A Huddersfield-based charity that provides families with confidential long term support through a network of expert trained volunteers has launched a vital new service to support local parents struggling with loneliness and isolation.

Home-Start Kirklees has seen a significant rise in the number of parents struggling to cope following the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

The additional stress brought on by the pandemic has heightened poor mental health, increased isolation and turned up financial pressures.

Of the 230 families supported by the charity in 2021-22, 90% said they were struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, referred parents will now be able to access these new peer support group sessions.

Parents and their children will be offered a safe space where alongside professionals and volunteers, they can make friends and receive support to help them address their family challenges.

Groups are available to families in North and South Kirklees. Parents will also be supported to feel more confident in accessing community-based provision in their local areas.

Group support will be particularly helpful to parents like Laura, mum to two young children under five. Struggling with feelings of isolation, her mental health deteriorated and she became more withdrawn.

Following a referral from her GP, a Home-Start volunteer worked with Laura to provide emotional support, encouraging Laura to access local stay and play sessions with her children, helping her to build new friendships with other parents.

Laura said: “My Home-Start volunteer was amazing. She gave me lots of practical help and emotional support. We used to laugh and sometimes cry together and she would always encourage me and tell me I could still do the things I thought I couldn’t.

“I am now in a much better place. I live independently in my own lovely house. My children attend school and nursery and I am learning to drive. My Home-Start volunteer was my rock. I will never forget her.”

Kerri Flanagan, director of Home-Start Kirklees, said: “Parenting during the pandemic has been particularly tough and now with the added worry about the cost-of-living crisis, it is a really challenging time for families.

“The increase in loneliness and isolation is worrying but we’re delighted to have the support of the National Lottery Community Fund to help create crucial peer support groups for some of the most vulnerable families in Kirklees.

“As a volunteer-led charity, these groups will rely heavily on kind-hearted volunteers who want to work alongside us to support local parents. If that sounds like you, then please do get in touch.”

Find out more about Home-Start Kirklees HERE.