A PIONEERING project in Inverclyde has dramatically reduced mental health problems and loneliness within families.

Lottery-funded Home Start Inverclyde offers distressed parents with young children the chance to work with a voluntary mentor and opens up opportunities to join support groups.

Since setting up three years ago the charity has supported 36 families, with a total of 68 children, and trained up 35 volunteers.

So far the results show that mental health problems have fallen by 43 per cent and feelings of isolation are down by 51 per cent.

Councillor Jim McEleny was so inspired by the charity he signed up as a volunteer to work with families and is now the co-chair.

He said: "I didn't know anything about Home Start Inverclyde until I went to the AGM and I was blown away by the people I met there and what they had to say.

"I wanted to help so I trained as a volunteer.

"They do amazing work.

"It helps parents if they can even pop out to the shops.

"Sometimes they don't have anyone to help."

Jim now works with families, supports where he can and has also taken part in fundraising Kiltwalk.

Around two thirds of families referred to Home Start suffer from mental health problems but an analysis report showed this figure fell to 19 per cent after the charity's intervention.

Sixty four per cent of people felt lonely or isolated at the start but once they had a mentor and access to support groups this rate declined substantially to 13 per cent.

A rate of 60 per cent reported low self esteem, but this reduced to 18 per cent once they were involved with Home Start.

Co-ordinator Lisa Carberry said: "We are so passionate and about our service in Inverclyde.

"We have had great support and results and we are now working with Inverclyde Council.

"We see such a difference in our families.

"Our volunteers are so dedicated."

The Tele told last year how mum-of-two Sara McCarthy was saved by Home Start Inverclyde.

She had no family nearby and a son with Asperger's and was struggling to cope.

She was matched with a volunteer, Karen Berry, who had moved from the USA and had no support when her children were young.