental health issues.

Another trusted adult in their lives
Many of the families using Home-Start’s services described themselves as isolated. Most do not have extended family in this country, while others feel stranded at home with twins, triplets or two or more children under five. In these circumstances children can lack opportunities to meet and develop positive relationships with other adults. Home-Start offers them this opportunity.

‘My baby knows her now and smiles as soon as she turns up… he knows he has another important adult friend in his life.’
[Single mother of an 11 month old child]

‘She is really brilliant with all the kids. They love her. I will give you an example, they cry with my mum but they don’t cry for her. She is amazing.’
[Mother of a four and a half year old, a 20 month old and five month old triplets]

For parents worried that they are unable to meet their children’s needs, knowing another adult cares for and loves their children can be very important. One mother of twins and an older child with no family in the UK described how the whole family benefits from the children being loved and cared for by another adult.

‘Katy, the eldest, she loves Sally. Mummy does not have time anymore but Sally can just play with her. She is a surrogate granny and the children all snuggle up to her and she is such a good influence on all our lives. Now even the younger ones will just crawl into her arms. Katy asks me every day, is Sally coming today?’
[Mother of a three and a half year old and 16 month old twins]

Improvements in their development and social skills
Some parents struggle to stimulate their children. This may be due to physical barriers, for example an inability to leave the house without help with triplets. Or it can be due to their own poor mental health: women with depression are conscious they cannot offer their children the care they would like to. Home-Start volunteer befrienders can make all the difference in these families.
Those parents attending the family group are particularly aware that their children are learning valuable skills in sharing with others, taking turns and interacting in groups.

‘Here Ali can enjoy playing with other children.’
[Single mother who is living in shared temporary accommodation with her child]

‘Now (he is) learning. He learns to play, to share. It is good sharing.’
[Mother of three children aged eight, seven and two]

Parents feel better able to cope with their physical and mental health issues
Pre intervention 16 out of 37 parents identified that they needed help coping with their children’s physical health. On a five point scale where 1 is not coping well and 5 is coping very well, at the time of referral to Home-Start these parents rated their ability to cope with their children’s physical health at an average 2.9 score. After at least six months of support from Home-Start their scores increased to an average of 3.6: an increase of 14%.

Pre intervention 7 out of 37 parents identified that they needed help in coping with their children’s mental health. On a five point scale, at the time of referral, these parents rated their capacity to cope with their children’s mental health at an average score of 2.4. After at least six months of support from Home-Start their scores increased to an average of 3.7: an increase of 26%.

It is hard to summarise the passion with which women spoke about Home-Start. The data and the quotes cannot convey the sense of relief parents described when realising they had found a reliable service at a time in their lives when they were struggling, feeling isolated and finding the future hard to contemplate. One young mum said she was sure that without Home-Start she would have stopped coping altogether. Her GP was trying to increase her medication and she was thinking she would have to ask her husband to give up work as she could not manage each day. But it is also the simple things that the project offers that the parents appreciate greatly.

One mother who had mental health problems talked of the joy of sharing a cup of tea and a chat each week. Another young woman living in homeless accommodation laughed when recalling:

‘We went on an outing on the 23 of July to Southend and it was just being able to take Ali to the seaside… he had never seen the sea before. He felt the sand and held the shells.’
[Single mother who is living in shared temporary accommodation with her child]

Those using Home-Start’s services are frequently coping with a range of challenges: poverty, ill health, bereavement, isolation and depression. Home-Start provides flexible support to parents and children, developing parents’ confidence & support networks, breaking down isolation and offering practical help and respite when families cannot cope. But the evidence from the parents themselves is that Home-Start does so much more, offering hope and friendship when they most need it.

‘She (volunteer) is proof week after week that there are people, wonderful people out there like that…we have benefited so much’