How to get help from Home-Start

All parents struggle at one time or another. For some, the challenges can be greater. You are not alone.

Support from Home-Start

Support is offered rather than imposed upon and can either be referred through your Health Visitor/Any other Health Professional or a Self-Referral.

Reasons for support vary and can include: Isolation, first time parenting/lone parenting, difficulties in coping with children’s behaviour/development, physical or mental health issues within the family, multiple births/children, help with accessing services, meet other parents and children or the need for some time out.

Practical and emotional support is offered through: Home Visiting, Family Groups, Respite Play Group, Parenting Programmes and Seasonal Events (when funding allows).

Once a family is referred to us they will be contacted and informed about the different parts of our service, they are then able to decide on the best support for them.

How to get support

If you feel that you or someone you know could benefit from the support of Home-Start we try to make it as simple as possible for you.

You can either speak to your Health Visitor, GP, other Health Professional or your child’s nursery or care provider and ask them to refer you or you can call us and refer yourself, your friend or family member.

The only two things we require is your consent to the referral being made and that you have at least one child under five years old.

Home-Start Ards, Comber & Peninsula Area groups

Not all of our support and work happens in the family home. When that’s not right for a family, or where we are helping to address isolation and loneliness, create wider network and connections, building relationships and confidence, our groups are often a great way to get the help you need in the right environment. It is possible to receive support at home and in a group, start with a group and transition to home support or use a group as a transition period as home support reaches a conclusion.

Family Groups

Our Family Groups meet weekly. Parents can relax, share parenting experiences e.g. potty training, bedtime routines, child behaviour and also gain support.

The groups also encourage childrens’ development through play, social interaction, speech and language, arts and craft.

Volunteers help families access the Family Group Service which reduces isolation. Dads, grannies, aunts, carers etc are also welcome to avail of this support.

We also signpost attendees to other support services in our area.

Kids hands making pastry with adult

Respite Play Group

Our Respite Play Group takes place at our Greyabbey premises where the downstairs area has been adapted for this purpose. It includes two playrooms, children’s toilets, a covered play area and a safe and secure garden.

The children’s development is encouraged through play activities. We offer a light lunch with all precautions taken when a child suffers from allergies.

We supported a wide range of families including those with disabilities, additional needs and ethnic minority backgrounds and children who could benefit from socialisation with peers prior to attending nursery or pre-schools. Transport can be provided for families which helps parents access our service and reduce isolation for their children.

Referrals come through health professionals, Sure Start, self-referrals or from anyone known to the family with the family’s permission.

The Respite Play Group is inspected by the South Eastern Trust annually and this ensures the children are kept safe. All staff and volunteers in the group are vetted through Access NI and receive ongoing support and training.


Little girl colouring

Trips and Outings

The Home-Start Ards Comber & Peninsula Area Scheme arrange trips and outings (when funding allows) for families.

Recent Outings and Events have included: The Ark Farm, Castle Espie and a Mad Hatters Tea Party (which doubled as a fundraiser).


Home-Start volunteers and families

Our shops

We have two Charity Shops in the area.

Our Children’s Charity Shop is the only one of its kind in the area specialising in baby and children’s items. Items for sale range from clothing and toys to buggy’s and prams.

It is used by many locals and people further afield, we are just 8 miles from Belfast and 5 miles from Bangor.

The General Charity Shop is in the centre of Comber. From here we sell clothes, pieces of jewellery, scarves and bric-a-brac.

Our Charity Shops provide volunteering opportunities for the local community as well as raising much needed funds for the scheme.

We welcome donations good quality, pre loved items.

Children’s Charity Shop
2 Ann Street
BT23 7AB
028 9182 8468

Open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 2pm (closed Mondays)

General Charity Shop
52 Castle Street
BT23 5DZ

Open Monday – Saturday, 10am – 2pm (closed Fridays).


Home-Start ACAPA shop front image


Home-Start was a good experience for me and my son, it helped him to mix with children his age and be independent. It also gave me some time for me (a break) each week.
Home-Start supported me as I don’t drive, by taking and bringing my son from nursery.
I am sure it helped families that are in the same situation.


We get regular feedback from customers, new and frequent visitors alike. They enjoy the prices of the clothes and toys. Toys are especially useful during the lockdown and while children are off school. There has been no problems with the changes made in the shop due to Covid 19

Shop volunteer

With the support of a Home-Start volunteer, I learned how to interact and play with my son, put boundaries in place, and create a safe and secure home. After Home-Start helped to change my life, I decided I wanted to become a volunteer for the charity.


My boys really benefited getting respite and coming to the Family Group. Learning how to play with other children. The staff are so friendly and my boys loved them all


Everything was amazing for my daughters. I really depended on Home-Start and they were so supportive.
Thank you!


Become a Home-Start Volunteer Today

Home-Start’s team of trained volunteers make sure a child’s early years count. By volunteering just a few hours each week you can transform the lives of young children and their parents in your community.


Find out moreVolunteer application form