THE Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Patrick Cunningham, attended one of his first engagements by joining Home-Start Winchester’s AGM via Zoom.

He said that he had first met Home-Start at the charity’s 2019 AGM and, after visiting their Family Group and talking to dedicated staff, he determined that Home-Start would be one of his three Mayoral charities which, including Youth Options and Young Carers, span the age range from birth to 18 years old.

Making her final chairman’s report before retiring from the Board, Liz Cooper reported that during the year 75 families with 170 children had been supported through home visits or by attending Home-Start Family Groups and during that time some 35 families had become confident enough to no longer require regular support.

“Our work builds parental confidence and resilience, enhances child attachment and reduces community isolation. This transforms children’s lives in terms of their health and well-being and their emotional, social and educational development,” she said.

“Most of the parents referred to us lack self-esteem and when first contacted are isolated and difficult to reach. Last year the recurring issues were children with special educational needs; children or parents with a serious illness, families dependent entirely on benefits, all compounded into around 70 per cent of the families having one or more parents medicated for mental health issues including post-natal depression.

“This year we have made significant progress in supporting families with additional needs; those living in hostel accommodation awaiting housing and those which have had to deal with issues generated by domestic violence now affecting around 25 per cent of the families we support.

“Having been a trustee since September 2005 and Chair since 2008, I am stepping down. As an ex- social worker, I have always valued the amazing work achieved by parents helping other parents and I am very happy and humbled to have been part of developing Home-Start Winchester.

“We have had an exceptional staff team and board of trustees and together we have built a highly professional and much-valued organisation supporting many vulnerable families, helping them to become more resilient and more able to give their children the best start in life.” she said.

Mrs Cooper paid tribute to Anne Macpherson who had retired after 15 years as senior co-ordinator and who, with great sensitivity and kindness had supported many families in crisis and led the staff team through many changes during that time.