Local parents and staff from Croydon Council and local health services have celebrated the launch of a new project to give Croydon families and their children the ‘best start in life’.
Each month more than 500 new babies are born in the borough. Croydon’s Best Start programme gives their parents and parents-to-be support and help by co-ordinating the work of health visitors, midwives, early learning practitioners, family nurses, children’s centres and voluntary and community organisations.
This means parents only have to explain their situation once and the network of 400 professionals, who are part of the programme, can then tailor a package of support suited to each individual set of circumstances.
As part of the design, development and implementation of the programme over 50 families have worked with the council and Croydon Health Services to help shape Best Start.
Parents are also being encouraged and supported to help each other by sharing their experiences and knowledge.
Croydon was among the first 20 boroughs named in the country as an early intervention place and those who have been part of the project since it opened its doors in April recently held an official launch session to highlight areas of work already well underway.
Speaking at the event, Binnie Crookes-Martin, who is one of the ‘Best Start Buddies’ parents who engage, involve and support other parents, said: “The ‘buddy’ scheme was set up by parents to help each other out. Right from the outset it breaks down barriers to people signing up to Best Start by taking away any sense of bureaucracy.
“We help to make using Best Start service a welcoming and enjoyable experience and encourage people to make the most of the opportunities available to them and their children.”
“I’m a mother myself, and I’ve recently had my latest child, so I really appreciate how the first couple of years of a child’s life are critical. Studies show that it’s this time that’s vital with regards to how well they’re going to be achieving by their mid-20s.
“Croydon Best Start really helps to emphasise just how the role played by mothers, fathers, and other carers at the very earliest stages of a baby’s life is really important in helping a child develop and reach their full potential.”
Councillor Alisa Flemming, cabinet member for children, young people and learning
Croydon Best Start works closely with registered charity Parent Infant Partnership UK to deliver support and advice to parents and carers. Statistics show that nationally around 20% of mothers experience mental health problems that can make it difficult for them to form strong and nurturing bonds with their babies.
Clair Rees, executive director of the charity, said: “Nationally, not enough is being done proactively to support new parents and deal with their mental health issues – there is too much firefighting. But that is what we are step-changing here in Croydon. We know that health inequality, poor education and poverty can be damaging, but we also know that positive relationships with parents and carers can be hugely beneficial.”
Christina Hickson is Associate Director of Nursing for children’s services at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, which provides many of the staff and facilities that contribute to the Croydon Best Start partnership approach.
She said: “By bringing all the help and support that is available in Croydon together in one place children can grow to be the best they can be. By looking after and supporting parents we ensure they know who to turn to for additional help we can make it easier for them to concentrate on caring for their new families.
“Every child is a complex individual, and the various relationships they form with different family members and carers means that every one of them is unique, but all deserve the same thing which is to get the possible start in life.”