A pioneering programme run by Bridgend County Borough Council that provides the parents of newborn babies with intensive support both before and after birth has helped to prevent the number of babies coming into care.
The Baby in Mind programme which started in Bridgend county borough in April 2018 sees a specialist team work with the parents of children who are at risk of coming into the care system.
The team which includes social workers, health visitors and family support workers provides parents with practical help and advice, visiting them up to twice a day in the first six months of the child’s life.
Before the baby is born, parents receive weekly visits with support on whatever is needed – it can include everything from help to find, or remain, in housing to guidance around the sterilisation of bottles, breastfeeding and baby-changing, as well as attendance at parenting preparation groups.
Once the baby arrives, parents receive daily visits including at weekends with members of the team helping to provide practical and emotional support.
This can involve showing how to do baby massage and providing advice on the importance of eye-contact, singing and soothing as well as more practical support like washing clothes and looking after the baby while the mother or father catches up on some sleep.
In its first year, the team worked alongside 38 families with 87% of babies supported by the team being able to remain safely within the family home.
As a result the local authority reduced its use of parent and baby placements by 50% compared to the previous year.
The programme was devised by the council’s family support services manager David Wright and the children’s social care manager Iain McMillan after seeing more than a third of the children coming into care were under the age of one.
Other local authorities in Wales are now looking at implementing the model while a Baby and Me programme was set up in Newport in 2019.
The team in Bridgend county borough has been nominated for a Social Care Wales Accolade, having recently heard it reached the final two, being shortlisted from 27 entries.
The national awards recognise, celebrate and share excellent practice in social work. While the team were due to find out in April whether they had won, the announcement was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Wright said: “The programme is about making sure parents are ok and helping them with anything they need doing.
“Lots of our families are quite isolated and need a hand.
“We spend time with the family to make sure they’re coping, and getting enough sleep, we look at things like the sterilisation of bottles and how to organise things
“We look at the family’s needs and model everything to meet those needs.
“It can be very intensive, we visit up to twice a day.
“Families appreciate the extra time to discuss things and be given information which ensures advice on caring safely and effectively for their baby has been understood by both parents who then demonstrate what they have learnt.
“Feedback shows they’re very grateful to receive the service feeling it’s not just about them caring for their baby but the whole package of being a family with help on budgeting, getting into a routine and being supported with various appointments.
“The change of lifestyle when a new baby arrives is a very stressful time, the Baby in Mind service provides extra support, helping to reduce the stress and in many cases, allowing them to keep their baby.”
Mr McMillan said: “The programme shows the importance of looking at the whole family approach and working in partnership.
“The multi-agency collaboration is able to assess and meet the accommodation, health and educational needs of children and their families while the intensive, relationship-based work with the whole family helps to achieve the changes needed in order to avoid proceedings where children are taken into care.
“It’s a very emotionally demanding situation – building up trust is vital.
“The outcome has cost benefit savings for the authority but far more importantly it has better outcomes for the child and family.”