Home-Start West Berkshire

Giving Children the Best Start in Life


Are you a professional wanting to refer a family?

If you are a health visitor, doctor or any other professional working with families and you feel someone would benefit from our service, you can make a referral on their behalf, with their consent. Please phone us on  01276 681121 to discuss the family situation and if a referral is thought to be suitable we will send you a referral form to complete and return or you can download a referral form using one of the two options below. If you do not have Microsoft Word on your computer then please use the PDF version.

We do not operate a waiting list: family support is governed by the availability and suitability of volunteers. We will always give you guidance as to the current situation regarding volunteer availability.

What happens next?

  • We assess each referral to ensure the support required falls within Home-Start’s remit.
  • We will visit the family to discuss their needs and tell them about Home-Start’s service.
  • We will then identify a suitable volunteer whose skills and experience match the needs of the family.
  • As soon as a suitable volunteer is available, the co-ordinator will introduce them to the family and accompany them on their first visit. It may take time for a volunteer to become available and if a suitable match cannot be made then you will be informed.
  • We will let you know when Home-Start support starts and ends and may ask you for feedback about the impact our service had on the family.

We will provide regular updates, within confidentiality guidelines, on our progress with the family.

Referral FAQs

In the section below there are a series of questions. Click on the question or the + symbol at the end of the row to open up the answer.

Who can be referred?

It is our aim at Home-Start West Berkshire to operate an open referral policy ensuring that support is available to any family who is experiencing stress or difficulty and who has at least one child under the age of five.

Who can make referrals?

Families can refer themselves, or be referred to Home-Start West Berkshire by any agency, e.g. health visitor, social worker, family support worker, CPN, nursery teacher, etc.

How do I make a referral?

Before sending in a referral form families must be consulted, informed of the content of the referral form and show their agreement by signing the form.

All referrals received will be assessed to determine whether or not:

  • The family has willingly chosen Home-Start West Berkshire.
  • The referral falls within the remit of the scheme.
  • The referrer needs to provide further information prior to a visit by an organiser.
  • The scheme is likely to have the resources to support the family.

Referral Form Download

Printable version of the referral form (PDF)  

What happens if a referral is refused?


If the referral does not fall within the remit of the scheme or there are insufficient resources to provide support, the referral with be rejected and the referrer will be informed that Home-Start West Berkshire can not help on this occasion.

What happens if a referral is accepted?

All referrals that are accepted for Home-Start support will receive an initial visit by an organiser before support is offered to clarify their needs and the support that Home-Start can offer. Home-Start West Berkshire will then look for a suitable volunteer for the family and oversee the initial match.

Do you have a waiting list?

Home-Start West Berkshire aims to provide support to families as soon as possible. When there is not a volunteer available immediately the family will be informed. The family will then be re-contacted as and when an appropriate volunteer becomes available.

How will I be kept informed of the progress of the referral?

Referrers will be informed by the co-ordinator:

  • When the referral has been accepted or rejected.
  • When support is offered to a family, i.e. they are linked with a volunteer or start to attend a group.
  • An update will be sent following a family review.
  • Support to a family ends.

A letter will be sent to the referrer at the commencement of support and at the end of support to a family.

All other contact with referrers is usually made by phone.

Referrers are given the opportunity to comment on the service offered by Home-Start West Berkshire at the end of support to families via a referrers’ questionnaire.

How are volunteers matched with families?

The co-ordinator pays careful attention to matching volunteers skills and experience to the needs of families. Many factors are taken into consideration, including:

  • The family’s needs.
  • The volunteer’s aptitudes, skills and experience.
  • Practical considerations: geography, transport and time.
  • Mutual interests or life experience.
  • What motivates the volunteer.
  • Issues around culture, gender, background and disability.

The success of Home-Start support is dependent on the relationship that develops between the family and the volunteer, so co-ordinators make every effort to link sensitively and appropriately.

The co-ordinator always accompanies the volunteer on the first visit to introduce the volunteer to the family and set the ground rules for visiting. The co-ordinator will stay as long as appropriate to support the family and volunteer to get to know each other.

Do you have a confidentiality policy?

All personal information about parents and families is treated as confidential, to be discussed only as necessary with the co-ordinator in support of the volunteer and to assist the family. Any disclosure of confidential information to any other person may only be undertaken with the expressed permission of the parents for the purpose of assisting the family, except where it is considered necessary for the welfare and protection of a child when information shall be shared with the appropriate authority. Home-Start Standards and Methods Practice.

How long is support offered for?

Volunteers provide continuous, regular support for a period of time consistent with a family’s needs. These are assessed initially and reviewed periodically.

Home-Start West Berkshire’s aim is to encourage families towards independence so that the volunteer is no longer needed. The review process will determine how long the volunteer’s support is likely to be needed and clear plans will be made for ending the support in discussion with the volunteer and family.

Do you offer other support in addition to home visiting volunteers?

Families can be offered support outside their home, which complements home-visiting support, for example, family groups, outings, parenting information.

Families may be offered alternatives to home-visiting volunteers if it is felt to be more appropriate.

How are volunteers screened?

All volunteers meet the requirements of our personal specification. They are interviewed before being invited to attend a 6 week preparation course and will undergo a final interview before a decision is made by the co-ordinator about their suitability for placement with a Home-Start family. We take up 2 References and a DBS check.

Next: Volunteering