Frequently Asked Questions About Our Volunteer Family Support Service

Who can be referred?

It is our aim at Home-Start East Sussex to operate an open policy ensuring that support is available to any family who lives in East Sussex that is experiencing stress or difficulty and who has at least one child under the age of five. However, funding restrictions do not always make this possible, and as a result the availability of our service can change from year to year.

Who can make referrals?

Anyone can complete an Enquiry Form whether it is on behalf of themselves or others.  If an agency would like us to support one of their service-users it is their responsibility to consult with them and get permission to share the personal information requested on the form.  We will follow up all Enquiry Forms.

Feel free to contact Egle on 07395 791374 for an informal chat in the first instance. We will always respond to you within 5 working days. We only restrict support where there is a lack of resources.  We no longer accept referral forms for the reasons outlined on the Services page.

How do I refer a family?

Any family that has at least one child under 5 or any agency can complete an Intake form.  Before submission,  it is the agencies responsibility to gain permission from families regarding the personal information requested on the referral form.

All referrals received will be assessed to determine whether or not:

  • the family has willingly chosen Home-Start East Sussex support
  • the referral falls within the remit of the service remit (e.g. child under 5, safe for volunteer to visit)
  • the referrer needs to provide further information prior to a home-visit initial assessment by the coordinator
  • the scheme is likely to have the resources to support the family

Referrals can be made by families by submitting an Intake Form.  Feel free to contact Egle on 07395 791374 for an informal chat in the first instance. We will always respond to you within 5 working days.

What happens if we cannot support a family?

We may not be able to support a family due to a lack of resources or because the family do not meet the remit of the service (see section above.)  If this is the case, we will confirm with the family and the referral agency and will endeavor to signpost them to another agency.

What happens if a referral is accepted?

All enquiries will be followed up by an informal chat on the phone to the family.  Once accepted for Home-Start support families will receive an initial visit by a coordinator to clarify their needs and the volunteer support that Home-Start can offer.

Do you have a waiting list?

Home-Start East Sussex aims to provide support to families as soon as possible, but where there is not a volunteer available immediately the family will be asked if they want to go on a waiting list. The majority of families are linked within four weeks of referral, however on occasion families may be waiting longer than this, or be told that support is unavailable for the foreseeable future and be taken off the waiting list. Referrers will be given an update on a monthly basis.

How are agencies be kept informed of the progress of a third party enquiry ?

Agencies will be informed by the coordinator:

  • when the enquiry has been accepted or rejected
  • when support is offered to a family, i.e. they are linked with a volunteer
  • a family is placed on the waiting list
  • support to a family ends

The agency will be phoned at the commencement of support and at the end of support to a family.

Agencies are given the opportunity to comment on the service offered by Home-Start East Sussex at the end of support to families via a questionnaire.

How are volunteers matched with families?

The coordinator pays careful attention to matching volunteers’ skills and experience to the needs of families. Many factors are taken into consideration, including:

  • the family’s needs
  • the volunteer’s aptitudes, skills and experience
  • practical considerations: geography, transport and time
  • mutual interests or life experience
  • what motivates the volunteer
  • issues around culture, gender, background and disability

The success of Home-Start support is dependent on the relationship that develops between the family and the volunteer, so coordinators make every effort to match sensitively and appropriately.  The coordinator always accompanies the volunteer on the first visit to introduce the volunteer to the family, set the ground rules for visiting and to agree an action plan (the discussion is led by the family). The coordinator will stay as long as appropriate to support the family and volunteer to get to know each other.

Do you have a confidentiality policy?

All personal information about parents and families is treated as confidential to be discussed only as necessary with the coordinator in support of the volunteer and to assist the family. Any disclosure of confidential information to any other person may only be undertaken with the expressed permission of the parents for the purpose of assisting the family, except where it is considered necessary for the welfare and protection of a child when information shall be shared with the appropriate authority.

How long is support offered for?

Volunteers provide support  for 2-3 hours per week for approximately three months, focussing on one or two key objectives. Home-Start East Sussex’s aim is to encourage families towards independence so that the volunteer is no longer needed. The review process will determine how long the volunteer’s support is likely to be needed and clear plans will be made for ending the support in discussion with the volunteer and family.

Do you offer other support in addition to home visiting volunteers?

Subject to funding, families can be offered support for other specific needs, which complements our family support service.  For details of the services currently please click here.

How are volunteers screened?

All volunteers meet the requirements of our personal specification. They are risk assessed and we take up two references before inviting them to attend an eight day accredited preparation course.  They have to pass an enhanced DBS check and undergo a final interview before a decision is made about their suitability for placement with a Home-Start family.