News & Events

We mark 30 years of ensuring families don't fall through the net

11.02.2016 - 13:49

‘It’s been a life saver,’ says Kelly, speaking about the small local charity that supported her last year when she had post-natal depression and struggled to get out of bed.  ‘The things I was so worried about at the time have just disappeared. As a family we’re nearly there.  I feel so much better in myself.  I feel so much stronger and that I can do it now.’

Kelly is describing her experience with Sue, a volunteer home visitor provided by Home Link Family Support, an award winning Edinburgh and Midlothian charity that is 30 years old this month.

Home Link Family Support aims to give children a positive start in life by supporting families at home.  Regular help from a volunteer enables a family to develop skills that that they can draw on to increase their confidence in their ability to be good parents. So that they need less support from overstretched Health Visitors and Social Workers.

The volunteers receive extensive training to prepare them to be positive, non-judgemental and great listeners.  “It’s a big deal being invited into someone’s home,” says Sue, “it’s not easy to ask for help, and as a volunteer I really respect the family’s lifestyle and decisions.  I’m there to make things easier, and definitely not to wag a finger or judge.’

Sue visited Kelly for nearly a year and is moving on to a paid job supporting teenage parents. ‘I’d never have been brave enough to go for this job without the experience I got from volunteering,’ she says.

There are dozens of reasons that families ask Home Link Family Support for help: many are lonely and isolated; some want to be more confident parents; some are new to the area and need help to settle in; some mums have Post Natal Depression and need extra support. Families with children under five in South Edinburgh or Midlothian can refer themselves or ask their Health visitor about the service. 

The volunteer will fit in with what the family wants and help with outings, reading and playing, mealtimes and bedtimes; and will always have time to give space for the parents to discuss their worries and concerns.

Dave, a Volunteer in Midlothian says: ‘I feel I take some of the pressure off the family.  When you are helping with small children it doesn’t take a lot – most of the time I play games with the kids.  If it’s a nice day we go out into the garden and kick a ball about.  Or we play inside with toys, drawing and colouring in and we read a lot together.  I also make time for the other members of the family to ask how their week has been and any problems or concerns they have come up against and we have a laugh.  It gives the family a couple of hours every week that’s just for them.’

Thirty years ago Home link family support was just a tiny organisation in Oxgangs. Today it is still small but its 75 volunteers supported 135 families and 189 children in 2014/15. 75% of families they worked with in 2015 say that they are coping better and have improved their parenting skills; 60% say their relationships are better and 57% have also noticed an improvement in their health.

The charity is funded mainly Midlothian Council and Edinburgh City Council with generous support from The Robertson Trust, R S MacDonald,  Cattanach trust  and the Big Lottery Fund and many smaller trusts and foundations.

Their recent awards include Midlothian Volunteer Team of the year 2015 and have been rated Excellent twice by Quality in Befriending from Befriending Networks.

If you are thinking of volunteering this year and you’d like to work with children and families, Home Link Family Support would like to hear from you.

FAQs about volunteering

Apply to volunteer

Do you need help at home?

Happy New Year for 2016!

06.01.2016 - 10:06

Are you thinking about volunteering in 2016?  We have training courses for volunteers in February, April, August and November 2016.

The February Course for Family Support Volunteers is full, but there is space on the course for the Midlothian Young Parents Service

There's some places at the moment on the April Family Support Volunteers Course -  on Saturdays 16th, 23rd, 30th April, 7th May.

Get in touch for a chat about it with Jane 0131 661 0890   email:

or use our application form click here

Volunteer playing with children

Unloading van of hampers

We've teamed up with Fresh Start to deliver food and books to vulnerable families this Christmas

11.12.2015 - 12:16

Fresh Start and Home Link Family Support combined forces today to help families with pre-school children who are feeling the pressure of welfare reforms this Christmas.

Fresh Start have provided large red bags full of store cupboard essentials like tins of sausages, soup, vegetables and cereal.  Home Link Family Support will add children’s books and board games to the bags and use its energetic team of volunteers to distribute the fifty bags before Christmas to families in South Edinburgh and Midlothian. The books and games have been selected and donated by staff at Scott-Moncrieff and Lloyds.

The families who are already food bank users and at risk of homelessness are visited every week by a Home Link volunteer who offers practical and emotional support.

Home Link Family Support’s manager Paula Swanston says ‘”Our charity is just entering it’s 30th year helping families in Edinburgh and Midlothian we’ve never been needed as much as we are today. More and more of the families we are supporting are really struggling to make ends meet, our families who are on low income are the ones who are really stressed and making daily choices about what bills to pay, this is even more of an issue at Christmas. I’m so grateful that our volunteers can go into family’s homes to support parents with the simple things that have a big impact like offering opportunities to play and read to the children, as well as helping families access additional support like foodbanks.”

Keith Robertson from Fresh Start says ‘food poverty is a very real issue for a growing number of people, not just for those who have experienced homelessness but for anyone living on a low income. Thanks to our generous supporters donating food items, we can distribute food packs to local families who are really struggling, especially at a time of year where money has to stretch such a long way. Fresh Start is pleased to be able to work with Home Link Family Support to achieve our common goal of helping people experiencing poverty.’