The grant, funded jointly by the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Employment, will enable the charity to expand its trained volunteer support - "mums helping mums" - to 80 more areas. It already operates more than 200 local schemes.
Paul Boateng, junior health minister, said supporting families and good parenting was central to the Government's approach to combating social exclusion. Early intervention would "assist failing and dysfunctional families, prevent breakdowns and help reduce the costs that fall on the juvenile justice system," he added.
Home Start has more than 5,000 volunteers, who must be experienced parents. They visit regularly, usually once a week for a couple of hours, to help families with children under five. They could be lone parents, families with twins or triplets, mothers with post-natal depression, families where there is ill-health or disability, or simply those new to an area.