DONATIONS PAUSED:Due to our processes of clothes sorting and storing being overwhelmed, we are pausing donations of all clothes and equipment apart from buggies at present. Please check back in a few weeks to see what we are accepting.
Every year we organise a summer party to celebrate all we’ve achieved in the last year and most importantly all our lovely mums and minis. This is a final hurrah before we then close for August. At The Magpie Project, as part of our trauma-informed ethos, we ensure that the spaces we create are safe, so that mums and minis are free to relax, bond, and have fun together.
The summer party is a time and place for us all to come together, play, eat, and celebrate the year. In the months leading up to it, staff and volunteers are working hard to create interesting, engaging and fun activities for our mums and minis – this looks like henna, glitter tattoos, lucky dip, flag decorating, as well as a ‘our year at the magpie project’ gallery wall!
For the summer party, we go all out – taking over Forest Lane Park to house our stalls and entertainment stage. Stalls this year comprised of the amazing Kay Rowe Nursey and Children’s Centre, Games, Crafts, and Merch. Our Entertainment hadBubbles, London Rhymes singing, and Discover Story. This year we made school-style lunches for minis, and had local family owned restaurant Aromas create delicious Halal Meat and Vegan plates for mums and guests.
Despite the rain, our mums were not deterred, and came dressed to the nines to play and enjoy delicious food with Magpie Mums and staff. The summer party is also open to all Forest Gate locals, we appreciate your support as it helps us continue the important work we do.
We can’t thank our summer party superstar volunteers and partners enough for always showing up and making the day come rain or shine so special. Special shout-outs to our Food manager, Cat, for making 200 epic school-style lunches for our minis, Aromas for catering the most tasty food (our Mums look forward to eating your meals every year), Kay Rowe for running a stall and all their important work, London Rhymes and Discover for ensuring Mums and Minis have a blast and entertained for hours, and amazing Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and Trustee Radihika Byron for visiting.
Lastly, we are so thankful for all those we partnered with this year: Newham Nurture, FCA, Black Swan Finance, Enabled Living, Papier, Little Village, Children’s Salon, Hasboro, 52lives, Knitforpeace, Bethany Williams London, Young V&A, Flying Seagull Circus, Forest Gate WI, Tindersticks, Newham Bookshop, Clapton CFC, Astoria Fire and Security, Praxis, Shelter, Westfield Stratford London, Discover Story Centre, Forest Gate WI, Bookstart, Lush, Number 8 Forest Gate, City Harvest, Health Visitors, Newham Public Health Team, Morris and Co. Architects, Laura Jackson, Irons Foodbank, UCL, Louise Klarnet, Forest Gate Community Garden, London Rhymes, Bancroft Rugby Club, Craft Council, UEL, RAMFEL, Project 17, Maternity Action, Bonny Downs, Newham Food Alliance, Newham Children Centre’s particularly Kay Rowe Nursey, Perinatal Mental Health Team, Acorn Midwives Team at Newham, Alternatives Trust, Museum of Homelessness, Hestia, Ashiana Network, LBWP, Care4Calais, The Unity Project, Tower Hamlets Law Centre, Bethany Prince at Early Notifications / CNDS, Streetwise Opera, Just Life, Stephen Timms MP, Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz, The Newham Community, Gainsborough Quilters, and our play and formfilling volunteers, drivers, community members who make up hampers for our families every christmas.
You are the village it takes to raise our children, and e couldn’t make the impact we do, without all of you!
“‘Our collaboration with Bethany Williams London has been the most beautiful, generous and creative thing that we could have ever dreamt of. It has got the voice of our mums and minis in to places we would never dream of – the catwalks of London Fashion Week, the pages of Vogue, the Design Museum, and now the permanent collection of the Young V&A. Graphics were created in collaboration with artist Melissa Kitty Jarram in the depth of lockdown through zoom meetings where mums and minis drew each other. You can see their likenesses in the fabrics” – Jane Williams, CEO and Founder of The Magpie Project
This weekend the newly re-named Young V&A (previously the Museum of Childhood) opened its doors to the public, boasting refreshed collections and displays. The Young V&A is a free national museum located in Bethnal Green with displays, collections, and interactive spaces, co-designed with children and young people, that explore the creativity and experiences of children. This revamped Young V&A titles itself a ‘doing museum’ with sensory playscapes, imagination playground construction zone, performance and story stage and design studio for all ages to get stuck in and enjoy!
The Young V&A showcases 2,000 objects relating to art, design, and performance including two sets of mother and child outfits and lunchbox inspired handbag designed and created by Bethany Williams. Bethany Williams is a fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, creating cutting-edge fashion with ethnical manufacturing and social responsibility. She gives textiles a second chance through refashioning whilst working with social projects and communities to create her garments, as well as giving a percentage of her profits to charity.
For her ‘All Our Children’ Spring/Summer 2021 collection of outfits for mothers and children in collaboration with us at the Magpie Project, Bethany took inspiration from the V&A children’s archives, in particular the skeleton suit and a Boy’s first suit, some of the first garments designed for play. This inspiration is evident in her creation of a tailored skeleton suit and the flounced dresses and pantalettes shown below.
A predominant theme across the Young V&A, Bethany Williams and The Magpie Project is an emphasis on play, creativity, co-creation and design between children and adults. #Allourchildren are all our responsibility; and deserving of environments that foster safety, love, joy and creativity. We hope you visit the Young V&A and enjoy viewing and interacting with our collaboration with Bethany Williams.
Every half term instead of our normal play and casework sessions we run a Clothes Club – where Magpie mums ‘shop’ for clothes, shoes, toiletries and equipment. We work really hard to ensure our Clothes Club is a calm and enjoyable experience for our Magpie Mums. Read below to see how we achieve this and what our Magpie Mums think!
We work with amazing partners like Little Village, Children’s Salon, Hasboro, 52lives, Knitforpeace and Enabled Living to guarantee we have top quality new and barely-worn children and adult clothes, shoes, toiletries and equipment delivered to us ready for our mums and minis to shop from. Additionally, our lovely volunteers sort through any donations from the public for quality control. Our regular volunteers plus special volunteers from FCA, Black Swan Finance and Papier work diligently to make inviting displays of the clothes by age.
Mums are welcomed and allocated groups to shop in and given tokens for themselves and each child under-5. They then enter the hall and shopping begins! This process ensures mums have a positive and dignified shopping experience.
From newborn baby-grows to occasion and partywear there is always something to choose from. At our latest June Clothes Club we handed out more than 700 items of clothing to 133 Mums and 175 Minis!
Here’s some testimony from our Magpie Mums:
“At other clothes banks there is fighting and everyone is sad. Here the tokens and timed slots made it a lovely experience” – Mum Q
“Thank you for all you did, my mini is very happy with his clothes. You made me feel rich today!” – Mum A
Play is an important part of life, development, and freedom! #Allourchildren deserve to be loved, supported, and experience the joy and creativity of play. Through play, motor and social skills are developed, as well as a sense of joy and community.
This week our amazing Play Lead had organised a ‘Messy Kitchen Play’ session – trays filled with mud, sand and water, with pots, pans, utensils, and toy animals to dirty up and then clean. Not only does this session help with hand-eye coordination, hand dexterity, and focused play, the mud, sand, and water provide great sensory play and experience – engaging for all children!
Messy Play can bring up feelings of stress and worry, especially for our Mums in confined and insecure living conditions. However, listening and addressing those fears, providing protective overalls, and easily accessible toilets and water provide some comfort – ultimately allowing mums and minis to engage in Messy Kitchen Play together <3
As always super grateful for our wonderful volunteers who show up week in week out to engage and connect with our mums and minis, and our incredible partners like the Flying Seagull Circus who always bring the best energy and get the best laughs !
This collection of illustrated stories captures intergenerational narratives and amplifies the voices of children. From it, Bethany Williams, London-based sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, has created her first large scale public art work.
The works are a continuation of Williams’ ongoing project with two East London grassroots organisations: The Magpie Project, a charity that supports families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; and London College of Fashion’s Making for Change, a fashion training and manufacturing programme operating from two fully equipped sites, established in 2014 at HMP Downview with a sister site based at Poplar Works.
Titled ‘All Our Stories’, the illustrations have been generated through an ongoing series of collaborative storytelling workshops with the children and mothers from the Magie Project and Making for Change communities. For the visuals, Williams teamed up with illustrator and artist Melissa Kitty Jarram to transform these stories into a series of illustrations that in turn have been transposed into flags.
Each storytelling workshop culminated in a variety of creative outcomes, as each of the different communities interpreted the brief in their own way. The stories shared below recollect childhood memories in many forms; folklore tales shared from generation to generation, bedtime chronicles and fairytales whilst others contain childhood stories and nostalgic recollections of real life memories. Recognising community childhood stories and narratives – whether they have a strong written tradition or not is important in terms of assigning value and sharing power.
Bethany Williams is the second artist to take on this textile commission for Coal Drops Yard. A key and unusual feature of this project is that the decommissioning process is at the forefront of the considerations. This is only the first life of this fabric: once the installation comes down the material will be turned into two collections, one available to buy from Kiosk N1C in Coal Drops Yard and one in collaboration with one of Williams’ key retailers.
Proceeds from the sales will then be donated back to the Magpie Project and Making for Change.
The flags themselves are created from an organic Hemp Slub and which is 100% recyclable. The material choice references the age-old practice of flag-making, considers the future of Hemp’s role in the textile industry, and reflects Coal Drops Yard as a destination for fashion.
ALL OUR STORIES
Dino, a Magpie Project community story
A knight finds an egg and keeps the egg. The egg hatches and becomes a dinosaur. The knight has to save a princess who lives in a tower. The knight rides the dinosaur everywhere and it climbs a tree. He finds the princess but doesn’t know how to get up the tower. But, the dinosaur can burp ladders! And he can fly if he farts. To find the princess he has to burp and fart. Each fart and burp (and picking of his nose!) helps him to save the princess. The knight and the dinosaur managed to save the princess, who liked farting, burping and picking her nose too. So they all farted and burped and picked their noses together!
Chaos, a Magpie Project community story
A wealthy merchant moved into a new province and built a big palace with a beautiful door, heavily adorned with gems and stones. The King’s guards found the lavish door and told the King about it. At night, all the villagers went to see the door glistening in the dark. The King grew jealous and, afraid that the Queen might think the merchant’s door was better, he too put up a beautiful, bejeweled door. But no one came to see it. The King sent the guards to steal the merchant’s door. The guards stole the door with all its gems. And so the merchant made a new door better than the first one.
This happened a few more times. Then the King summoned the merchant. The King said “I am the King of this region and it is a disgrace to me that your door is more beautiful than mine”. The merchant said “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Where I come from we had riches but then lost them. We worked hard and rebuilt our homes. I decorate my door so that people who are too embarrassed to ask for help can just take the gems.” The King felt ashamed and decided to put out a bag of gems for people to take them whenever they needed.
The moral of this story is that when you give, you don’t have to tell the person that you have helped them.
The Sun and Wind story, Bethany William’s childhood story
Once the Wind and the Sun came to have a quarrel. Both of them claimed to be stronger. At last they agreed to have a trial of strength. “Here comes a traveller. Let us see who can strip him of his clock,” said the Sun. The Wind agreed and chose to have the first turn. He blew in the hardest possible way. As a result, the traveller wrapped his cloak even more tightly around him. Then it was the turn of the brightly shining Sun. At first he shone very gently. So, the traveller loosened his cloak from his neck. The Sun went on shining brighter and brighter. The traveller felt hot. Before long he took off his cloak and put it in his bag. The Wind had to accept his defeat.
The moral of this story is that gentleness and kind persuasion win, where force and bluster fail.
A flag with two tales – Monkey, a Magpie Project community story There was a cap seller in the village. One day he had sold lots of caps and was tired, so he sat under a tree. The tree was full of lots of monkeys who saw the seller sleeping. One monkey came down to take a cap from the seller’s bag and climbed back up the tree. The seller woke up and was shocked to see the bag was empty. “Hey monkey, give me my cap back!” Then he thought of an idea to get them back. He took off his own cap and threw it up. The monkey copied. The seller threw it on the ground. The monkey copied. The seller picked all the caps and put them in his bag!
Tiger, a Magpie Project community story There once was a girl who, as she sat on the hillside watching the village cows, was bored. To amuse herself she took a great breath and sang out, “Tiger! Tiger! The Tiger is chasing the cow!” The villagers came running to help the girl drive the tiger away. But when they arrived, they found no tiger. The girl laughed at the sight of their angry faces. “Don’t cry ‘Tiger’, girl,” said the villagers, “when there’s no tiger!” They went grumbling back to the village. Later, the girl sang out again, “Tiger! Tiger! The Tiger is chasing the cows!” To her naughty delight, she watched the villagers run to help her drive the Tiger away. When the villagers saw no tiger they sternly said, “Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don’t cry ‘Tiger’ when there is NO tiger!” But the girl just grinned and watched them go grumbling back to the village.
Later, she saw a REAL tiger prowling about the cows. Alarmed, she leapt to her feet and sang out as loudly as he could, “Tiger! Tiger!” But the villagers thought she was trying to fool them again, and so they didn’t come. At sunset, everyone wondered why the girl hadn’t returned to the village with their cows. They went up the field to find the girl. They found her weeping. “There really was a Tiger here! The cows have scattered! I cried out, “Tiger!” Why didn’t you come?” An old woman tried to comfort the girl as they walked back to the village. “Nobody believes a liar… even when she is telling the truth.
Meeting on the health effects of temporary accommodation on unders fives.
Tuesday 8th June saw the Magpie Project give evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on ending homelessness.
Evidence was given by:
Kemi, member of our Magpie Mums Leadership team.
Professor Monica Lakhanpaul – professor of integrated community child health at university college London and Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and consultant paediatrician at Whittington Health NHS Trust.
Maxine Jenkins – specialist community public health nurse and queen’s nurse representing 33 health visitors working with families experiencing homelessness nationally.
Dr Sarah Cockman – outreach paediatrician for homeless families, Shared Health Foundation.
Thelma, expert by experience.
The panel presented evidence for the health risks of temporary or insecure housing on children, especially those under five. These include.
For developing foetuses and newborns this can include premature births, low birth weight or stillbirth.
For young children this may include lower rates of GP registration, school readiness, higher rates of hospital admissions, missed immunisations, development delays (both physical and in the brain), or chronic health issues.
For children between 5-19 years this can include substantial behavioural and emotional problems, increased risk of injury, childhood obesity, lower school attainment, substance use, and suicide risk.
In the worst cases this can even lead to child mortality – 156 child deaths between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020 were directly attributable to housing problems or homelessness.
The impact of covid Organisations working on the frontline of these sectors told the APPG how the pandemic has worsened this – reports of child mental health ill-health, domestic abuse, poverty and nutritional deficits have all increased, while contact with support services have reduced. This has also been exacerbated by rapid moves between accommodation and digital exclusion. These problems could be preventable with better data: Clear from their testimonies was that the majority of these problems experienced by homeless children could be prevented and the urgent need for better data through a notification system, which would strengthen the provision of targeted support for children in these circumstances.
As it stands, children who are homeless are often hidden from services that are designed to protect them. Currently, local education, health, housing and other support services have their own data systems for their clients.
This means that when vulnerable or at-risk children move into new or between temporary accommodation settings, vital local services are not informed of their move into the area.
These children are effectively invisible to services and left without essential health, social and emotional support.
Many of these children subsequently experience a multitude of preventable problems which can lead to longer-term problems such as chronic ill-health, homelessness, destitution, or social exclusion.
A notification system would facilitate a greater understanding of the needs of children experiencing homelessness and improve the provision of local targeted support. Without the data from a notification systems, children will remain hidden from services, and unable to access the vital support they need.
• 98,300 households in temporary accommodation in England in June 2020, which included 127,240 children.
• Further 90,000 children are estimated to be sofa surfing situations England by the Children’s Commissioner.
•Number of children in temporary accommodation has Increased by 75% in the last 10 years.
• 391% increase in the number of households placed in temporary accommodation outside of their local authority between the end of June 2010 and the end of June 2020.
• 156 child deaths between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020 were directly attributable to housing problems or homelessness.
What we want MPs to do
Sign the cross-party letter to Ministers Jo Churchill and Eddie Hughes which is calling for the implementation of a notification system to ensure that children and families who are homeless can be guided through the system safely.
Sign up to be a member of the APPG on Households in Temporary Accommodation where you will have a chance to learn more about the impact of prolonged stays in temporary accommodation and support the recommended policy changes needed to protect the health and wellbeing of families staying in them.
What we want you to do
Write to your MP and ask them to become a member of the APPG for ending homelessness and the APPG on households in Temporary accommodation.
Ask your MP to call for a notification system for families moving in to temporary accommodation.
Ask your MP to back minimum, enforceable standards for temporary, emergency, Section 17 and Home office accommodation.
Saturday 12th of June at 12pm sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, Bethany Williams, launched her latest collection, All Our Stories.
“She still wears stories passed down to her by her mother. Words that no longer fit the same way because life has stretched and changed its shape, but the moral of the story remains. Like the smile on her face. Her joy is new, even though the ending is not. She has not forgotten the promise she made, never to waste these old, tattered tales but to tell them to her children – again and again. To get to the end and watch them smile. They are their stories now. They are All Our Stories.” – Eno Mfon, Spoken Word Poet
All Our Stories is inspired by Bethany’s continued work with East London grassroots organisation, The Magpie Project, a charity that supports women and children under five who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Magpie project works to make sure that a spell in insecure or temporary accommodation does not result in permanent damage to the life chances of the children who experience it.
Artist Melissa Kitty Jarram – inspired by the folklore passed from generation to generation and childhood stories that continue to inform us in our adult lives – ran a storytelling workshops with the Magpie families and illustrated the magical narratives they shared. She then used waste book covers in her illustrations to tell a new story.
The collection focuses on five main storylines shared by the families of the Magpie Project, “AOS”, “Blessing”, “Dinosaurs” and “The Girl Who Cried Tiger”, as well as Bethany’s own, “The Sun and The Wind” childhood story.
“What we noticed through the story-telling workshops, was that the moral in each story always came back to kindness, care, and respect for one another and how these traits, whilst important in childhood, have just as much meaning in adult life.” Bethany Williams
Working closely with Jane Williams, the founder of the Magpie Project, Bethany Williams will continue the theme of the collection in a commitment to running creative workshops with the Magpie Projectcommunity that will capture, share and amplify their myriad stories. It is the collective’s belief that disseminating these stories empowers and encourages community togetherness and voice at many levels.
The silhouettes of the collection are inspired by the V&A Museum of Childhood garment archive. This collection sees Bethany’s first detailed exploration into tailoring with a suit inspired by a historical children’s skeleton suit from the 1800’s. The skeleton suit was the first children’s garment designed for play. The new shapes stand alongside our existing forms representing our continued development. The collection also features two corsets created with Welsh designer Rosie Evans using offcuts from the collection production. In these corsets, Rosie has replaced traditional boning with a material made out of fruit packaging waste.
At a time when the V&A Museum of Childhood has fully decanted for refurbishment, All Our Stories has filled the empty space with new stories and community faces for our campaign imagery.
As with all her work, the collection is created via Bethany’s social manufacturing partners who are built into the framework of social enterprise. Bethany continues to work with community driven, UK based social manufacturing partner, Making for Change Poplar Works. For the first time, Williams is using donations of Merino Wool deadstock from Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna, which has been printed with eco-friendly inks via Orto Print in Peckham.
Through the collaboration with Mending For Good, knitwear has been a key area of development for this collection where Williams proudly introduces a new social manufacturing partnership called Manusa. Manusa is, a social cooperative that involves people from various backgrounds, specializing in hand-techniques including delicate crochet, embroidery and hand-knitting. Designed in collaboration with Alice Morell Evans, the knitwear uses Sesia Wool industry waste sample swatches, crocheted together with Seisia organic bio wool. Each year, the sample swatches created each season become surplus at the end of each cycle of production. To utilise this waste, Bethany and Founder of Mending For Good, Barbara Guarducci, developed a sorting technique with Sesia for their team to separate the swatches.
Barbara Guarducci said “Mending for Good was born to provide design-driven technical solutions for the excess stock and left-overs of the fashion industry. Everyday tons of so far “considered” waste are still produced, that is why we love to collaborate with visionary designers such as Bethany Williams that sees waste as the raw material from which a beautiful story can start.”
The book cover waste, provided by Hachette, is used for Bethany’s iconic Book Bags, and integrated into the collection garments through their woven textile collaboration with San Patrignano, an education and rehabilitation programme that teaches traditional Italian craft and a sense of community.
Six looks from All Our Stories make up Bethany Williams’ submission for the 2021 International Woolmark Prize finals.
20% of the profits from this collection will be donated to The Magpie Project via The Bethany Williams Benevolent Fund, a fund set up by The Magpie Project and Bethany Williams in 2020.
Read what British Vogue has to say about the latest Bethany Williams Collection here
The COVID crisis made visible a pre-existing, chronic crisis of inequality and poverty – and the Covid response improved the lives of people suffering before COVID (the homeless, those in unsuitable accommodation, those with NRPF) as well as those who were newly in need.
The spread of COVID 19, government instruction to stay at home and sudden economic crisis exposed and exacerbated deep inequalities in Newham. The borough was already tackling public health crises including related to poor air quality, the housing crisis and poverty. Newham is the most ethnically diverse borough in the UK, with 73% of residents from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. It quickly became clear that the pandemic was disproportionately affecting Black and minority ethnic communities and so was experienced acutely in Newham. There were a number of complex interrelated issues affecting this, borne of long standing health inequalities and structural racism.
ONS data also showed a stark correlation between COVID 19 mortality rates and the prevalence of overcrowded housing. Between 1 March and 17 April 2020, Newham had the highest death rate (114.3 deaths per 100,000) and the biggest overcrowding problem (25.2% of homes are overcrowded). You can see in this photographic essay by Laura Dodsworth the conditions that our mothers had to endure during lockdown. One Room Lockdown. These were mothers who were not under Newham’s direct care and therefore did not benefit from the Mayor’s decision to move all of those in shared accommodation in to self contained homes in order to facilitate the possibility of self-isolating, or social distancing. We were so worried about the plight of those unable to keep safe in Migrant Help accommodation that the ITV did a story on it, and the Mayor of Newham wrote to the housing secretary to express concern.
The response of Newham was exemplary in terms of communication, decisiveness and trusting and enabling community groups, faith organisations and third sector to act in the interests of our residents. Partnership working has been central to supporting residents in Newham, with the council, voluntary, faith and community sector all mobilising together at rapid speed. This included:
The Newham Food Alliance – A network of voluntary, community and faith sector organisations coordinated by the council to distribute food. In 2020, this network and HelpNewham distributed 264,000 food parcels to Newham residents, and council vehicles moved over 920 tonnes of Felix fare-share surplus food, with these figures rising daily.
The Newham Social Welfare Alliance has worked with community organisations to provide training sessions on Housing and Homelessness, Domestic Violence to Children and Young People’s Mental Wellbeing. Since November, 753 people from 81 organisations have attended sessions. Establishing a COVID-19 Health Champions network of 400+ residents who share information in the community. The network was recognized as best practice by the government and the Ministry of Communities and Local Government now funds similar work at other Councils.
Pioneering a rapid local testing model in the borough, which has fundamentally changed access to testing particularly for the most vulnerable communities.
Working with the local NHS to establish vaccine sites beyond health care settings, including pop up vaccine sites in churches, temples, mosques and community centres.
Offering free accommodation for living in overcrowded housing, the first local authority in the country to do so. This followed research by the council on why some residents feel unable to self-isolate, which found that 71% of those surveyed listed fear of losing their job as a factor that gets in the way of being able to self-isolate. A further 60% said they were preventing from self-isolating by the need to earn money.
Newham rapidly mobilised an emergency accommodation and assessment centre and accommodation for all rough sleepers, regardless of their immigration status or local connection (Four Hotels and 40 Houses of Multiple Occupancy.) Newham has had the largest decrease in rough sleepers this year nationally, with rough sleepers falling by 91%. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Newham had accommodated 124 Rough Sleepers, with approximately 70 people still on the streets. Newham currently has 212 people accommodated and 6 people on the streets. Throughout the pandemic 198 people have been supported to move on out of this temporary accommodation and into longer-term settled accommodation.
3.The response to COVID proved that – with political will and central funding – crises can be addressed. It proved that other long-standing chronic crises – child poverty, homelessness, food poverty, digital poverty, hygiene poverty, loneliness, NRPF – could benefit from being treated as a public health crisis of the same urgency.
The pandemic has dissolved many of the barriers between the council, health partners, voluntary, faith and community organisations. This unprecedented mobilisation to support residents demonstrates what is possible when local authorities and community organisations are giving the appropriate funding and powers. In March 2020 the Chancellor promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to fund councils through the pandemic, but as of March, the impact of the pandemic on Newham council was £82m, and support from government only estimated at £68m. Council across the country have been left short.
The pandemic has also shown the power of local authorities of convenors of local communities during crises. Councils like Newham are uniquely placed to play this role. During COVID 19, we have seen the value of a more balanced central-local relationship in tackling this challenge. The vaccine programme shows each level playing to its strengths: with central government using its purchasing power and other levers to accelerate vaccine development and acquisition, and the local NHS, council and community partners working to get it into people’s arms. The Test and Trace Programme has in contrast been highly centralised.
Newham has launched its 50 Steps to a Healthier Newham Health and Well-Being Strategy 2020-23, that sets out how Newham will respond to the significant pre-existing and new health challenges created by the pandemic. The strategy details how the borough will work with partners to do all possible to maximize the health of the population over the next three years, placing a key focus on supporting people around the determinants of their health.
This is underpinned by the Council’s ‘Towards a Better Newham’ COVID-19 Recovery Strategy, all informed by the council’s overarching strategic goal to tackle inequality, racism and disproportionality. The strategy is based on eight pillars, including a commitment to measuring the council’s success in future on the health, happiness and wellbeing of residents.
Newham is showing what is possible with imaginative policies, partnership working and political will. Going forward, we need a national approach that focuses on prevention and tackling structural inequality at its roots.
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
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.