Charity (no. 1122122)

Home-Start West Dorset (HSWD) - DT1 Dorchester

"HSWD will help parents discover or rediscover the joy of parenting."

Who We Help, Why We Help & the Difference It Makes

Many parents need help, friendship, advice or support during those early years when children are young. There is no rulebook for raising a family and sometimes it can seem overwhelming, particularly if your family is going through difficult times.

Home-Start West Dorset is a local charity that provides friendship, advice and practical support to families in West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland. We believe that parents play the key role in giving their children a happy and secure childhood.

Our support is offered at a time to suit the family and for as long as it is required.  It focuses on what the family needs, as identified by the parent, and can include practical or emotional support and aims to help the parent meet the needs of their children.  The service is open to all families who have at least one child under the age of five, regardless of means or situation.

Maybe you need someone to talk to who won't judge you; a shoulder to cry on or perhaps someone to play with or read to your children; maybe a bit of support to make or keep appointments or someone to introduce you to local activities.  You decide.

You can self-refer at any time, or ask your Health Visitor or another professional or agency working with you. The support starts and is based in the home, although during COVID-19 it is telephone, text or video support.  We are now able to provide some face to face support to families in exceptional circumstances both outside and occasionally in the home. It focuses on the issues, concerns and needs of the individual family.  We provide our support to families as long as we have an appropriate volunteer available. Volunteers are supported by staff with on-going training and supervision.

Following referral, contact is arranged by staff with the family where, through discussion with the family, their support needs are recognised.   The staff member then identifies the best matched volunteer who can meet those needs. The volunteer’s skills, temperament, depth of need and availability are assessed.  A ‘match’ meeting is then arranged between the family and the volunteer and objectives of support are agreed. Weekly support then begins. Families are supported for 6 – 12 months and sometimes longer if required. Family support can begin at any time of the year.

The service is provided by the recruitment of volunteers, who are parents themselves and living in our communities, so they are familiar not only with the challenges of family life but also with resources and specific challenges of the community. They are prepared for their family support role through an indepth training course.

Our Services Are


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What We Do

A Home-Start volunteer will visit you in your own home, usually once a week, for a couple of hours. During the COVID pandemic the support may be through telephone calls, text messaging and video calls although some face to face support can be arrange in some circumstances. You decide what you will do together. They can help you with practical tasks, offer advice and share their experience of being a parent or support you through emotional issues.

Our volunteers will:-
  • help you establish routines for you and your children while you’re going through such a huge change to your life
  • listen to your worries, concerns and hopes for your family
  • be there because they want to be – not because someone has ‘sent’ them 
  • offer a shoulder to cry on
  • share their own experiences of parenting and family life
  • give you a break
  • offer advice if you ask for it
  • provide support, friendship and encouragement
  • help you get to appointments
  • help you access benefits, grants and financial support
  • help you use local services or specialist support
  • help you get involved with your local community

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Volunteers [Home-Visiting]

Our Home-Visiting Volunteers deliver the befriending service unique to the Home-Start approach. They are matched with families by the Home-Start Organisers and support parents as they grow in confidence, strengthen their relationship with their children and widen their links with the local community. Support is tailored according to the needs of each individual family. Home-Start volunteers are expected to work towards increasing the family’s confidence and independence by:

·         Offering support, friendship and practical help

·         Visiting the families in their own homes, where the dignity and identity of each individual can be respected and protected.  This is assessed during the COVID pandemic and  support offered may be via telephone contact, text messaging or video calls. Some outside face to face meetings may also take place but as a volunteer you can decide the level of support you are able to offer. 

·         Reassuring families that difficulties in bringing up children are not unusual

·         Emphasising the positive aspects of family life

·         Developing a relationship with the family in which time can be shared and an understanding can be developed

·         Encouraging parents’ strengths and emotional well-being for the ultimate benefit of their own children

·         Encouraging families to widen their network of relationships and to use effectively the support and services available in the community.

Can my support and friendship really make a difference?

·         All parents know that those early years before children go off to school are vital in a child’s life and at Home-Start we believe parents have the key role in creating a secure childhood for their children. It’s just that sometimes they need a bit of help...your help.

As a volunteer what would I actually do?

·         Usually you visit a family in their own home once a week for 2-3 hours. How you help is really down to the family itself. Some might need someone to talk to… others may need more practical support with meal planning and cooking, reading to the children, going to the local park, or finding out about local services.

The level of support offered is assessed  on an individual basis during the COVID pandemic and  support offered may be via telephone contact, text messaging or video calls. Some outside face to face meetings may also take place but as a volunteer you can decide the level of support you are able to offer. 

Do I need any qualifications to be a volunteer?

·         The only real ‘qualification’ is experience of bringing up children. Friendliness and a caring attitude are essential as well as an understanding of the pressures of parenting. We value people who don’t judge others; people who will respect the fact that they have been invited into a family’s home; people who will treat a mother or father as an equal.

Do volunteers get any training?

·         Yes, we give high priority to the recruitment, induction, training and support of all our volunteers. You will be supported during your training and throughout your contact with families. Home-Start’s highly rated Preparation Course. Once you have completed this training you will continue to be supported and updated. 

Volunteers [Operations and Fundraising]

The role of our Operational Volunteers is to assist the staff and Trustees of Home-Start West Dorset with a range of tasks, other than home visiting, to support the running of the scheme. These tasks can include:

·         Helping with fundraising events

·         Clerical and admin tasks in the office, such as photocopying and word processing

·         Compiling and maintaining information databases

·         Assembling information packs

·         Developing the website

·         Helping out at information and publicity events

·         Helping with the production of reports and newsletters


Volunteers [Trustees]

The combined Trustees of Home-Start West Dorset hold the Scheme in trust for current and future beneficiaries by:

·         Providing leadership and direction for the scheme within the ethos and values of Home-Start

·         Ensuring that the scheme has a clear mission, vision and strategic direction and is focussed on achieving these

·         Being responsible for the effective performance and management of the scheme

·         Ensuring that the scheme complies with all legal and regulatory requirements, the objects of the charity, the governing documents include the Home-Start standards and Methods of Practice and the Agreement and quality standards

·         Securing and acting as guardians of the scheme’s assets

·         Ensuring that the scheme’s governance is of the highest possible standard

·         Undertaking an ambassadorial role for Home-Start 

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Additional Info

Connect with Home-Start West Dorset (HSWD) - DT1 Dorchester today to find out more

Get in touch