20th Anniversary Somerset Stories: Home-Start West Somerset

We first funded Home-Start West Somerset in 2003 and since then we’ve awarded the charity almost £250,000. Home-Start West Somerset works with families in west Somerset, offering support, friendship and practical help to parents with young children in their local community.

Clare Pound, manager at the charity, told us how, thanks to their £6,129 grant from our Somerset Cost-of-Living Crisis Appeal, they’re able to meet more of the surging demand from families.

“If you work on the basis that good parenting is built on Maslow’s theory – starting with the basic care of physiological needs such as food, warmth, clothing, and housing – the impact of the current cost-of-living crisis means that all these basics have now increased in price. For example, infant formula is now 10% more expensive. Families are finding it tougher to put food on the table, heat their homes and clothe their children. These are testing and often upsetting times for families.

A family home needs to be kept warm for baby, so already higher than average heating costs are incurred in a home where earnings are often lower, due to a loss in parental income. And now, along with most other things during this crisis, childcare costs have risen, so we’re seeing parents cutting back on their hours at work.

Crafting during Home-Start West Somerset's 20th birthday party in 2022.

Crafting during Home-Start West Somerset’s 20th birthday party in 2022.

3.9 million children in the UK are currently living in poverty, and this increase in the cost of food, clothing, housing, bills and childcare will push many more families to the edge. The impact will be long lasting, and research shows that experiencing a period of poverty – even once during childhood – has consequences for almost every area of a child’s life, from their development, to their physical health and wellbeing.

It’s not even midday, and already a Village Agent has been in and taken some of our milk powder supplies, nappies and baby porridge, and there are two separate messages on our Facebook page asking for food and baby milk powder.

We see a single dad who has full custody of his child. He’s always managed to get by, and he works part-time while his child is in nursery on their allocated hours. He’s a very proud man, but he came to us a couple of weeks ago in a very anxious state about not being able to feed himself or his child. We bought him some shoes, as he was still wearing his broken summer sandals, we gave him some donated clothing, set up a weekly food box delivery, paid the membership fee at a local youth club (Minehead Eye) and covered their weekly entrance fee to a playgroup they attend.

Increasingly, we’re seeing new families coming to us for help. Our staff and volunteers are spending more time advising on finances, calling energy suppliers, helping with budgeting, and we’re also working harder to provide basic items in ways that allows the families to maintain their sense of pride.

No one wants to be in the situation where they need to ask for help to meet their basic needs – but that’s the reality for more and more families, now. The parents we see are genuinely scared and upset by the thought of how they’re going to feed their children and pay the bills.

A few positives that I should mention, though: families are creating their own network and supporting each other; whether it’s exchanging clothing with each other, or they’re walking together instead of using the car, or sharing tips on budgeting/where to get items cheaper. And they’re definitely making more use of local play areas instead of expensive trips out to playparks further afield. Home-Start is working to further encourage and facilitate this peer support and compassion that we’ve seen.

The financial support we’ve recently received from Somerset Community Foundation’s Cost-of-Living Crisis Appeal will not only help us with the rising operational costs like travel, phone, and bills, it will really help us to not have to make those tough choices when it comes to helping families on a one-to-one basis. We’ll be able to be more generous with the baby basic donations and cook more family meals.

It will make such a huge difference to so many families – and it will make a huge difference to us.”

7/3/2023


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