East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) received funding from the Arm Community Fund to support their ongoing Help at Home initiative in Cambridgeshire. The service matches local volunteers to families caring for a life-threatened child, to provide support with household tasks.

Caring for a life-threatened child can be time-consuming and exhausting, as parents/carers deal with their child’s complex medical needs 24 hours a day. Many families find it simply impossible to keep on top of household tasks as well as providing all the care that their child needs. EACH’s Help at Home service has provides these families with practical support, helping them to complete essential tasks like cleaning, cooking, shopping and gardening.

The initiative helps families to live more comfortably and improves their wellbeing, as they know that important tasks have been dealt with and their home is in a cleaner and/or more organised state. The support also enables families to have one less thing to worry about, meaning that they can dedicate more time to their child’s care, or to spending quality time together as a family. Time is, of course, extremely precious and limited for the families of life-threatened children, so support with time-consuming tasks can be very beneficial.

Although Help at Home is a practical service, many families have also reported that having a volunteer come to their home to help with household tasks has provided them with an important social opportunity. Parents and carers of life-threatened children can often find themselves isolated as result of their child’s condition. They often do not have a lot of spare time to socialise and, unfortunately, many find that their friends and family distance themselves because they are uncomfortable with, or unsure how to respond to, the child’s condition. Help at Home volunteers have been able to reduce the isolation and improve the social and emotional wellbeing of these families, often simply by having an informal chat as they complete their work, or over a cup of tea.

A person painting a wooden fence and gate.

It became more than providing a cooked meal after a few weeks. I looked forward to Wednesday as I knew there will be someone to talk to. I knew, for that hour, I could be myself and not just a mum, with someone to talk to, and that would listen to me and not judge me, someone that I could be completely honest with. For me, I think that was a big part of the service as it helped the isolation that I feel sometimes.

A mum supported by the initiative

Volunteers have also benefitted from the opportunity to socialise with new people and to provide support directly to families in need within their local community. The Help at Home initiative has also enabled some volunteers to improve their confidence, self-esteem and sense of community.