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A family support service for homeless children and parents: users’ perspectives and characteristics


  • Box 1 Semistructured interview guide

     1 How did you become homeless?

     2 How did you come to live here?

     3 Do you have any family or friends in Leicester?

     4 What is the hostel environment like?

     5 What is it like to live in the hostel?

     6 How long have you been in the hostel?

     7 Have you any concerns about your children?

     8 Do you need any help whilst at the hostel?

     9 Have you had any help at the hostel?

    10 What did you expect of the service?*

    11 What happened when you saw the family support worker?

    12 How many times have you seen her?

    13 What difference has it made (if any)?

    14 Is there any help you would really like now?

    15 Have you seen any of the following in the past month: general practitioner, community psychiatric nurse, social services, midwife, health visitor, other nurse hospital service or solicitor?

     * For those who only used the Family Support Service.

P. Vostanis University of Leicester Greenwood Institute of Child Health Westcotes House, Westcotes Drive Leicester LE3 0QU UK E-mail:


The objective of the present study was to establish the psychosocial characteristics and perspectives of 49 consecutive homeless families who received input from a new designated family support worker (FSW) post at a large statutory hostel for homeless parents and children. The FSW provided: assessment of social, educational and health needs; support and parent training; and liaison with and referral to specialist services. Measures included quantitative questionnaires (i.e. the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Parenting Daily Hassles Scale, the Eyberg Child Behaviour Inventory, and the Health of the Nation Outcome Scales for Children and Adolescents), and a qualitative (semistructured) interview on service experiences and satisfaction. The psychosocial measures indicated high rates of parenting difficulties, mental health and related needs among children and their parents. Parenting difficulties were associated with child behaviour problems. Parents expressed satisfaction with the service whilst they were residents at the hostel, but they were often not clear about the objectives of agencies and interventions. Family support interventions have a key role in service provision for homeless and other vulnerable families by providing direct parenting interventions and ensuring that specialist agencies are appropriately involved. Family support worker involvement needs to continue when families are re-housed in the community.