Scheme offering vital support to families is under threat

Members of the Home-Start team. Pictured, from left, Julie Nuttell, administrator, Judi Kay, scheme manager, Liz Thornton, co-ordinator, and Tracy Johnson, co-ordinator.
Members of the Home-Start team. Pictured, from left, Julie Nuttell, administrator, Judi Kay, scheme manager, Liz Thornton, co-ordinator, and Tracy Johnson, co-ordinator.

Vulnerable children and families could be left without a vital support service if proposed county council funding cuts go ahead.

Home-Start in Boston says it is facing an uncertain future as Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) considers whether or not to cut its annual funding of £54,585.

The charitable scheme has been running in Boston for 14 years - offering one-to-one support to families facing a variety of challenges.

Over the past year, paid staff supported 66 volunteers who provided support to 195 families with 405 children. They are currently supporting 120 families with about four new referrals being made each week.

Scheme manager Judi Kay said: “The work we do in the Boston area is hugely valued by families and the continued funding by the council is crucial to this work continuing beyond September, 2015.

“The gap caused by this loss of funding would be immense, not just for the organisation but, more importantly, to the families the funding enables us to support.”

She added: “The long-term impact our work has for families and children outweighs any savings this funding cut could bring in the short-term.”

Home-Start is a support network of volunteers working with families struggling with issues ranging from debt, domestic abuse, inadequate housing, mental health, disabilities or isolation.

LCC organised a two-week consultation on the services - which concluded on Friday.

One parent said the emotional support stopped her from feeling ‘suicidal’ - while another described it as a ‘lifeline’.

A volunteer added: “Without the support of Home-Start, these families would be left vulnerable, isolated and unsupported in many cases.”

Boston borough councillor Paul Gleeson has voiced his concerns about the proposals.

He said: “What is going to happen to all the families struggling to make ends meet who really benefit from this service?”

Andrew McLean, children’s services manager - commissioning at LCC, said the current contract ends on Tuesday - but they extended it a further six months following a consultation. He said the consultation looked at ‘how services are being provided with the possibility of reduced funding’.

Feedback from the consultation will be considered by the scrutiny committee on April 24 and then by the executive on May 5.

He added: “A number of options will be considered once the service review has been concluded.”