Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Home Start help for families

I have often talked about the wonderful army of volunteers in West Sussex. The other day I met with such a group at the Chichester Home Start office.

I attended the launch of Home Start in Chichester four years ago, so I was really interested to hear how they were getting on.

Home Start is a charity which provides trained volunteers to visit families with young children and help build their confidence and independence. Volunteers are matched with a family to provide on-going support.

The role is varied and very much depends on the needs of the family. A volunteer usually visits once a week for half a day, although travelling and preparation means this can often take a full day.

The support given can vary, one volunteer described how she accompanied a mother with a sick child to visit a paediatrician. The mother was very nervous about the visit but found confidence with the volunteer’s support. Another spoke about helping a young family living in cramped accommodation and encouraging them to get out and about.

Several volunteers mentioned that often the parent, because of their situation, feels very isolated, so when they visit the parent really welcomes the opportunity to talk to someone who is independent and non-judgemental.

It was a fascinating morning listening to the volunteers, all of different ages and life experiences, who talked so passionately and enthusiastically about their work. Equally impressive was that all of them were undertaking other voluntary work as well! What amazing people.

Families can refer themselves to Home Start, or be referred by doctors, nurses, social workers, or friends. Having an independent friendly person to help parents is so useful, and this can often prevent small scale problems escalating into much bigger ones.

The County Council is committed to supporting and helping families who are going through difficult times. The support from organisations such as Home Start is vital in helping these families to support themselves in the future.

Home Start has local offices covering all of West Sussex in Arun; Chichester and District; Crawley, Horsham and Mid Sussex; and Worthing and Adur. To find out more visit their website at www.home-start.org.uk.

Best wishes,

Monday, 13 August 2012

Building on Olympic success

The Olympic Games were a terrific success from the moment London 2012 started with the spectacular opening ceremony. Who would have guessed that Her Majesty the Queen in her Diamond Jubilee Year would become the latest ‘Bond girl’? But that just epitomised the British sense of fun, joining in and being a good sport, which is part of the uniqueness of the UK, and which was so well captured during the opening ceremony.

After a slow start on the medal front, like a runner holding back at the beginning of a race, Team GB sped to the fore and well surpassed itself coming in third position for medals. It was an amazing feat for all our competitors. Just to qualify meant performing to an extremely high standard and years of dedication, determination, and self-discipline.

For those who won medals, the performances have been outstanding and our champions have truly demonstrated their determination to excel and win in their particular sport.

Although like many other countries, the UK is in difficult economic times, it is uniquely British that, when it comes to the chips being down, we rise to the occasion and exceed expectations - something we have demonstrated as a nation over the centuries in many ways and one reason I am proud to be British.

Now the show is over, and what a show it was, we must build on what has been achieved in so many ways, by so many.

From the Olympic Village being the most sustainable and completed on time and on budget, to the organisation, despite all the doubters, and the fantastic army of volunteers who have rightly been recognised for being so helpful and friendly. They were great ambassadors for the UK. Then, of course, there were the competitors and their supporting teams of trainers, coaches, physios - the list goes on.

There is rightly much talk of the legacy, or building on the tremendous success and here is an important role for politicians national and local.

We need to ensure that future generations can develop their talent and that there are well trained professionals and volunteers to support, guide and help them to achieve and excel.

We must encourage and support that wonderful army of volunteers, and help businesses and tourism to grow.

Working together building on the success provided by so many others is the way forward, and we must make sure we do not drop the baton.

Finally, the excitement is not quite over.

Next up are the Paralympics, when we will all, I am sure, salute the very special achievements of sportsmen and women who will be competing against all the odds.

I hope these games will also capture the public imagination.

Best wishes,


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