Exciting new services to give mums and dads the support they need to do the best for their children were launched today by the Prime Minister.
The care and attention a child receives when young will affect their health, behaviour and ability to learn throughout their lives. A recent survey suggests that 85% of mums and dads want more practical help on caring for their baby to provide the best possible start for their children.
The Prime Minister outlined that the support being offered to parents will include:
• a brand new digital service for parents-to-be and new parents, providing regular emails and texts with timely information as their pregnancy develops and their child grows;
• free parenting classes to all parents of children aged five years and under in three trial areas;
• expert organisations to deliver relationship support for first time parents in four trial areas of the country from this summer.
Digital service for parents-to-be and new parents
From today, the NHS Information Service for Parents will give mums and dads advice they can trust covering a wide range of issues related to staying healthy in pregnancy, preparing for birth and looking after their baby.
Those signing up to the service will no longer be faced with information overload while surfing the internet, but will have relevant, timely NHS approved advice sent directly to their phones and inboxes. This includes links to specially commissioned videos showing midwives demonstrating practical advice such as bathing your baby and parents discussing issues that affected them and how they supported each other.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
"Parents are nation-builders. It's through love and sheer hard work that we raise the next generation with the right values. That’s why this Government is doing everything possible to support parents.
"We’re doing the big, long-term things to make this country stronger for our children – dealing with our debts; having a massive push for better schools; working to create more good, skilled jobs in our economy.
"But we’re also focussed on making life easier for parents day-to-day, from extending childcare to increasing the number of health visitors. The parenting classes and films we’re launching this week are an important part of that, providing clear, professionally-led advice on everything from teething to tantrums."
Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley said:
"We all want to give our children the best start in life. But sometimes, particularly for first-time parents, bringing a new baby home can be a daunting as well as a happy experience.
"That is why we are determined to help people become more confident in becoming a parent - from pregnancy to the start of their children's lives. From now on, this new information service will be at parents' sides to support them in the first stage of their child's journey, guiding them with relevant information and first-hand experience from other parents."
Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, welcomed the new service:
“We warmly welcome this innovative online and multi-media service for parents. We hope that the email and text alerts will bolster the work that midwives do with women and their families by providing additional information that will empower and signpost parents to further appropriate sources of support and help.
“We know that pregnancy and maternity care are in many cases the first time most parents will interact with the health service and this presents a unique opportunity to provide health promoting messages to families. This is why good quality information, which this service promotes, during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period can have a significant long-term impact on the health and well-being of mothers and babies.”
Free parenting classes
This service is announced alongside free parenting classes to all parents of children aged five years and under in three trial areas – Middlesbrough, High Peak in Derbyshire and Camden in London.
Mums and dads will be able to use vouchers, available from Boots stores, children’s centres, health visitors and professionals who have contact with families to pay for the classes. The NCT, Coram, Save the Children, and the Fatherhood Institute are among those who are delivering classes.
Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said:
“All parents want the best for their children and we want to help them. Most parents go to ante-natal classes before their child is born and the benefits of these are well-documented.
“We want mums and dads to be able to access similar help and advice in the earliest years of their child’s life and for this to be a normal part of family life.”
The trial will help Government understand how classes could be made available to every mum and dad. Decisions on national roll out will be informed by the independent evaluation.
Mary Rose Brady, Head of Coram’s Parents’ Centre said:
“Parents tell us, no one gives you a manual when you have kids- so here’s our manual.
“Each session that Coram is delivering is based on what years of evidence show will best support children in their early development. Parents are the experts in their own children, but everyone can benefit from understanding the key ingredients."
Sally Copley, Save the Children’s Head of Poverty, said:
“Giving parents extra support shouldn’t stop at antenatal classes. Children’s early years are a crucial time and providing parents with help and advice throughout can only enhance what they are doing already. The success of our programme FAST, that helps parents to engage with their child’s early learning, are proof of the demand for high quality parenting support. We hope that once proven successful these schemes will be available to all children in the UK.”
All mothers and fathers in the trial areas will be entitled to a voucher covering the cost of a course of parenting classes. Vouchers are being distributed by professionals working in the early years (for example nurseries, children’s centres, midwives, health visitors) and by pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer, Boots. The classes are now open for booking in all three trial areas.
Up to £5m has been made available for the trial between March 2012 and March 2014. This includes funding for redemption of parenting class vouchers and an independent evaluation.
Relate, The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships and the Fatherhood Institute will deliver relationship support sessions for first time parents to support them with the transition to parenthood in four areas of the country from this summer.
The government wants to support strong and stable families and research shows that the birth of a new child can be a stress point for couples. A trial starting in July will offer subsidised relationship support sessions for all expectant mothers and fathers and those with children up to the age of two in the trial areas - York and Leeds, North Essex, Hackney and City of London, Islington and Westminster. Up to £1m has been made available for the trial between April 2012 and March 2014.
The sessions will be delivered by one of three providers and parents will have the choice of face to face and/or online support. They will be designed to help parents understand that it is normal for their relationship to go through a transition period after they have a child and to give them strategies to work through this as a couple. The trial will be managed and promoted by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) to encourage couples to feel that it is normal to access relationship support in the first few years of their child’s life – just as they would go to an antenatal class.
The offer will be distributed by professionals working in the early years – for example, from nurseries, children’s centres, midwives and health visitors.
Sarah Teather added:
“Becoming a parent is life changing for mothers and fathers. Although this can be an exiting, joyful time, it is also normal for couples to need extra support at this time and I hope this trial will benefit families.”
John Loughton, Head of Public Policy Relate, said:
“Relate is delighted to be working with the Department for Education. Following the birth of a child, evidence shows that issues like coping with tiredness and new parental responsibilities can leave a couple vulnerable to tension, conflict or poor emotional wellbeing. Couples manage best when they work as a team, and Relate, through this trial, can offer the strategies, advice and confidence couples need to thrive as a parent and a partner.”