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A Better Start

17 June 2014

We have announced an investment of £215 million into five areas to give tens of thousands of babies a better start in life. Three experts Naomi Eisenstadt, CB, First Director of Sure Start, George Hosking, CEO Wave Trust and Kate Billingham,Senior Advisor for the Family Nurse Partnership International (FNP), have all been invaluable to the development of our A Better Start initiative.

Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) is a health visiting programme which is internationally recognised for the high quality one to one support FNP nurses provide first time parents.

Each of the A Better Start areas will be, to varying degrees, developing the scope and reach of FNP services in their communities.  

Kate Billingham recently visited a young mum to hear about her experience of FNP.

As an ex-health visitor I have never forgotten what a privilege a home visit is.

Kate Billingham I was reminded of this recently when I visited a young mother at home to hear her experience of the Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) programme. I watch her children play happily, keeping in touch with their mum who is intuitively attentive to the ebb and flow of her child’s needs.

She is proud of her children. “The nursery says that E. is a cheeky, happy girl, she has lots of friends, she’s always first at the table to make things and loves stories”.

And she is proud of her own life as a mum.  But the odds were stacked against her from before she was born. She had a difficult early life, seeing and feeling things that no child should have to see or feel.  She carried these troubles with her as she got older, leaving school at 13, self-harming, finding herself homeless and pregnant at 17. It has taken courage and hard work to get where she is today.

She reflects on how hard change can be. “Sometimes I shut down as it got too much. I felt like a snake with the skin being peeled off.”

She was fortunate to have been guided by the Family Nurse Partnership programme and a skilful family nurse.

It was good to be reminded of what it takes for a new parent with a troubled past to become the best mum or dad they can be. It takes trust, commitment, skill and self-awareness for the young woman making the journey to parenthood, for the family nurse walking beside her and for the organisation that provides the resource and supports the practitioner.

I suspect that the most demanding part of A Better Start will be the changes that everyone will have to make – from the baby to the boardroom –  parents, practitioners, managers, commissioners and the rest of us who are involved in this wonderful project.

Just as it did for the young mum I visited, it will take trust, commitment, skill and courage as well as time.

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