Pregnant women and new mothers miss out on early intervention support

Lauren Higgs
Monday, May 14, 2012

A lack of early intervention services for disadvantaged pregnant women and new mothers risks creating another generation of "troubled families", the charity Family Action has warned.

Childcare costs are affecting the ability of parents to obtain a mortgage. Picture: Lucie Carlier
Childcare costs are affecting the ability of parents to obtain a mortgage. Picture: Lucie Carlier

Its report, Against All Odds: Mind the Gap, argues that welfare cuts and poor quality housing is having a negative impact on mothers’ mental health and their ability to bond with their babies.

It insists that early intervention should mean intervening before at-risk babies are born, by providing services that support vulnerable mothers emotionally and help develop parenting skills, alongside financial support.

The report claims that while early intervention services targeted at new and at-risk mothers such as the Family Nurse Partnership and the extension of the health-visiting programme are important, they are not sufficient to meet the needs of all low-income families.

It also warns that although the troubled families programme is “much-needed”, it is essentially a “crisis-level” intervention, not suitable for preventing problems before they cause damage.

Family Action works with mothers at risk of depression before and after the birth of their baby, otherwise known as perinatal depression, across the country.

A mother using their service said: “There’s definitely crossover between money and how you feel, scraping by doesn’t help your wellbeing.”

Another added: “I’m sitting in the kitchen with my baby all day, which is really miserable. My neighbours were horrified when they saw inside the house.”

Family Action chief executive Helen Dent argued that the gap in early intervention services must be filled if vulnerable mothers and babies are to be protected.

“We know from our work with vulnerable and disadvantaged mums using our perinatal service how vital support is at the earliest stages in mother-baby bonding and child development,” she said.

“Failure to have the best support in place could lead to a life of troubles for parents and children and set back the government’s goal of dealing with ‘troubled’ families.”

She added that new parents are also “in the firing line” because welfare changes will limit their ability to provide for their children.

She called on government to explain how it will safeguard the maternal mental health and development of new babies from families most likely to bear the brunt of welfare cuts, including black and minority ethnic and migrant families, households with a large number of children and single-mother headed households.

“Cash counts for the most vulnerable families and slashing the welfare bill at children’s expense could be disastrous for their futures,” she said.

“Our Against All Odds campaign calls for more support and services for women at risk of perinatal depression and we want to see clear action from government to protect this group.”

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