FORGET what Christmas cards and advertisements tell you; not everyone enjoys the festive season. Stress, anxiety and arguments are regular features of December for lots of us whether it's the family dinner, the obligations, the burden of family tradition or the pressure of hosting social events.

But what happens when the arguments turn into abuse? When the financial strain becomes too much? Or when overindulging on alcohol becomes a problem?

"When I think about Christmas I think about those families that maybe have the image of the magical Christmas stuck in their heads," says Pam Hoyle, scheme manager at Home-Start Wrexham. "What our role around this time is to reassure them it doesn't have to look like that. The adverts for John Lewis and Sainsbury's aren't real and in reality most of us just get by around this time.

"What Christmas can do is cause an increase in stress - having the family all together can cause so much pressure, but on the other side of the coin some families don't have that extended group to share Christmas with and won't see another soul over the whole period."

Home-Start started 45 years ago with the aim of helping families with young children deal with the challenges they face. Across all four nations of the UK, 13,500 home-visiting volunteers support around 28,000 families and 60,000 children to transform their lives. Each of these volunteers knows about being a parent and supports each family by visiting them in their own homes for a couple of hours a week with the charity also hosting special family groups and social events for families.

"Our volunteers are there every day," says Pam. "They'll be the ones that send that text on Christmas Day or make contact with that family they know are lonely and isolated.

"During the Christmas period we see that support cranking up. There will be lots of reassurance, support with how to access financial assistance, and the foodbank will become a regular destination for us. We are able to get our hands on anything and we're pretty resourceful - one year I even stole our office Christmas tree because I had visited a family without one. For some families all they need to see is that we care - it's when we're being human with people that we make the biggest difference."

Interestingly it's the aftermath of Christmas which Pam says can be more stressful than the holiday themselves.

"Christmas is pretty intense, but it's often the fallout that is much worse," she says. "We spend time with those families who have felt the pressure, didn't know how to cope with it and have overspent.

"January and February can be pretty horrific and then there's people with poor mental health who struggle with it being a dark and gloomy period full stop. There is a lot of social isolation across Wales and particularly in Wrexham there are some places like Overton or Glyn Ceiriog which have horrendous transport links which can leave families very lonely.

"When we become parents we can't just press pause on life and those families might be experiencing bereavements, poor mental health or abusive relationships."

Based out of the Salvation Army centre in Garden Road, Rhosddu, Home-Start has been delivery services across Wrexham for 27 years but Pam admits the current environment is one of the toughest she has known for those working in the third sector.

"This year has been one of funding highs and lows," she explains, "BBC Children in Need confirmed three years of funding for our Family Group provision but Wrexham Council withdrew its Flying Start funding due to their own budget cuts.

"We are also experiencing difficulties with Universal Credit in relation to some of the families we support. For many families being able to navigate themselves through the whole benefit system is becoming increasingly difficult. Funding cuts have hit organisations like Welfare Rights and Citizen's Advice Bureau and they are experts we would naturally go to who can't help anymore.

"I dealt with a young woman today who really needed help from Welfare Rights but there is a charge for that now so it becomes a real problem. I don't see it getting any better and in fact I would have hoped that by this stage we would have all been a little clearer about how to navigate it when in reality it is awful."

With the demand for their services growing and the Family Learning Group meeting the ever expanding need for families to experience support, guidance and friendship, Home-Start Wrexham is now sharing its expertise across other Home-Starts in North Wales and are also leading on a new project which will see them work with Wrexham County Borough Council, Home-Start Flintshire and Gwersyllt Community Primary School on how to work best with children who have gone through Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) which are traumatic experiences that occur before the age of 18 and are remembered throughout adulthood.

"These experiences range from suffering verbal, mental, sexual and physical abuse, to being raised in a household where domestic violence, alcohol abuse, parental separation or drug abuse is present," explains Pam.

"Evidence shows children who experience stressful and poor quality childhoods are more likely to develop health-harming and anti-social behaviours, more likely to perform poorly in school, more likely to be involved in crime and ultimately less likely to be a productive member of society.

"In a nutshell what we will be doing is developing and sharing best practice on how to work with ACEs and together we will then decide how we share share and develop the needs of organisations. The council have recognised that this this is our bread and butter so it's great recognition for us."

Unsurprisingly Pam is always on the look out for good volunteers and with New Year resolution time around the corner, perhaps working with Home-Start could be the fresh start you need.

"Simple things make a big difference," she adds. "Listening, getting out of the house, or helping sort a problem a parent can't face alone. Volunteers are at the the heart of Home-Start."

For more information on volunteering for Home-Start go to or phone 0800 068 63 68.