I recently completed an external evaluation of Starting Right, a Big Lottery Fund project by Home-Start Thanet which addresses health inequalities by ensuring that local parents get the support to give their children the best start in life.

Thanet is a coastal district in Kent which includes the seaside resorts of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs. As we mentioned in the report, people used to flock to Thanet in the 18th century to bathe in the sea and drink the seawater which, they believed, had healing properties that would alleviate the ailments and diseases of the time.

Fast-forward to today and, in stark contrast, the health and wellbeing of those living in Thanet is amongst the worst in the country. Life expectancy in the most-deprived areas is 12 years lower than average, mental health needs are more prevalent in Thanet than any other district in the whole of the South of England and the district hosts half of the 10 most-deprived neighbourhoods in Kent.

Parents raising children in Thanet might face a number of challenges and Sharon Lewis, Executive Manager of Home-Start Thanet, explains how Starting Right helps and how she hopes our evaluation report will help the charity reach more families in future:

“Funding in the third sector, as with the statutory sector, is decreasing and for Home-Start Thanet the need to secure new funding is an ever-increasing issue. We commissioned Steve Allman, who has vast experience in evaluating and researching the impact of Home-Start schemes, to work alongside us to evaluate our current health and well- being programme, Starting Right.

The external evaluation was part of our commitment to The Big Lottery Fund, who funded the five-year programme but, just as importantly, to add strength to our new application focusing on mental health and psychological distress in adults and children.

Thanet composed of three large towns (Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs) has high levels of deprivation which puts enormous social, financial and emotional stress on local families. Home-Start Thanet offers a bespoke home-visiting service to families facing difficulties ranging from isolation; lone parents struggling with numerous demands, depression, anxiety, postnatal depression and the impact of domestic abuse.

Whilst the charity maintains evaluation and monitoring throughout all our early interventions with families, there is no doubt that having Steve’s well-researched external evaluation will strengthen our new funding application, plus highlight the support we are able to offer, not only for the agencies that refer to Home-Start Thanet, but also for families seeking support.

Steve spent time getting to know us, what we do and how we do it and then independently spoke and met with our volunteer mentors, external agencies and families. In addition he studied our statistical data and researched local needs. Steve’s friendly approach allowed him to easily engage with all our beneficiaries and this in turn will support us to go on to recruit and train local people to volunteer and to increase our support to families in Thanet.”

To find out more about Home-Start Thanet, including volunteering opportunities or how you can help, visit their website.

I'm passionate about the potential of charities and social enterprises and run my own consultancy helping them to evaluate impact and develop strategy. I'm particularly passionate about social inclusion and engaging vulnerable and marginalised groups. Also a proud Dad and future MAML :)

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