The highlight of the Home-Start in Suffolk social calendar, the Moonlight Ball, saw more than 160 guests gather at the Hangar at Milsoms, Kesgrave Hall on Friday 17 May 2024.

This well-established event treated guests to a wonderful evening hosted by charity CEO Tara Spence and chair of the board Rob Thacker and included an array of fun activities as well as live performances from Suffolk’s leading all female Acappella choir, Stellar Acappella and live music from The Talent.

The evening raised an incredible £26,000 which will be used to help support families in the Suffolk community.

To mark the 25th Anniversary a special photo slideshow accompanied by the glorious sound of Stellar Acappella singing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful” World, shared how the charity has grown from humble beginnings – supporting just 13 families in its first year, to the established charity it is today, supporting a staggering 1,389 families in 2023! 

The Hangar looked stunning with its twinkling lights and Moon decorations as well as the beautiful Giving Tree centrepiece where guests were invited to pledge donations.  

Everyone enjoyed a delicious meal, had the opportunity to win some fabulous raffle prizes generously donated by Suffolk businesses, the chance to win an Apple iPad kindly donated by ICO Systems of Ipswich in a special prize draw and join in the exciting LIVE auction, expertly auctioneered by Oliver Miller of Bishop & Miller Auctioneers.  There we 5 fabulous Auction Lots in the live auction including short breaks in France and Aldeburgh, a football signed by the recently promoted Ipswich Town players, Manager, CEO and more, and a very special prize from Home-Start in Suffolk’s patron, Anthony Horowitz CBE – the opportunity to be a character in Anthony’s next book, due for release in 2025!

“I pledged to name a character in my next book in honour of the highest bidder!” explains Anthony Horowitz CBE.

“And this will not just be a name check in the story. I will add extra details making sure that the highest bidder can be fully identified – in a way to be mutually agreed. Plus, there will be a special mention on the book’s acknowledgements page and a signed copy from me too!”

There was also an online auction featuring stunning artwork from Suffolk based artists Theronda Hoffman and Allan Williams, overnight stays at Hintlesham Hall and Milsoms, Kesgrave Hall, a unique, one of a kind Moonst9one and Aquamarine Necklace, designed and handmade especially for this event by local gemmologist Susannah Chenevix- Trench and a unique Alex Rider gift set which includes a full set of signed copies of the series and some special Alex Rider themed gifts.

Home-Start in Suffolk CEO Tara Spence said: “We are thrilled that we have been able to host this year’s Moonlight Ball and we delighted to have such amazing support from local businesses who sponsored the event including Mauldons Brewery, Larking Gowen, Becketts Investment Management and Forefront Utilities.

Tara Spence continues “The Ball has exceeded all our expectations and has achieved so much, not only in terms of fundraising revenue which will be used to fund recruitment and training for more fully trained volunteers, but it was a chance to remind people what we do at Home-Start, what our amazing volunteers do to support families – providing support and professional friendship at a time it is needed by so many, and the difference that support can make.  In the last year we have seen the number of families accessing our services rise significantly.”




Home-Start In Suffolk Welcomes Four New Trustees to the Board

We are pleased to announce the appointment of four new members to our board of trustees. Each new trustee brings a unique set of skills, experiences, and perspectives that will significantly contribute to achieving the organisation’s strategic goals.

Home-Start in Suffolk has been supporting local families for 25 years and in that time has seen the numbers of families accessing support grow significantly year on year. Last year our network of volunteers supported 2,000 families in communities across Suffolk.

Speaking of the new appointments, Rob Thacker, Chair of Home-Start in Suffolk said “I am delighted to welcome four new trustees to the Board.  The quality of applicants and our new trustees has been incredible.  It is wonderful news for the organisation and means we continue to go from strength to strength.”

Joining the board is:

Julia Porter.   Julia is an experienced Non-Executive Director and Remuneration Committee Chair. She currently holds board positions with Hollywood Board Group and Worldwide Cancer Research. She has previously been a board director with Safestyle plc and Freeview as well as a range of start-ups. Julia is also a partner at Data Protection Network, a data protection and privacy consultancy, where she has worked on a wide range of projects across media, hospitality, entertainment, travel and not for profit.

In her executive career Julia worked for Guardian News & Media, Getty Images, ITV and IPC Magazines where she was responsible for subscriptions, ecommerce, CRM and customer data projects. She led the award-winning team who developed the Guardian’s “Why Your Data Matters” campaign. Julia is a past Chair of the DMA (Data and Marketing Association) and she holds an MBA from London Business School.


Anne Richardson. Anne is a UK-trained solicitor who worked for over 17 years for the UK’s Government Legal Department, most recently as Director of its specialist Employment Group. Previously, she worked in legal-aid funded practices in London, working to promote the rights of tenants and the homeless. Late in 2023 she retired from legal practice and moved back to Suffolk, having been born and brought up in the county.

Anne was delighted to take up the opportunity to become a trustee: ‘In the current challenging climate, Home Start provides absolutely essential assistance to families. I am very pleased to support the work of the staff and volunteers, whose care, energy and commitment are second to none, and contribute to making Home Start such an impressive organisation.


Dr. Ruth Flaherty. Ruth is a University of Suffolk law lecturer whose unique teaching includes using fictional characters and 3D printing to analyse legal dilemmas has been nominated for a prestigious national award.

Ruth joined University of Suffolk in September 2019 as a Lecturer in Law. She leads on the core EU Law, Land Law and Equity & Trusts Law modules, and the optional Intellectual Property Law module. She also teaches on the Legal Methods & Advocacy and Dissertation modules. She is Head of the David White Trust Mooting Competition, and runs several wellbeing initiatives for Law students. Additionally, Ruth is Admissions Tutor for all Law courses, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and an External Examiner for Solent University.


Ruth was also shortlisted as one of the five finalists for the Oxford University Press Law Teacher of the Year 2024 Award.


Julie Ratcliffe. After starting her career as an advocate in 2009, Julie worked across family and adult services before moving into leadership roles and is now the Chief Operating Officer for the Royal Association for Deaf People. Having worked in the Charity sector for 15 years, she remains committed to the provision of quality support for vulnerable people. 

Julie is responsible for national service provision of independent living social care, family and youth services, and training – her passion is to support people to develop, grow and succeed.

Committed to reducing loneliness, Julie volunteers as a host for Re-engage, supporting elderly people to maintain friendships.



Home-Start in Suffolk receives £94,000 from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust to launch a new project supporting Suffolk military families based at Honington, Rock Barrack’s and Wattisham

Local family support charity, Home-Start in Suffolk, is delighted to have been awarded more than £94,000 in funding by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, to launch a new project supporting military families across Suffolk’s military bases at Honington, Rock Barracks and Wattisham, to run alongside their already well-established military family and community-based groups in Hadleigh and Wattisham. The project is set to launch in May 2024 as a direct response to the support enquiries the organisation receives relating to military families across the county.

Home-Start team has built strong, positive links with military families and the community of Wattisham since they began operating their two popular groups, one in Wattisham and one in Hadleigh, two years ago. This new project will allow Home-Start to continue to build further positive links with families based at Wattisham and will also allow the organisation to establish a support offer to families based at Rock Barracks and Honington, providing one to one support to families and considering developing similar groups where a need is identified.    

“We’re delighted that The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust has awarded us this funding.” Explains Tara Spence, CEO of Home-Start in Suffolk.  “This new project means we will be able to continue to develop the support for military families in this area of Suffolk and expand our service and work in areas that are currently under-supported. This is an opportunity to reach families from all three of Suffolk’s military bases, in need of one-to-one support.    Families will have access to a dedicated, highly experienced family support coordinator and volunteers, who will support families as they navigate through challenging situations, providing early intervention to prevent the family from reaching crisis point.”         

Suffolk Armed Forces Commissioner , Lee Holloway said of the grant awarded,  ” I am pleased to receive the news that The Armed Forces Covenant Trust Fund has granted this wonderful organisation over £94,000 in its latest round of funding.

“This award is the result of a significant effort on the part of an organisation that is dedicated to assisting parents and carers within our community. Their work, dedication and focus have had a huge impact where it matters most, and this grant will enable them to continue and expand where and when needed.”

Marie, who was referred to Home-Start just before her husband was deployed said of the support they have given her “Before I had the support of Home-Start, I struggled to leave the house and with my husband away, I knew my mental health was suffering, my anxiety was just too much. Home-Start helped me enormously.  If I didn’t have their support or my volunteer, I don’t know where I would be, maybe I wouldn’t even be here.  They helped me through a very dark place.”


Home-Start in Suffolk has been supporting families across the county for 25 years and has a network of over 280 fully trained volunteers who provide vital practical and emotional support through their home visiting services.

For 52 years the Ipswich Greyfriars Round Table have been bringing Santa and Rudolph to the streets of Ipswich in support of local charities and in December 2022, Home-Start in Suffolk’s new Dad Matter project has been chosen of this year’s main charity.

For 16 nights, Santa and Rudolph along with an army of volunteer “Snowmen” ran the streets of Ipswich, braving all weathers, raising vital funds to support Suffolk families and other local causes. 

Starting on 2 December and running right up until just before Christmas it is a massive operation which is brilliantly organised and run by the Roundtable.

The event itself was a huge success with families coming out to greet Santa along the way and make donations as they pass.

The Christmas break allowed the Roundtable team to calculate the final total and they were delighted to announce earlier this week that they had raised a record total!

As we returned to the offices in the new year, Ali Watson our Fundraising and Marketing Manager met with chair Daniel Langford who presented the charity with a cheque for £12,000 which will be used to launch the new Dad Matters project soon! 

“We are so grateful to the Roundtable for supporting this project and to the community who donated to the Rudolph Run this year.” Said Ali Watson, Fundraising and Marketing Manager. “What a to start 2023.  Thank you Daniel and everyone involved.”

Continuing the fantastic partnership between John Lewis and Partners and local Home-Start schemes this festive season sees the return of the Magical Christmas Campaign.

The concept of the campaign was for each John Lewis store to select 5 families supported by their local Home-Start who would be gifted a Magical Christmas. Each local store was allocated a generous budget to be used in the best way possible to support these 5 families during the festive season.

The Community Liaison Coordinators, Calum Ralston and Kelly Powell, based at the Ipswich John Lewis store, worked with Home-Start in Suffolk’s team to identify families that could really benefit from this unique opportunity. And together they devised a special package giving each family a special gift that will make a real difference to their lives.

“We were delighted to have the opportunity to work with the John Lewis team on this amazing project again this year.” Explains Ali Watson, Home-Start in Suffolk’s Fundraising and Marketing Manager. “And together we were able to adapt the Magical Christmas campaign to provide something really special that will help the families long term and not just during the festive period. Each family has been gifted something that will make a difference during the Christmas season and beyond as well as some fabulous Christmas gifts for the children and a beautiful hamper of treats.”

The 5 families are spread throughout the county, and every single one has had the item handpicked and delivered to their homes to enjoy. One family received a new cot bed for their baby and all the linens to ensure her little one had somewhere safe and warm to sleep. Another was gifted storage drawers to ensure the children’s clothing could be put away neatly, helping with home conditions and space. Other items that were gifted include air fryers, a vacuum cleaner, a microwave and a baby monitor alongside some warm winter coats, some gifts for the children such as Lego and activity cubes and a treat for the parents as well. Each family received a luxury hamper of festive treats too. to help them reduce their energy
Calum Ralston and Kelly Powell, John Lewis Ipswich Community Liaison Coordinators said of the campaign “We are so pleased we have been able to put these special gift packages together for families in need across our County. It is heart-warming to know we have been able to ease a little of the pressure at Christmas time and we hope we have been able to bring a little joy to the families involved.”

“John Lewis Ipswich really have been incredible and really gone above and beyond to support these families.” Continued Ali Watson, “These gifts will certainly make a positive impact long term for all the families involved, and for us here at Home-Start in Suffolk, it was our Christmas wish that this Magical Christmas Campaign made a difference beyond the festive season! We know that Calum and Kelly have worked really hard to put these packages together and we couldn’t be grateful for all they have done.”

Next week the team will collect an additional 12 hampers of essential cupboard items thanks to John Lewis and Waitrose Ipswich which will be distributed to families in the lead up to Christmas.


Home-Start in Suffolk supported more than 1,500 local families in 2022 thanks to a network of fully trained award-winning volunteers who help families with children up to the age 12 through a range of challenging issues, including, loneliness, isolation, mental health, domestic abuse, bereavement, health struggles, disabilities, poverty and much more.

We have seen referral numbers rise sharply in recent months causing a huge strain on their existing 280 volunteers. It is therefore now vital that more volunteers are recruited and trained to cope with the rise in demand.

Tara Spence, CEO of Home-Start in Suffolk said: “It really has been a tough few years’ for everyone and we have seen families hit really hard as a result of the pandemic and now struggling exponentially with the increase to their cost of living.

“Our services have been accessed by record numbers of families in the last year and this sharp rise is showing no sign of slowing. Families who never before would have needed our support are finding themselves struggling and reaching out for help from our team.

“Whilst we know how fortunate we are to have our incredible network of 280 volunteers, in order to cope with this level of demand and avoid waiting lists, we need to recruit and train more volunteers.

“We hope the New Year might inspire people to consider taking on a challenge and would really like to encourage people to consider volunteering. Volunteering can have such aa huge positive impact, not just on the life of supported families, but also for the volunteer themselves.”

Volunteer Michelle said of her role as a Home-Start volunteer, “I am so glad I took the leap and became a Home-Start volunteer. I feel privileged to have been part of the Home-Start journeys for each of the families I have worked with and to see what a difference my support has made really makes me feel valued, like a I have sense of purpose and extremely proud to be part of such a wonderful organisation.”

Volunteering is associated with higher levels of wellbeing, better general health, improved life satisfaction and is a fulfilling way to help your local community.

“Home-Start works because it is such a simple yet powerful concept.” Continues Tara.

“Volunteers are matched with a family, then visit or call them once a week to provide vital emotional support and practical help. We also have volunteers that provide support to our many groups operated across Suffolk. It’s very satisfying to see families get the help they need when they need it most and seeing them blossom and grow in confidence is so rewarding.”

Mark and his family have been receiving support from Home-Start and said “I cannot thank Richard my volunteer enough for all the support he has given to me and my family. I think Home-Start in Suffolk are amazing. They really do make a difference.”

There are a wide range of volunteering opportunities available at Home-Start that can suit any time and level of commitment people may have. People can volunteer to support families in person or remotely via phone or zoom or help with one of the many group sessions organised by the family support charity. You could even volunteer your time to help with administration and fundraising roles.

“A new year is always a great opportunity to re-evaluate life goals,” continues Tara, “and it would be amazing if people could put volunteering on their New Year goals list.”


Suffolk Mums message lights up BT Tower this Christmas to thank the volunteer who supported her family.

A special thank you message lit up London today when a heartfelt quote from Suffolk mum, Heidi, to her volunteer was displayed on the iconic BT Tower.

Family support charity Home-Start in Suffolk, as part of the Home-Start networks national charity partnership with BT, invited Heidi to share the special message for Michelle, her volunteer as part of a 5 day campaign of heartfelt messages from families across the country, thanking volunteers who have been supporting their family.

The campaign aims to help raise awareness of the difficulties families are facing at this time, while also celebrating volunteers this festive season. The message is among five thank-you notes that will light up the BT Tower throughout this week. The full message on the Tower reads:

In darkness, stars shine even brighter
No star shines brighter than
Home-Start volunteers
Always there for families facing tough times
With Quote from Heidi “Michelle stopped us reaching rock bottom.”

The quotes will be displayed on the 190 metre high BT Tower from 9am to 4pm in a series of messages from Monday December 5 to Friday December 9.

Supported Mum of 3 Heidi said “I am so pleased that I was able to show my appreciation for all that Michelle and Home-Start in Suffolk has done for my family through this message and to see our picture on the tower is just lovely. Home-Start in Suffolk and Michelle were a lifeline for our family and the support we have had has made such a difference to us all. I am truly grateful for everything.”

Helen Orvis, Home-Start in Suffolk’s Volunteer Recruitment Manager said “It’s so lovely to see Heidi’s message to Michelle in lights. There is such a special bond between Home-Start volunteers and the families they are working with and Heidi and Michelle’s relationship is the perfect example of the friendship and trust that is built and the difference that having that support can make to a family.

“In the last 12 months our team of more than 280 volunteers have provided much needed support to a record number of more than 1,500 families, and this unprecedented increase is showing no signs of slowing. To ensure we can continue to cope with the level of demand on the service, it is vital that we recruit and train even more volunteers to ensure families have access to the support they need, when they need it most.”

The BT Tower messages are designed to stop busy shoppers, residents and commuters in their tracks to take a moment to remember the real meaning of Christmas.

Lighting up the tower with the messages from grateful families has been made possible thanks to Home-Start UK being chosen as BT’s UK national charity partner.

There are so many families struggling this winter, but you can show your support by donating to the Home-Start in Suffolk Winter campaign which will be used to help those families to feed, clothe and heat the homes this winter. https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/hsiswinter2022

Twelve well-known Suffolk professionals, from business owners, directors, professors and politicians, will be thrown in the cells as they take part in the Home-Start Jail & Bail Fundraiser this week to help raise vital funds to support Families across the county.

The event which will take place in various locations near the Ipswich Waterfront and Town center, which was due to take place in September but was postponed as a mark of respect following the passing of her Majesty the Queen, is the first ‘Jail and Bail’ fundraiser for the charity for several years and is set to take place this Friday 18 November 2022. 

Those ‘arrested’ are tasked with the challenge of raising their £1,000 Bail to secure their release and gain their freedom.

Home-Start’s Jailbirds, who are being arrested for a multitude of ridiculous and fictious crimes, include Labour and Cooperative Parliamentary Candidate, Jack Abbott, Lisa Perkins, Adastral Park and Research Realisation Director, Paddy & Scotts founder Scott Russell, Cory Brothers Managing Director Peter Wilson, James Crosby Director at Cory Brothers, Professor Gurpreet Jagpal Pro Vice-Chancellor Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Suffolk, Becky Ames, Partner at Larking Gowen, Gavin Wood of Beckett Financial Services, Elise Dyball, Partner at Marshall Hatchick LLP, Martin Moore of Beckett Financial Services and Home-Start’s very own Tara Spence, CEO and Alison Grant, Family Support Manager!

Their crimes range from crimes against comedy to oversharing their gym activities on social media, from ignoring important phone calls to bowling people over with enthusiasm. Suffolk Police will be riding in to make the arrests from 11.30am on Friday, booking them in and handed over to Home-Start’s Chair of the Board and Judge for the Day, Rob Thacker for sentencing before slinging them in the cells at Old Customs House, Home-Starts makeshift jail. 

Fundraising and Marketing Manager at Home-Start in Suffolk, Ali Watson said “It will be a fun day – I hope – with a serious fundraising side. As of today, the prisoners have already secured more than £7,000 towards their collective target and If each prisoner makes bail, that’s a minimum of £11,000 to help support families across our county who are really finding it tough at the moment. 

“Home-Start has seen a significant rise in the number so families needing support and in the last 12 months alone the team have supported more than 1,500 families through difficult and challenging circumstances.”





Between 3rd-6th October, seven members of 35 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search) will be taking on one of the world’s toughest open water swimming challenges. They will be swimming the channel as a relay to raise vital funds to support struggling families working with local family support charity Home-Start in Suffolk.

Each swimmer will take it in turns to swim the channel for an hour in rotation, until the team reaches France and for a swim to be officially recognised, you cannot wear a wetsuit! In fact, the only equipment you are allowed is a swimming hat, goggles, a nose clip, ear plugs and your costume. The official distance 21 miles. However, this changes according to the tides.

Sapper Eliza Clarke and her six work colleagues chose to support Home-Start with their fundraising efforts after seeing the incredible work the organisation does to support so many families. “’I wanted to support Home-Start because it’s a charity I feel passionately about. You really see the direct impact being made on the families. We’re taking on a big challenge, but the whole team have always strived to achieve and we wanted to give ourselves the incentive when things get tough during the challenge to think about all the good the money we raise will do for families.”
Fundraising and Marketing Manager for Home-Start in Suffolk Ali Watson said “We are so grateful to the team for choosing to support Home-Start families with this inspirational challenge! We fully understand the effort and training that they have all had to undertake in order to be ready for next week’s swim and we couldn’t be prouder. With so many families needing support and with referral numbers continuing to rise to unprecedented numbers, fundraising activities such as this make a huge difference.”

Home-Start in Suffolk, the county’s largest family support charity, has been supporting families across Suffolk form more than 23 years and were the awarded the prestigious Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2021.

They offer struggling families throughout Suffolk practical help and emotional support in a friendly, non-judgmental way through their network of over 280 volunteers. The families supported by Home-Start in Suffolk are facing a wide range of challenges including mental health issues, disability, physical health problems, poverty and domestic violence.

“In the last 12 months the charity has worked with more than 1500 families through, home-visiting, telephone support, dedicated groups and drop-in sessions, helping them navigate challenges, empowering them with the skills and confidence to raise their children to flourish.” Said Ali “But to continue to cope with the level of demand on the service it is vital that Home-Start in Suffolk continues to recruit new volunteers and that’s why this fundraiser is so important.”

“We really are delighted that these incredible individuals have chosen to support our organisation in such a unique way,” continues Ali “and we are looking forward to supporting them, watching their progress and cheering them on throughout the challenge!”

The swim began on the 3rd October and the duration will be determined by the weather and tide!

You can show your support for Eliza and the team by following this link to his fundraising page: