Family support service shuts doors

PUBLISHED: 02:01 23 June 2008 | UPDATED: 09:10 10 June 2010

ALL THAT is left of what once was one of the most important family services, available to the parents of Exmouth, is a dishevelled room. Home Start Exmouth began with a steering group in 1998 and, after receiving a grant of £130,000 from the National Lot

ALL THAT is left of what once was one of the most important family services, available to the parents of Exmouth, is a dishevelled room. Home Start Exmouth began with a steering group in 1998 and, after receiving a grant of £130,000 from the National Lottery in 2001, the voluntary organisation was finally able to offer a service of support, friendship and help to families at home with children under the age of five. Pat Eastwood, a community care worker for Social Services, joined forces with Debbie Burzza, a health visitor, after seeing a different way to help families - by integrating their volunteers into the home-life, becoming a friend and a helper. All the hard work and devotion was brought to an end this month because there was no funding left to help this small organisation, which needed £90,000 a year to keep running. The volunteers celebrated their years of success with a final, teary goodbye at a party at the Beacon Hotel, in Exmouth.Home Start East Devon, which it became known as after it expanded into Honiton two years ago, had 32 home-visiting volunteers from all backgrounds helping families at home, and its promise was to help families with twins, multiple births or pre-school children, lonely or isolated parents, families where there is ill health or special needs, mums who have postnatal depression, lone parents and families who are new to the area. Indeed any family, with at least one child under five, who is under pressure, can ask Home Start for help.Many cards were received from grateful families full of love and thanks to the volunteers. Family help is still available though the children centre in Moorfield Road, in Exeter, although the organisation, run by Devon Children's Trust, does not offer home-visiting by their staff.In her final speech, vice-chairman Pat Eastwood told how she herself had suffered postnatal depression. "There are many mums and dads facing problems every day in silence but the community must never give up on looking for every opportunity to support families.

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