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

Newham Mayor writes open letter about unsuitable accommodation provided by NASS and Clearsprings

Copyright: Laura Dodsworth. One Room Lockdown.

We are incredibly grateful to Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham, for listening to our mums who are living in unsuitable National Asylum Seeker accommodation.

The quality of this accommodation has, for a long time, been very poor. Issues include frequent infestations, damp, material degradation, and a lack of adequate safety measures such as fire doors, fire exits etc.

This is bad at the best of time but during the pandemic and lockdown – as other families were moved in to self contained accommodation to reduce the risk of infection and to safeguard families by making sure they can socially distance from other families – our asylum seeking mothers and children were left, sometimes 4 to one room in a shared house, to cope.

We are incredibly grateful to the Mayor for listening to our mothers and writing an open letter on the issue to the Home Office.

Here it is in its entirety:

We asked the Mayor about the use of B&Bs: this is the response….

At the first full council meeting under Rokhsana Fiaz’s Mayoralty (Mayorship?!) we asked a question – on behalf of our mums and minis who are still being placed in hotels such as the one below – about the use of B&Bs for families.

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She answered. See our question and her response here. We LOVE the words “compassion and care”. We understand – maybe better than most – the enormity of the problem. But we are SO heartened by this transparent and straightforward response.

Question 19 from the Magpie Project
Southwark council have eliminated the use of paid by the night bed and breakfast accommodation for families. Our social services and housing departments are still placing families fleeing domestic violence or families with children in this poor quality, noisy, intimidating environment. Can the council pledge to move towards a goal of no families with children in b and b accommodation by end 2019.

The Mayor has pledged to tackle homelessness with compassion and care, and the new administration will be looking to transform our homeless services and develop innovative forms of temporary accommodation, as well as increasing the delivery of council-owned homes at social rents. However, we are in the early stages of this new administration, and the scale of the challenge is significant.

Unfortunately changes in the Housing market and the Housing Benefit regime since 2011/12 has acted to increase both the numbers and the length of use of this type of temporary accommodation to meet our statutory responsibilities. In 2011/12, the Council received 624 homelessness applications, of which 248 were accepted, but by 2017/18 this had grown to 1793 of which 1143 were accepted.

Over the same period 2012 – 2018, the Council has seen the demand for nightly paid accommodation increase, whereby 148 households were in this form of accommodation in March 2012, but this had risen to 2904 households at the end of March 2018. Unfortunately, current forecasts are indicating that these numbers could continue to grow.

It has been this Council’s practice for some years to avoid the use of bed and breakfast/shared accommodation for homeless households who have dependant children or a member of the household is pregnant. The Council’s response has been to procure only self contained accommodation for this household group, albeit nightly paid, whilst it is determined whether the Council owe the main homelessness duty.

In the circumstances as part of work designed to transform the homelessness offer a health and safety survey has been commissioned for this year of all temporary accommodation, which has commenced with looking at that which is nightly paid. This will culminate in a comprehensive tenant survey.

However it is clear that alternative move on accommodation to that which the Council has relied upon for a number of years will continue to reduce and therefore the Council will be looking at innovative ways in meeting the manifesto pledge to provide additional accommodation at affordable rents, which includes a  programme of purchasing property, converting Council buildings where appropriate, considering the use of modular housing schemes on the many sites with a meanwhile use in the Borough and collaborative procurement of private rented sector accommodation with London Councils.