New ‘stay and play’ groups for parents and children in Portsmouth have been praised

Gemma Weir and Michelle Frank. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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NEW stay and play sessions for parents and their young children have been praised.

Charity Home Start has been working with Portsmouth City Council to recruit, train and support volunteers to run the new groups in the city’s family hubs.

There are currently 15 volunteer-led sessions giving parents and children the chance to meet new friends, socialise and play together.  

Due to their success, there are plans to expand the groups for parents of young people.

Louise Boyle, business manager at Home Start, said: ‘Our volunteers play a vital part in providing this key service for families.

‘They’re responsible for the running of groups, including setting up and packing away and welcoming families.

‘Twenty volunteers run the weekly stay and play groups so parents attending will have a regular volunteer at their session to enable them to build on-going relationships with families.’

Lynda O’Connor is a volunteer for Home Start Portsmouth and mum to Liam, aged 18 month, and three-year-old Toby. She runs the stay and play group at the Buckland family hub.

She said: ‘I run this group every week and also attend other groups with my boys. I started volunteering for the stay and play groups in October and got all the training and help I needed to be able to set up the group.

‘I love doing craft activities with my children and making things for the group to do and play.

‘I’m thinking of becoming a childminder and doing this provides an excellent insight to that work and is also great experience.’

Lynda said she liked that her sons can socialise with others while she helps support the parents.

‘It’s good for my sons to be able to interact with other children at these groups and I enjoy the interaction with other parents too,’ she added.

‘We share stories and experiences and provide support to each other.’

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the council, praised the volunteers.

He said: ‘Our family hubs provide great opportunities for families to meet, socialise and provide support to each other. 

‘Volunteers like Lynda are invaluable and we thank them for their contribution.’

Anyone who would like to volunteer or run a stay and play session should call Home Start Portsmouth on (023) 9273 4400.