A new nest for magpie minis

Even before lockdown we were fast outgrowing Forest Lane Lodge.

We do not have sole use of the building, which means that we were setting up and breaking down the equivalent of a full nursery provision each time we opened.

That, alongside not having enough storage for our donations or a private area for our minis to play safely means that things were stretched.

Our irreplaceable professional partners who descend on our building to meet mums where they feel safe and supported often found themselves squatting on the floor, working on a chair in the playroom, taking case notes on the roundabout – making do.

Then lockdown happened…..

Our staff numbers doubled, the number of mums and minis we are supporting at any given time also doubled and a half (Grew by 150%?)

All these factors are adding up to the inevitable and unsettling conclusion that – to quote the classic film – we are going to need a bigger boat.

The good news

There is a great building very close by which is vacant. It is a five minute walk from the Lodge so even if a professional, a volunteer or a vulnerable mum comes to the old building it won’t be far to get to the new one. Other massive positives are:

  • There will be SO much more space,
  • We will have sole use of the building. We will have a garden all to ourselves to grow flowers, veg and children,
  • Our minis will have a private, safe space (indoor and out) to play,
  • We will have capacity inside to invite all of our beloved professional partners such as LBWP, Health Visitors, Family Support workers, Shelter advisers, Beauticians, Reiki practitioners, dance artists, artists, theatre practitioners to come, spread out and do their thing.

We are also hoping that the space will allow for a:

  • Laundrette
  • Cafe/cooking collective
  • Community garden
  • Digital hub
  • Advice space, but most important of all
  • Chatting, play and chaos and creating minis’ memories and mums’ belonging.

We could also imagine the wider community using the space for:

  • Hot desking,
  • Birthday parties,
  • Evening classes, etc.

The not so good news

It’s a building that has been squatted in. It is in a terrible state and it is not 100% clear what state it will be in if we get possession.

To make the building what we dream it could be for our families we would need:

  • Corporate or community groups to volunteer to clear the building
  • Corporate or community groups to volunteer to clean and paint
  • Specialist builders/developers to help with repairs
  • Gardeners/landscape artists to help create a beautiful outdoor space
  • Interior designers to help us imagine an amazing and magical place where mums and minis are centered
  • Furniture/office suppliers to help us kit the place out
  • Kitchen suppliers to help us create a beautiful collective cooking space, or
  • The money to pay for any of the above that we cannot beg or borrow in-kind.

So here’s where we need your help

We know we ask a lot of you, our beautiful, bountiful community. And here we are asking again, after a year where we have all given more than we ever thought possible. But – you know – it’s just so important to show up for our most vulnerable children and mothers. The brilliant thing is that with a little time and generosity we can, together, make something really beautiful and meaningful happen.

What can you pledge?

We feel as though we need to get an idea of whether our dreams are possible. We know – from the amazing support we have had in the past year – that there are many, many of you who help us, answer our call-outs, come to our aid. But before we take this on, it would be great to have the reassurance that a few of you may be on board to help again.

If you are interested in helping us give our mums and minis a safe, beautiful space to heal, learn and thrive please fill in the pledge form below.

If – hopefully when – we sign a lease, we will get back to you and see if you are still up for it. Then we will get it done and have the biggest thank you party Newham has ever seen!

Thank you so much, as always, for being there for our families. We will be in touch, hopefully with good news and a call to action as soon as we can.


NCT partnership way to support Newham’s new mums

A new community partnership will expand the support available for pregnant women and new mums experiencing financial hardship and disadvantage in Newham.

NCT, in partnership with Alternatives Trust East London¹, The Magpie Project and Compost London, has been awarded a £471,000 grant from the Government’s Health and Wellbeing fund.²

The new funding builds on NCT’s well-established Parents in Mind³ project in the borough, funded by Newham Clinical Commissioning Group, which provides trained peer support for women who are socially isolated or experiencing mental health difficulties.

The new partnership will expand support across the borough and offer antenatal education, breastfeeding support, counselling and family link services alongside the existing perinatal peer support service. The project has a strong focus on inclusion and support for pregnant women and new mums of Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, who experience significant inequalities in outcomes.

Bulon, a Bengali mum and peer supporter for Newham Parents in Mind, said: “There are many people in our community who have no-one to turn to due to language barriers, social issues or poor mental health who just need a friend to hear and understand them.”

Angela McConville, Chief Executive, NCT, said: “I’m delighted our partnership has been able to secure funding for this strong community approach. Together, we can ensure meaningful and impactful support for many more women experiencing significant challenges during pregnancy and early parenthood.

“At NCT we believe in the importance of antenatal and postnatal support for mental health and wellbeing. Our volunteer peer supporters already play an important role in reducing isolation, boosting mental health and supporting women to access services in Newham. This new partnership and community-led approach will further expand this support, and will help address the unacceptable inequalities experienced by Black, Asian and ethnic minority women.”

Jason Strelitz, Director of Public Health, London Borough of Newham, said: “Since inception, NCT has worked collaboratively with Newham’s maternity and Children’s Health Service, supporting partner agencies to connect with and support families. We deeply value the role that our voluntary and community sector partners play in meeting the needs of our community. We see NCT and their consortium of partners as a significant player in helping us realise our ambition to make Newham the best place for children and families.”

Elizabeth Booker, Director, Alternatives Trust East London, said: “Alternatives’ holistic and therapeutic work with vulnerable women around pregnancy and birth has shown us the extent of the unmet need for perinatal education and support in Newham. We are delighted to be collaborating with these excellent partners on this new project. It has the potential to make a huge impact on the wellbeing of women in our borough who do not currently have access to services and give their children a healthy and secure start in life.”

Jane Williams, CEO Founder, The Magpie Project, said: ‘We are over the moon to have the opportunity to work with NCT and local partners Alternatives and Compost London to bring vital perinatal services to mums from migrant or marginalised backgrounds. We are excited by the prospect of a bespoke, targeted and meaningful response to the specific barriers and challenges they face gaining support around childbirth and early motherhood.”

¹ Alternatives Trust East London is a charity that supports the wellbeing of women in east London, particularly around pregnancy and birth. It supports vulnerable new mothers: 98% are recent migrants, and 95% are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Over 80% of families that access Alternatives’ services are homeless. In 2019, Alternatives supported 121 women with 209 children through a combination of practical and therapeutic services.

The Magpie Project is a user-led charity helping women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with children under five in east London. They support around 250 families a year, offering sessions for children including music, dance, and art. They provide practical support such as food banks, nappies, equipment, and professional support.

Compost London is a team which has been working in capacity building in East London’s voluntary community sector for many years. It will lead on evaluating the programme.

² The Health and Wellbeing Programme is a joint initiative by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England and NHS Improvement. It aims to enable them to work together with the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector to promote equality, improve health inequalities and to help families and communities to achieve and maintain wellbeing.

³ Parents in Mind is a peer-support project run by NCT and funded by Newham Clinical Commissioning Group. Mums taking part showed a statistically significant reduction in anxiety and depression scores and reported feeling less isolated.

• 86% felt the programme helped them feel less isolated and alone
• 86% felt it helped them to know where to get help if they needed it
• 86% felt it provided someone they could talk to who understood them
• 74% felt it helped them to feel more hopeful about the future