‘Without Home-Start we would have collapsed and failed’ says Hitchin dad after Herts funding cuts confirmed

Hugh Beardesmore Billings with his wife Jennie and daughter Celeste.

Hugh Beardesmore Billings with his wife Jennie and daughter Celeste. - Credit: Archant

A desperate dad has spoken of “the terror families now face” after Herts County Council cut funding to a vital service for vulnerable families.

Last week, County Hall’s cabinet decided to stop funding family support charity Home-Start for its home visiting service from September, saving £390,000 a year.

The decision has sparked concern for the 395 struggling families with young children in Herts which Home-Start currently supports. There are also fears over the future of the charity’s nine centres in the county, which include the North Herts branch in Letchworth and another in Stevenage.

The local authority has justified the cut by saying an increase in services provided by children’s centres, the expansion of free nursery education and an enhanced health visiting service mean there is a lot of support still available.

But father Hugh Beardesmore Billings, from Hitchin, has spoken of his family’s desperate need of Home-Start support, without which their future would have been bleak.

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He said: “When my child was severely injured during her birth, my wife – who also nearly died –and I both fell off a cliff.

“The nature of our daughter’s injuries were life-threatening, life-restricting and at that time potentially life-long. A terrible beginning.

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“As first time parents all our dreams, hopes, expectations and intentions fell apart there and then. All we had was a dark and foreboding prognosis. A bleak and virtually hopeless future.

“We are both highly educated, hard-working and deeply committed parents, and there is no doubt whatsoever that without Home-Start we would not be where we are today.

“I would have been unable to return to work in order to pay the bills and keep the roof above our heads.

“My wife would have been unable to attend the multiple weekly appointments with consultants, doctors, specialists and physiotherapists.

“We would not have been able to manage the constant supply and delivery of medical equipment, ancillary items, medicines and cleaning products from multiple sources, or recover our daughter’s vital supplies when those services regularly failed to provide.

“Without Home-Start, my wife would have spent much more than the first five months of our child’s life locked in a hospital room.

“Believe me, I could go on and on.

“We are intelligent, logical and high-functioning individuals.

“Without Home-Start we would have collapsed and failed, and who knows what more. We have been through three years of utter terror - complete and unyielding horror. Thank the gods for Home-Start. Thank everyone and everything for Home-Start.

“I don’t dare imagine the terror less educated and financially able families now face. Nor the increased financial costs on the NHS and the wider community infrastructure.

“Nobody who has had need of Home-Start would ever doubt the volunteers’ commitment, value or financial impact of not having them there.”

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