Interview - Rob Parkinson

Chief executive of Home-Start UK

Congratulations on securing a three-year funding boost of £897,000 from the National Lottery…

The funding we have got is excellent news and will help support the process we have begun in the past few years of merging and forming consortiums from our 240 volunteer-led parent-to-parent support charities, making them more attractive prospects for investment.

Why have you decided to make these mergers?

Like all public and charitable sector organisations we faced financial challenges from 2007, and a number of Home-Starts were forced to close. Over the last decade quite a few went out of business. We realised we had to think differently to keep providing amazing family support but also be competitive. We decided that where we have quite a few Home-Starts in one local area, the challenge could become part of the solution. By bringing them together in a consortium or merging, we can ensure lower operating costs and much higher impact, as well as greater prospects to grow in the future.

What will this mean for Home-Start?

This consolidation is an opportunity to rethink how to deliver support using not just statutory or single forms of funding but lots of different sources. We have gone down from being 90 to 65 per cent dependent on statutory funding in recent years, which shows good income diversification.

Will this change Home-Start?

It is very important to us that we protect our legacy based on communities, volunteers and being very local. Home-Start began with a single model in 1970s Leicester to become a network supporting 30,000 families and children. We want to make sure we do not lose any connectivity with volunteers and families as that is really our USP.

How will you use this experience to inform practice in the future?

We see this very much as a platform for growth. We also want to pull together evaluation reports, run seminars and investigate other ways of disseminating information so others can benefit from what we have learned. It would be a huge lost opportunity if we were unable to share this experience and outcomes.

Why is this funding so important?

Home-Start’s work has never been more necessary. The number of families we have coming forward for help is increasing. We are a massively successful organisation and good at what we do, but we are almost a victim of our own success. Changes in economic conditions mean families are facing all sorts of new pressures. The evidence-based, non-judgemental support we offer is something that families as well as partner organisations can find extremely helpful.

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