Based at HMP Styal, a closed women's prison, Action for Children's Mother and Baby Support Unit combines parenting support, targeted intervention and nursery provision for up to 10 children who may reside there from birth to 18 months.
The unit provides a participative environment for families and aims to help mothers overcome their wariness of staff.
A personalised introductory meeting and assessment is given to all mothers on joining the unit, helping to determine a plan of intervention. This can include attending courses on basic baby care, as well as training and support with budgeting, communication skills or dealing with bereavement and loss or substance misuse, as appropriate.
The unit maintains an open-door policy to parents, and mothers are encouraged to write observations in development files and take part in planning meetings with their child's key person to establish trusting relationships.
The unit also prioritises parents' relationships with their extended families, which staff recognise as a major source of support for mothers and babies during incarceration and following release. Family days are held every eight weeks to allow meaningful contact between mothers, their babies, and fathers, siblings or other significant family members. Video links can be set up with the baby's father if he is also in prison and the unit provides mediation services if the parents' relationship breaks down.
An on-site baby shop encourages mothers to provide for their babies and develop budgeting skills. Staff are on hand to support and advise on the suitability of items with the aim of empowering the women to meet their children's needs alone after release.
The Little Acorns nursery in the unit is rated outstanding by Ofsted. Nursery staff co-ordinate with parental support key workers to ensure outcomes for both mother and baby are the focus of the team. A member of staff is trained to support breast-feeding mothers and is supported by a health visitor, whose weekly visits help to promote child health.
Judges praised the unit for the experience and opportunities it provides, suggesting the project be rolled out to all prisons across the country. They added, 'This provision could change the lives of mums and children dramatically by giving mums life and parenting skills.'
Fit 'N' Fun Kids, Young Mums Will Achieve
Young Mums will Achieve (YMWA) runs 10 groups throughout Cornwall aimed at helping pregnant women and teenage mothers aged between 14 and 19 into education, training or employment.
The project offers a range of qualifications and training for young parents, from employability and enterprise skills to key life skills and parenting support, which includes baby massage classes, safeguarding, potty training and Makaton lessons. It also provides transportation to ensure young parents are able to access provision.
The programme was developed in 2009, when Cornwall was 138th in the league table of 152 local authorities for engaging young mothers. This year, Cornwall was in second place for the fourth year running.
Elmscot Group Parent Workshops, Cheshire
Leicestershire County Council Parent Play Project
Open to services or projects that support parents, enhance their understanding of their children's learning and development, or improve children's outcomes through involvement and co-operation with families.
Sponsored by Bunkcot