Government Announce Health-Led Parent Support Project

Parents are set to benefit from a share of £7.5million being invested in better services for parents by the Government. Families Minister Beverley Hughes has explained that far from telling parents what to do, the Government wants parents to have the information and support that they are asking for.

She said that local authorities had a crucial role to play in making sure that parents were listened to and that services met the needs of mothers and fathers. Helping parents in this way not only improves the life chances of children, but can have wider benefits for communities and society as a whole.

In addition, ten areas have also been chosen by the Government to pioneer a new way of supporting mothers and fathers with their first new-born babies.

From April this year first-time parents in ten areas who are most likely to find being a new parent a big challenge will get extra help from their midwife and health visitor. The health-led parent support project is based on American scheme whose benefits for babies and children have included improved health, less accidental injuries, better involvement of fathers and being ready for school.

Speaking at East Peckham Children’s Centre Beverley Hughes said: “The Government is committed to ensuring that every child can achieve their full potential. Evidence has shown that parents are the single most significant factor that determines their child’s success. I want local authorities to pay additional attention to how services work with, and respond to, the needs of parents – both mothers and fathers.

“We also know that the majority of parents say that there are times in their lives when they would like more help, including a range of information, support services and parenting programmes. This is why we are making additional £7.5m available to local authorities between now and March 2008.

“The early years can have the biggest impact on a child’s life and for some people having a baby for the first time can be very challenging. That’s why first time parents in ten areas who are most likely to need extra help will get advice and regular visits from a trusted health visitor or midwife in the run-up to birth and during the first two years of a child’s life. ”

Health Minister Ivan Lewis said: “This is the first time we have tested this programme in the UK and it is an exciting and unique opportunity to make a difference. The importance of health in the early years cannot be underestimated, pregnancy and the first 3 years are vital to child development, life chances and future achievement.

“Community midwifery and health visiting services are ideally placed to carry out this work as they already play an important role in supporting disadvantaged families and some have led the way through innovative ways of working with excluded groups.

“We will be giving teams of health professionals working in the demonstration sites the proper training, tools and materials they need so that they can deliver the programme to families”.

Social Exclusion Minister Hilary Armstrong said: “The pilots announced today are a real opportunity for us to provide help and support at the most critical time in a child’s life. The earlier we can provide that support, the less chance there is of problems becoming more difficult and entrenched, leading to a lifetime of social exclusion.

“If we are serious about breaking the cycle of disadvantage, then we need to look carefully at how we anticipate the challenges faced by many families, not simply react to them. The new projects that we are announcing today will enable frontline professionals to transform the support offered to new parents and improve life chances for children.”