STAFF at Bridlington’s Homestart service, which is set to close its doors next week, have warned that families in need of their support could “slip through the cracks” after its closure.
Homestart Bridlington and Driffield, based at the Community and Resource Centre on Victoria Road, found out that they were losing their funding from East Riding of Yorkshire council last August and close for good next Friday, March 30, after 14 years in the town.
Now members of staff are worried about what their closure will mean for those they support, and have warned that many more families in the town could become subject to Child Protection Plans from Social Services.
Heather Hoggart-McKue, a co-ordinator at Homestart, said: “The most frustrating thing is that all the agencies that we work with are saying how much we are needed.
“Social Services cannot do what we are doing at the moment. I just do not know what will happen to the families we help. I would say that 65 per cent of the families will not engage with the Children’s Centre, or elsewhere. A level of trust is built up between ourselves and the families.
“All of the people we work with have said they are devastated that we are closing. One family said ‘I don’t know what I’ll do without you’.
“Social services have a threshold, and unless the case crosses that threshold then they can’t deal with it. If someone had a problem we could deal with, it may not get as far as Social Services. Some families will inevitably slip through the cracks.”
Heather says that it costs £326 a year for Homestart to support a child, but up to £3,500 a month for the local authority once a case reaches social services. “There will be lots of issues; housing issues, health problems. One of the biggest problems we face is encouraging families to help their children achieve their potential.
“Children will drop below the poverty line. Some of the time, parents may have mental health issues which need close support. Long term, more children in Bridlington will end up on Child Protection Plans,” continued Heather.
Rita Pygott, the chair of the board of trustees, said that Homestart - which helps provide support to local families dealing with post-natal illness, isolation, bereavement, domestic abuse and depression - have sent out “literally hundreds of letters” in a search for funding, but have had very few responses. When they have received a reply, organisations have been unable to help.
She said: “Some funding opportunities could only help with equipment, but not with bills or salaries.
“We received a list of potential fundraising sources from Greg Knight MP, but apart from three or four, we had already tried them all.
“To keep us going, we would need between £55,000 and £60,000 a year. It seems like a drop in the ocean compared to what gets spent in other areas, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to secure it.”
Homestart employ three members of staff, with 30 volunteers, who helped support more than 70 families over the past year.
Rita, who worked in social care from 1988 until her retirement in 2004, said: “I know that some of our volunteers may carry on giving advice to families they’ve been helping, but they are not going to come under the umbrella of responsibility.
“The way Bridlington’s Children’s Centre have worked is that they deal with a case for 6 weeks before it’s referred to us. We just hope they have the manpower to pick up the slack.”
One concerned Bridlington resident, Angela Cooper, wrote to the Free Press to raise her concerns.
She said: “We have all read of the horrors of Adam Hewitt. Both his young victims and their mothers have suffered life changing consequences resulting in their seperation, because of him.
“It is to prevent incidents exactly like this being repeated on our doorstep that Homestart was founded.
“It can only increase the workload for an already over-stretched Social Services department.”
Bridget Bennett, early years and extended services manager at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “The withdrawal of funding is not a reflection on the service that has been delivered but as with all local authorities we had to review all our services and had to make decisions based on our resources available.
“Homestart did some valuable work but with our own children’s centres going from strength to strength and out-reach work developing, we’re able to reach more families.
“Those people who had been using Homestart will still be able to access early intervention services through the Bridlington Children’s Centre for any support they may need.
“We would like to thank staff, volunteers and the management committee members for their hard work and dedication in providing the Homestart service to families.”