In this article, Victoria Joel (NSPCC Implementation Manager) and Emma Glendinning (Baby Steps Operational lead for Wiltshire, Salisbury Foundation Trust) share their learning from delivering Baby Steps, a perinatal education programme for vulnerable parents-to-be.
They will discuss how through joint strategic working health and family support workers can combine their skills and experience to offer vulnerable parents integrated physical and mental health care that takes a whole family approach, and improves outcomes as a result.
Victoria and Emma gave a presentation on Baby Steps at the Wales and South West Maternity and Midwifery Festival in September which you can watch below.
We know that for many the transition into parenthood can be hard and that often those who need support the most do not receive it. In 2018, research by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance revealed that 24% of areas in the UK still have no access to specialist perinatal mental health services (Maternal Mental Health Alliance, 2018).
Understanding the importance of giving parents-to-be access to support that helps them to understand their baby’s needs and feel confident in their role as a caregiver, the NSPCC developed Baby Steps in collaboration with the University of Warwick in 2011.
An evidence based service that works
Baby Steps is a perinatal education programme for vulnerable parents based on the latest science, theory and research. Delivered to groups of mums and dads over nine sessions starting at the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy and including three post birth sessions, the programme aims to support both parents through the transition to parenthood, with a particular focus on preventing relationship breakdown and the development of positive parent-infant relationships.
Baby Steps is one of the programmes the NSPCC is scaling up, meaning we are supporting other organisations to adopt and deliver the programme themselves, so more families can benefit from a programme that has proven positive outcomes. Wiltshire Council was one of the first organisations to adopt Baby Steps. Recognising a need for an early intervention, particularly for vulnerable families, but with a lack of evidence-based antenatal education locally, Baby Steps fitted within the area’s Early Help Strategy.
Joint strategic working
Baby Steps has been designed to sit alongside mainstream provision and is delivered jointly by health and family support workers. For Wiltshire, this has meant improved joint working between health professionals and children’s centre staff. As a result of this, parents are being introduced to the children’s centre and a wider support network at an earlier stage, as they are invited to register at the centre during their first Baby Steps home visit. This helps new and expectant parents to build a strong support network that can offer long term support during the first years of their child’s life.
Cross-agency working can be complicated, but the team in Wiltshire has worked hard to overcome some of the barriers to implementing the service. For example, a local Baby Steps multi-agency forum has been established to monitor progress around referrals and engagement and improve information sharing between key stakeholders, with promising results.