Home-Start Cambridgeshire (HSC) are a charity working in the region to improve lives of families – and they exhibited at our most recent event in Cambridge looking to connect with developments and construction firms to help create better communities together. We took some time out from the event to hear about their aims, and how developers can help deliver better family lives through placemaking…


Q. How did your organisation form, and what are your aims?

Home-Start started in Leicester in 1973 and its success led to a network of local schemes – with the one in Cambridgeshire starting in 1989 as HS Cambridge. Since then other HSs were formed in the county, and in 2014 the 3 existing local HSs merged to form HS Cambridgeshire (HSC), covering the whole county.  Our aim is to give every child the best possible start in life.


Q. How would you define your mission as an organisation?

Parenting can be hugely demanding and, where there are additional issues such as isolation, parental mental health concerns, disability or multiple births, the need for support is clear. Home-Start Cambridgeshire offers practical and emotional support to develop parents’ confidence, independence, resilience and community connections. This early intervention, preventative work is a crucial factor in many parents’ and young children’s well-being.


Q. What support can Home-Start provide to families in need?

Our staff receive referrals from health visitors, midwives, GPs, social workers and other professionals. Families can also self-refer. A coordinator visits each referred family with at least one child under 5 in their own home to discuss their needs and to agree a family plan. A trained volunteer then visits the family weekly for 2 hours offering emotional and practical help for up to 6 months, including signposting to other organisations for specialist support e.g. with a disability or debt advice. Progress with the agreed plan is carefully monitored.

Home-Start support helps to:

  • Reduce family isolation and increase social support networks
  • Increase access to health, education and community services
  • Improve children’s health, well-being and development
  • Improve parents’ emotional health and well-being
  • Strengthen parent-child relationships
  • Develop and improve parenting skills

In 2018/19, families reported:

  • 98% coping better with their children’s emotional health and well-being
  • 88% feeling less isolated
  • 85% coping better with their mental health issues


Q. What more can the industry do to support communities?

By consulting and supporting organisations such as HSC, the needs of new communities can be addressed to avoid ‘new town blues’ which has been an issue in many areas. Building connections is key to families feeling a sense of belonging and thriving in their new surroundings.


Q. What can developers do to help improve well-being and support young families in their placemaking?

Many young families move into new communities where there are few facilities where they can meet other families and feel part of the excitement of being pioneers in a new area. Often facilities such as a children’s centre, shop and playground are built after a significant number of homes are completed and occupied. This means that families are isolated for significant amounts of time. If public transport is unavailable or too costly, families can be forced to remain in their homes, leading to isolation, parental mental health issues and a lack of opportunity for young children to develop social and physical skills. Added problems can be the mud or dust from nearby building work acting as a deterrent to walking in the area.

The issue of isolation and the lack of opportunities to mix with other residents could be helped by ensuring there is a café (perhaps a pop-up, moveable one) from day one, with seating to encourage people to talk to and make connections with each other. Workmen on site would also benefit from this facility.


Q. What does the future hold for Home-Start Cambridgeshire?

HSC is entirely dependent on fundraising to support families going through difficult times. We work hard to maintain the current level of service but would love to be able to accept all referrals, which would only be possible with increased funding.


Q. You recently exhibited at our Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Development Conference – what were the results of this for you?

We made a number of contacts in the industry: people and companies who were genuinely interested in our mission and whom we hope will support HSC in the future and therefore the families living in the many new communities in the county.


Our next event in Cambridge takes place on the 27th February. Click here for details >