Strengthening Babies’ Futures (SBF)
Organising Communities to Give Babies the Best Start in Life
Every baby deserves the best start in life, and all parents need support to make sure this happens. We believe that community organisations and faith groups have a vital role to play, in working together to support families in our neighbourhoods.
Strengthening Babies’ Futures (SBF) is a new initiative to improve the health and developmental outcomes of babies born in Walworth and Camberwell, by bringing the methods of community organising to the challenges of early intervention. The project brings parents, community groups, faith and education organisations together with Children’s Centres and statutory maternity services to tackle social isolation and barriers to accessing health services.
SBF aims to unlock the power of communities to engage with the issues that affect the health of their members, and enables parent to work together with public services as citizens who can play an active role in shaping them.
The project is being powered by Citizens UK and its Southwark member organisations together with King’s Health Partners Maternity Services, and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, Kings College London. Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity (GSST) is funding SBF for the next 2.5 years to develop a successful community organising early intervention model and to evaluate the impact of the intervention on mothers and their babies.
Why we exist
Poor health and developmental outcomes for children are associated with the social determinants of health, such as poverty, isolation, lack of social support, social exclusion generally and poor access to health services, and there is increasing evidence that social adversity has detectable effects from early in development, in childhood and already in utero (Marmot Strategic Review of Health Inequalities, 2010; Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2012).
Citizens UK has a long history of bringing communities together to affect change in the social determinants of health. It was their member organisations that pioneered the Living Wage in the UK, a campaign that has put millions of pounds into the back pockets of low paid workers. This project harnesses the capacity of the community organising model to positively effect mothers and babies’ developmental outcomes.
We carried out a feasibility study in Camberwell in 2013 to explore the capacity of community organising to bring together community leaders and local parents to devise and implement a community-led, community level intervention, providing social support for mothers who were pregnant or with young children. Fifteen of the twenty-five mothers participated in an evaluation of the intervention over a nine-month period. The study found important reductions in distress on a standard self-report measure (the General Health Questionnaire; GHQ-12) and increases in social capital. At the end of the study, participants of the co-produced intervention and supportive community leaders chose to sustain the social support intervention and named it MumSpace. In 2014, together with this team, additional local parents and their partners, we co-produced a plan for GSST Charity about how we would expand the project to create five social support networks across Camberwell and Walworth, involving hundreds of parents and their infants. The plan encompasses a number of community interventions that support the wellbeing of parents, and aims to improve children’s health and their developmental outcomes.
We want the project to positively influence children’s health and developmental outcomes. There are a number of outcomes and indicators we are focusing on:
o Social Capital – As a result of participation parents will have more supportive relationships and access more services.
o Mental wellbeing - The interventions will promote parental wellbeing and good mental health.
o Health Literacy – Parents will be better informed about healthy behaviours and access to services and feel able to articulate their health needs and help shape services.
o Healthy Behaviours – Parents will feel better able to implement healthy behaviours, such as diet and initiation and duration of breast-feeding.
o Social and emotional development – Infants will have improved outcomes in social, emotional, and language development.
o Parent Leadership – Parents will be encouraged and supported in their development as parent leaders to take action to improve their communities, and to challenge and find solutions to the underlying issues that prevent families from flourishing e.g. housing, barriers to accessing health services, low wages, childcare and immigration.
o Community Action - Community leaders will feel encouraged and inspired to contribute as partners to the early intervention landscape, by allocating time and resources to supporting parents.
SBF is based around three main interventions, which have been co-designed by Citizens UK, local community groups and parents, universal maternity services and clinical psychologists from the IoPPN. These are: 1) a community-led social support network; 2) a set of Parent Hubs; and 3) a ‘Parent University’ offering pregnancy and health education programmes.
1. Development of a community-led social support network.
o The key innovation of SBF will be the formation of a community-led social support network, made up of partner communities: local civic and community organisations as well as statutory education and health institutions.
o Each community and education institution will nominate a member to serve as a Parent Champion. Parent Champions will be trained to identify vulnerable parents within their communities, to provide them with social support, and, if appropriate, to refer them to other local services, including the SBF Parent Hubs and Parent University course.
o Local GP surgeries will also participate in this network by socially prescribing SBF Parent Hubs and Parent University workshops to patients who would benefit from them.
2. Parent Hubs
o Parent Hubs will be established in community settings, e.g. primary schools and churches, in Walworth and Camberwell. In these Hubs, parents will be able to attend peer-to-peer MumSpace and DadSpace support groups, and access donated baby clothes, toys and accessories from the ‘Baby Bank’.
o Community Organisers will support and train parents who attend the Parent Hubs to work alongside local civic organisations to identify and take action on common issues affecting their wellbeing, e.g. housing issues and accessing health and childcare services.
3. ‘Parent University’ course
o A programme of pregnancy and early parenting health workshops will be delivered as a ‘Parent University’ course, running out of a partner Children’s Centre. This will provide parents with the tools to give the best, healthiest start in life.
The SBF project will be formally evaluated by a research team based in the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), Kings College London to find out if this model is effective and could be replicated in other areas.
o The core of the research is a quasi-experimental matched case-control study that will compare mothers and their infants participating in the intervention with mothers from another area participating in usual social support and health education classes.Participants in this study will be recruited during pregnancy and followed up until the baby is fifteen months old.
o Qualitative interviews will also be carried out with participants who access the intervention directly from the community.
Get involved as a parent
We offer a whole range of support to parents in Camberwell and Walworth. To find out more about what is available click here to email Imogen Moore, the project manager, or sign up using the form below.
Get involved as a partner community or referring organisation
At the heart of what we do are community partnerships with a wide range of community organisations in our neighbourhoods, as well as with statutory services such as GP Surgeries and Children's Centres. To find out more about how to get involved click here to email the project manager, or sign up using the form below.
If you would like to refer parents to the Baby Bank please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get in touch:
SBF Project Manager: email@example.com