West Dorset family help charity closes amid financial crisis

Charity

A charity that supports local families with young children has announced its closure after failing to secure sufficient funding to continue operations.

Home-Start West Dorset, which has been operating in Dorchester for 15 years, said the closure came after it failed to gain major long-term funding and was unsuccessful in securing alternative grants.

It added that since the Covid-19 pandemic, the funding landscape has become “increasingly challenging” and the needs of families supported by the charity have grown more complex.

“During the present cost-of-living crisis, the competition for funding has increased significantly and priorities for funders, as well as ability to meet demand and the urgency to meet many of the current needs, has meant many smaller charities like ours, sadly, are under threat and closing,” the charity said.

Helen Horsley, manager of Home-Start West Dorset, said she was “devastated” at the charity’s closure. 

She said: “It has been an honour to be part of the organisation since the beginning and work alongside so many dedicated volunteers, trustees and staff members that have made Home-Start West Dorset the success it was.”

Home-Start West Dorset made the official decision to close at an EGM today (2 November), but will not fully close its operations until the end of the month. 

In a statement on its website, Home-Start West Dorset confirmed that staff had received redundancy letters. The charity has six employees, according to its website.

The charity said: “Most of our staff have found new ways forward and will continue to contribute to local families. Meanwhile, they have worked hard to find alternative and appropriate ongoing support for the families they have been supporting.”

Home-Start West Dorset offers advice and practical support to local families with at least one child under the age of five, through volunteer home-visits. This includes families struggling with complex issues such as post-natal depression and physical and mental health problems.

Home-Start West Dorset is self-governed but is part of a network of about 180 independent charities that receive support from the community network Home-Start UK. 

A spokesperson from Home-Start UK said the Dorset branch was a relatively small Home-Start and that trustees decided to close due to a lack of funding, particularly long-term funding.

They said: “It is a very challenging time for small community charities across the UK. Pressures on income, coupled with rising prices and growing demand, has made delivering these services increasingly difficult. Sadly, when a Home-Start is no longer sustainable it might have no option but to close.

“It is, however, a very mixed picture and, at the same time, across the UK, other Home-Starts are supporting more families than at any point in the last decade.”

Home-Start West Dorset has been working with neighbouring Home-Starts, including Home-Start Blackmore Vale and Home-Start Wessex, to find alternative support for families.

The Home-Start UK spokesperson added: “As in any situation where a local Home-Start is forced to close, Home-Start UK will work with other local Home-Starts in the area to see if support can be delivered again to that community.”

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