Amy with twins Milo and Rocco
Struggling new parents will be thrown a lifeline with family hubs staffed by experts in a £500million plan to give babies the best start. Midwives, health visitors and other specialists will be on hand in 75 centres – and families will also be able to use pop-up and online services to get vital help.
Pioneer Dame Andrea Leadsom, who is launching the scheme with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Cornwall today, said the hubs would be “life-changing for people”.
The former Cabinet minister, 59, added: “My ambition is that people will see the best start for life is as important as universal health care and universal education.
“So I won’t stop until it is really institutionalised.”
Dame Andrea said it was assumed in the past that “you just get on with it” to ensure a baby’s emotional and physical wellbeing – without health education and support – which she described as “just bonkers”.
Helping parents has been a passion for the mum of three since she suffered post-natal depression after the birth of her first child in 1995.
The ex-banking executive thought it would “be a piece of cake”.
She said: “I had an incredibly difficult birth, disappointingly traumatic, which is a very common experience.
“You think it is going to be whale music and candles and in fact, it is incredibly traumatic.
“Then I got really terrible post-natal depression.
“My baby wouldn’t sleep. Every time he cried, I cried.
Andrea Leadsom MP
“My husband and my mum were really worried about me.
“I’ve been through all this myself. Having people say ‘just get on with it’, that’s ridiculous.
“Even if you don’t have an experience like I had, you have questions.”
Mr Sunak signed off the funding while he was chancellor and the first centres are now opening up.
Half of local authorities with responsibility for children’s services have been given extra cash to set up the family hubs.
Dame Andrea hopes the remaining 77 will secure more money in the Government’s next spending review.
Cornwall is one of 14 “trailblazers”, councils that have moved faster and have the capacity to roll out the centres quickly. Progress will
be closely measured across all the hubs to make sure that the services are having a positive impact on families.
Child health experts have found the first 1,001 days of a child’s life – from conception to age two – are crucial for rapid growth and brain development and have more influence on their future than at any other time in their life.
It comes soon after the Princess of Wales launched Shaping Us, a campaign to raise awareness of the critical importance of early childhood in shaping the adults that
The family hubs will focus on parent-infant relationships feeding support and parental information.
Dame Andrea said it would mean specialist help for mothers with postnatal depression, those struggling with breastfeeding and for both parents on coping with the realities of having a newborn.
The MP for South Northants said: “[It is] really important helping parents before the baby is even born.
“To understand what it’s like to be a parent for the first time, when you’re so sleep deprived, and the pressures it might cause for you and your partner if you have one.
“The issues of why does the baby cry. [And] what’s wrong with the baby when he or she cries and at what age should you wean them.”
Dame Andrea said she was a “big fan” of Sure Start centres, set up under Labour, but stressed that the new family hubs would provide a greater range of services for the modern world.
She said: “They will be universal. Whoever you are, it will be where you will go for your antenatal checks. It’s where you will go to meet your health visitor unless they’re coming to your home.
“So it will become the normal place to go when you have a family.
“That was never the case with Sure Starts.
“Family hubs are the 25-years-on answer to Sure Starts.
“The other big change with family hubs is that services will be available online and virtually.
“That’s an important move. Covid showed us that that’s what families really want.
“So if it’s two o’clock in the morning and your baby’s crying and won’t latch on, you want to be able to get some help.
“There will be online videos. There will be holistic trusted advice.”
A year to find the help I desperately needed
New mum Amy Creatura spent more than a year trying to get help to recover from the trauma of her twin sons’ emergency birth during lockdown.
Health complications meant Milo and Rocco were meant to be delivered by planned Caesarean.
But Amy, 38, ended up having Milo naturally. Rocco was born through a C-section but was not breathing when he arrived and needed resuscitating.
Meanwhile, Covid rules meant her husband Mario, 36, was allowed on to the ward only 20 minutes before the births and had to leave two hours later.
Amy, who was a special needs school head before taking time away to look after her sons, remained in hospital for 10 days and could not leave her room or see visitors.
The impact of fearing for the life of her twins, now two and a half, was “really tough” and she struggled to get help.
Sounds that reminded Amy of her hospital time led to physical anxiety and high adrenalin.
But it took a year, after turning to private healthcare, for her to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and given access to the care she needed.
The family hubs will focus on parent-infant relationships feeding support and parental information
Amy said: “I really felt the support dropped off after the boys were born.
“All the professionals I had contact with had good intentions. They asked me about my mental health, it was clearly important to them. But as soon as I said – and it was very hard to say – ‘I don’t feel OK, I need some help’, they weren’t able to offer anything.”
It was difficult to pluck up the courage, but Amy was told by health workers and her GP to look on Google to find support.
She said: “It took me about a year to get any help and I sorted it out myself in the end, because I didn’t get anywhere through any of the healthcare people I had access to in the NHS.”
Although talking about joined-up services sounds quite administrative, Amy said it would have made a big difference.
She said: “To not have to keep explaining…If I could have just told somebody once and that information was then there and available to the other services, that would have made it a lot easier for me to reach out more quickly.
“There was a light at the end of the tunnel. It took a year to get help and it then took me the best part of a year with a therapist to learn ways of coping, understand why I was feeling the way I did and reprogramme my mind.”
Amy added: “In the last six months or so, I have rediscovered myself.
“If I could have had help sooner I probably wouldn’t have got as bad as I did over the course of that year.”
*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.