Being a young Mum is never easy, particularly the first time around. Being a young Mum combined with rural poverty and living over 20 miles from the nearest maternity support services can be really tough. A more experienced volunteer who you can trust and rely on for support, can make a big difference. Home Start West Somerset works with the most vulnerable children and families in disadvantaged rural communities, to help give them a better start in life. Our staff lead a team of experienced and often highly qualified volunteers who work alongside mums, providing friendship, advice and support to help them gain the confidence and skills they need to raise their families.
‘Bumpstart’ an innovative new programme supporting families right through pregnancy, the birth experience and the first year of their baby’s life, the programme aims to empower young families to give their child the best possible start in life. Based on the success of our recent breast-feeding project, we will encourage young Mums to go on to provide peer support for other young parents themselves, sharing good practice in child rearing across our local communities, and building community capacity.
Key elements of the Bump-Start approach
- Working from pregnancy: in addition to Home-Start’s core training which covers Attachment theory, an understanding of Mind mindedness, Mentalisation and Post-natal Depression, Bump-Start volunteers complete additional modules in maternal and infant mental health, and breastfeeding awareness.
- The matching process: Careful matching ensures the skills, experiences and qualities of the volunteer complement the family and their needs, helping them build a positive trusting relationship.
- Family led: Home-Start believes parents are the first and most important educators of their children. Bump- Start volunteers are trained to build on families’ strengths and resources, working collaboratively with families towards their increased confidence and independence. The support our volunteers offer is non-judgemental and flexible so that it can meet the individual needs of diverse families.
- Attachment: All staff and volunteers are trained in attachment theory. Bump-Start fosters early bonding through supporting parents to interact with their babies and respond to their needs in a mindful way.
- Regular supervision: Volunteers receive face-to-face supervision with an Organiser every 6 weeks to discuss their work and get support with any issues or concerns. Staff are experienced professionals, trained in supervision, with backgrounds in psychology, social work, psychotherapy, parenting and the early years.
- Therapeutic component*: When a mother is anxious or depressed during pregnancy or soon after having her baby this can have a long-term detrimental effect on the quality of attachment between mothers and babies, and infant development by supporting women through pregnancy we can improve life chances for those children and families.
- emotional wellbeing
- family relationships
- access to services and social networks
- confidence in ability to parent
How the project is managed:
Structured support and professional supervision runs throughout all levels of the scheme.
- handles the initial contact with professionals and the families themselves
- undertakes an initial assessment, including a home visit
- matches the family with a volunteer, in consultation with other Co-ordinators
- accompanies the volunteer on their first visit to the family
- assesses progress at three-monthly intervals by means of home visits
- undertakes a final assessment when the case is closed
- undertakes the training, on-going development and supervision of volunteers
- takes on issues outside the scope of volunteers and liaises with the relevant statutory services, including escalating any child protection issues
- the Scheme Manager supports, supervises and manages the Organisers, and takes on the most challenging cases personally
An evidence-based approach
Bump-Start is rooted in a Theory of Change that posits how social support provided in a structured, supervised way by volunteers improves the well-being of parents, increases feelings of parental self-competence (i.e. resilience to cope with challenges), and leads to more adaptive parental behaviour. Data accumulated through Home-Start UK’s national MESH (Monitoring and Evaluation in Home-Start) system over the last 3 years is now evidencing the theory, and Bump- Start feeds into this. We also use two externally validated measuring tools, The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and ‘My Baby’, to monitor mothers’ mental health and attachment with their baby.