431 volunteers supporting children and families in the Sure Start Centres!
Sure Start Children’s Centre volunteers are recruited as part of the Children’s Centres’ strategy of improving life chances for young children by supporting the experience of parents or carers who want to get back into work, linking them to family learning or adult education, and encouraging parents or carers to improve their qualifications. All volunteers attend a 6 week course with a chance to attend a further short course to become a more specialist volunteer in breastfeeding peer support or as a perinatal befriender. There are currently 431 active volunteers working in Children Centre service providing over 12,000 hours a year contribution to the community. They carry out a range of functions such as leading parent and toddler groups, supporting workers delivering an adult education course, working on reception or maintain the environment (work on Children’s Centre allotments or gardens). Other more specialist roles include representing the community on Local Advisory Groups and home visiting as part of our nationally recognised perinatal befriender service, Footsteps.
The impact of volunteers working in children centres can be summarised:
· For parents and children, volunteers bring extra capacity and provide an informal reassuring presence for families using children's centres. They act as role models to the local community, and contribute unique skills and experience as well as bringing practical support and providing a pastoral role to families
· For children's centres and staff, volunteers enhance the children's centre environment, whether it is the result of supporting staff to work with more parents or in strengthening links with the local community
· For the local community, volunteers increase use of and reach of children's centres and provide positive role models for the community. They help to break down any stigma of using the children's centre, widen participation and become a community resource by creating new relationships between people
· For volunteers themselves, volunteering brings a range of benefits including an increase in confidence and feelings of self-worth, as well as a route to employment, education or training
We are proud of the journey each volunteer takes. For some parents or carers of young children, the journey starts with support for them and their family and gaining confidence as an adult. One recent Patient Opinion posting describes a typical journey
“Had a lovely time working as a volunteer for sure start all staff was lovely to work for and built up my confidence and self-esteem. Louise and Sara was fab help me a lot with my family life and supported me at hard times……. will miss all the sure start workers, I started at a parent s group and moved in to doing groups under ones, messy play, open house and more groups met some lovely mums and dad and baby's will miss them lots. I think the awards nights for volunteers and their families were brill, they made me feel worth while and appreciated. I have now got myself a part time job so I have left volunteering, thanks for everything I will be back”