Supporting families in Essex

An Essex charity that provides support and practical help to vulnerable families with young children, has been awarded £35,000 from the Healthwatch Essex Fund.

Home-Start Essex will receive the grant over the next three years to launch a programme, assessing the current advice and guidance available to parents affected by antenatal mental health issues. The charity will recruit and train parents to become peer researchers, with the aim of developing an improved model to help as many people as possible.

The Fund, which is administered by Essex Community Foundation (ECF), was set up in 2016 and to date has distributed over £200,000 to support the work of voluntary and community organisations working across the county.

David Sollis, Chief Executive at Healthwatch Essex said: “One of our key roles is to provide first-class signposting and information services for the public. Through this funding our aim is to reach every parent in the county affected by peri/postnatal mental health, so they can share their experiences of accessing local health and care to ultimately help shape future support services. We are proud to be supporting this critical piece of work.”

Home-Start Essex also works with families who are struggling with physical health problems, bereavement, isolation and many other issues. This support is delivered through volunteer home-visiting, peer group support, targeted programmes and counselling.

Amie Craven, Development Manager at Home-Start Essex said: “We have seen an increasing demand for our services and are delighted to receive this support from the Healthwatch Essex Fund. Caring for children, particularly if you are a new mum, is not always easy and can, at times, be very stressful. Most parents can recall days when they would have liked to chat things through with a friend or to have someone to provide that extra pair of hands. Home-Start volunteers, who are mostly parents themselves, understand that need and are available to offer help.

She added, “Empowering parents who have accessed peri/postnatal services themselves, is vital to assessing how they can be improved. No-one should feel that they are alone and appropriate information, advice and guidance needs to be accessible, meaningful and useful”.

The work of this charity compliments the Healthwatch Essex Information service, which is available to anyone who needs to access health and care services for themselves or their friends or family in Essex. Since launching, it has helped 6,000 people, averaging 220 calls a month.

People can contact the Information Service on 0300 500 1895 or at [email protected].

For more information about ECF and how to apply for a grant, please visit their website or call 01245 356018.